The Gifted Child Society is a
non-profit organization that was
founded in 1957 by parents of
New Jersey to further the cause
of gifted children.
Parent Awareness
by Ruth Camm Feldman, Ed.D.
As parents, you want your children to enjoy their giftedness, derive happiness from their achievements and take pride in your respect for them. The GCS staff and Board are dedicated to serving you in actualizing these; we urge you to use its services - and even ask for more!
Parental alertness is urgently needed to help gifted learners attain their true ability levels unhampered by inappropriate curricula, insufficient individualization and unidentified difficulties. As the new school year begins, parents of gifted children should ask themselves some questions: Is my child well-prepared to advance academically in all areas? Are there any residual gaps in his/her intellectual functions which need attention? Are her/his communication skills and emotional awareness equal to social needs? Perhaps these questions do not seem relevant to children who are gifted. But research showed that, on average in our society, gifted children scored lower than average children on psychomotor tasks of the revised Wechsler Intelligence Test (universally used to identify intellectual status). Significantly for us, our ongoing GCS programs (Assessment and Learning Styles studies) have also very frequently discovered uneven areas of development. In more than fifty percent, overall IQ scores of our students were diminished due to low performance on mental operations which had not been detected as atypical for the child and had not been remediated. While these factors generally were of lower-order (as compared to critical, analytical) mental operations, they are important in daily academic work.
What is crucial for parents to know is that these findings were most often associated with evidence of the child's anxiety about or avoidance of the activity and the belief that nothing could be done about it. Indeed, improvement is possible- and surprisingly swift - when the underlying impediments (attitudes, emotions of earlier derivations) are identified and alleviated. We know how. We have the means. Parents need to become aware.
Our Planned Seminars for Parents and Saturday Workshop programs offer you enrichment for your efforts to motivate and sustain your children toward their productivity and high density. Please call us. Best wishes for your success in a rewarding school year.
E.Q. vs. I.Q. -- Social Problem Solving and Decision Making
by Andrea Thomas, Summer Super Stars Instructor
Just as I.Q. stands for "Intelligence Quotient", E.Q. stands for "Emotional Quotient". I.Q. refers to raw intelligence; E.Q. refers to the capacity to empathize and to judge and relate to others. E.Q. is the ability to comfortably and effectively understand and deal with others, which is a key part of the equation for success.
Students can be taught to analyze their feelings through a teacher-directed format in which they are encouraged to be unique, express rather than stifle their feelings, and make their own choices.
A program designed to develop emotional and social intelligence by teaching students to express feelings appropriately develops skills in the areas of empathy, reading body language, communication, and, particularly, listening skills. Role playing, games, group activities, and questionnaires that relate to making choices are integral in the process. Building self esteem during the early years develops a positive pattern that will allow students to use their resources when dealing with a variety of interpersonal situations. As students mature, building a sense of competency and confidence effectively steers them toward positive thinking and an interplay of emotions. Effective problem solving techniques using real life situations provide students with the flexibility to deal with our changing culture.
Students can be taught life skills, how to interact socially, and how to make choices in a non-threatening atmosphere where they are guided by participation or observation in varied activities geared to help them enhance skills in social confidence.
Emotional Learning: A Challenge for Parents
by Ruth Camm Feldman, Ed.D.
At a recent Gifted Child Society parent seminar, a mother asked how she could help her child "get in touch with his emotions".
This mother expressed one of the most significant needs facing parents in this fast changing society. What remains most daunting for parents is dealing with their children's most important reactions to experience -- emotions.
In the year long study of gifted children (GCS assessment and learning styles programs of 1995) we have found that, despite high verbal and conceptual abilities, a surprising number were unable to identify feelings and to connect them to behavior. Thus, they often demonstrated emotional and even social lag below their intellectual attainments. In some cases, emotional underdevelopment also adversely affected productivity and creativity.
How can we help our children to attain their optimal emotional growth? To begin with, children often need help identifying what is happening to them. "You look like your feelings are hurt?" can clarify what may be a confusion of reactions.
Undoubtedly, we should start early to build a child's emotional vocabulary and understanding of what causes feelings. Specifically linking a reward to positive behavior makes a good start in promoting emotional learning. Example: with a smile/hug, "That was good sharing to let Joey play with your new toy." It is equally important to identify negative feeling, e.g., "You sound grumpy." The parent's calm recognition and sympathetic acceptance of negative emotions can go a long way to establishing trust and respect. Several studies have shown that children who were often talked to about feeling and saw parents involved in benevolent acts rated the highest in empathy, caring and helpfulness.
Helping a child to make use of emotional awareness for problem solving is a potent way to build emotional and thinking skills. Parents can utilize movies, books and TV by interpreting feelings of characters, suggesting alternative acceptable behaviors in dealing with their situations: "I think he is not taking charge of his angry feelings. He should use his feelings to make things better, not worse." This encourages the child's own speculations about acceptable behaviors and could be a start to applying thought to emotions.
Reassuring children that there will be no penalty for disclosure will often ease their difficulty in communicating their feelings. The most common obstacle to a child's communicating is fear of reprisal for feeling angry at someone who is important to them. Another effective encouragement for communication is a parent's candor (appropriate for the child's emotional tolerance) and explanation of his/her negative feelings.
There is much more to be considered about this important area of parenting. In addition to interesting Saturday parent discussion meetings and parent seminars already scheduled, the Society welcomes suggestions as well as provides for individual consultations. Please feel free to write or call the Society to express your views and needs. Also, your questions will be welcome for response in this column.
Constructive Communication: How to Talk "GT" with Your Child's Teacher
by Julie Gonzales
Rarely do parents approach conference time with their child's teacheras a casual experience with little emotional anxiety. And even more rarely do teachers look forward to the exhausting and seemingly endless back-to-back parent chats without the associated fears of dealing with those obnoxious, pushy parents. You know the type ... acting like they are professionally worlds above classroom teachers ... demanding and intimidating ... never accepting the teacher's words as credible ... never satisfied .... and carrying so-called power chips on their shoulders. There must be a list hidden somewhere in the teacher's lounge with names and warning signs of those ungrateful negative parents!
Of course, parents have their list as well. The whole neighborhood knows the teachers you don't want your child to have. Whatever it takes, avoid at all costs "that one!"
... the teacher that everyone says is mean, unfair, doesn't give daily hugs to the kids, assigns unreasonable loads of homework, and is a strict disciplinarian. School should be a fun, positive experience, right?
Enter the parents of a gifted child: so anxious to talk to the professional that will be teaching their child ... so filled with the extraordinary responsibility of raising an exceptional child ... having the clues, knowing what all parents know best: what their child can do, the level of persistaent curiosity, remarkable creativity, and extraordinary intelligence on a daily basis ... so different than other children the same age... so intensely emotional ... so sensitive and fragile ... yet so invigorated by thinking, reading, analyzing, dissecting, calculating, inventing, or composing. What will the teacher say? What does the teacher see? What plans does the teacher have to make the school day a rich experience with challenge and unbridled learning?
Without question, how we talk to each other, express our interests and concerns, and how we respond in the give and take of school talk is critical to meeting the needs of the individual child. Personal agendas create walls. Disrespect and lack of consideration for the reality of the situation for either side encourages defensiveness and builds barriers. Personality conflicts prevent problem solving by making more problems. Whether parent or teacher, modeling unrealistic demands and aggressive or defensive behavior will encourage our children to behave similarly. So how do we as parents of gifted children effectively communicate with the critical other adult in our child's life as school: the classroom teacher?
Reach for Common Ground
Students needs are the issue here: no need to debate philosophical issues. Don't get caught in circular arguments about elitism and labeling. Put the label "on the table" and talk about your child's needs in school.
  • Back up the needs statement with evidence. Share (don't shove) examples of your child's work (or what she/he does when "playing" at home) ... artwork, books that have been read, writing samples, math games, pictures of construction projects, topics of conversation, questions asked and how far you had to go to seek the answers.
  • Pursue the topic of student achievement for exceptional learners. How will that look in this class?
  • Seek the teacher's professional advice for recommendations for your child's learning play (not a formal Individualized Education Plan, but with a focus on learning and academic growth regardless of what the child already knows and is able to do.)
  • Try approaching the issue of "optimal performance" for all students ... how will my child be able to move in that direction?
Be Sensitive to the Circumstances at Hand
Be aware that a majority of classroom teachers have had minimal, if any, training in the area of gifted education. It may not be a difference in philosophy, just a lack of awareness and understanding.
  • Don't attack your child's teacher because the program is not working. Get involved at a different level where policy and practice are formed. The problem may not be the teacher. The problem most often is the system.
  • Don't run to the principal after the first round with the teacher. Once you do, you have damaged your chances for mutual respect and trust. Call the teacher after you have gathered your thoughts and calmed down (this may take a few days). Write down your questions and concerns. Ask if there is a time you could meet again. Perhaps you didn't clearly state what you needed to know. Perhaps it was a rough day in the classroom. Give the teacher a second chance.
  • As a parent, your role in your child's education is primary. If you don't advocate for appropriate educational placement and programming opportunities, don't expect the system to do it for you.
  • Be sensitive to the classroom conditions your child's teacher is given. How can you help? What materials, ideas, time, coordination, and resources can you provide to enhance the program? What can you give that your child's teacher cannot provide? How can you contribute to solving the problem instead of being the problem?
  • Recognize that the parents of gifted children often display the same common characteristics of "giftedness" that are evident in their children. How can this be a positive asset in building bridges with the school community? (Remember, many people think those parents who think their child is gifted are the most obnoxious. Actually, "we" aren't, but it only takes one to keep that image alive and well!)
  • Be assertive, not adversarial. It won't harm your child for you to be an advocate for your child. The trick is to be sensitive to others. Seek to establish trust and respect over time.
Use Common Sense
  • Write down your questions before meeting with the teachers.
  • Determine a means for measuring student academic growth ... where is the baseline in each are of study? (It will not be the same across the board.) What would be realistic expected gain over time given the learning style, ability level, and knowledge base of your child?
  • Be willing to compromise ... a foot in the door is a positive outcome. Slamming the door offers no benefit to the child.
  • Be a good listener. If you monopolize the conversation or sound too preachy, the response will not be what you are looking for.
  • Compliment the teacher when appropriate and in a sincere fashion. Teach your children to appreciate and respect the teaching profession. Encourage your children to write thank-you notes or express their appreciation creatively at the end of each year.
  • Keep good records of your meetings, what was discussed, what goals were set, what timelines were established.
  • Seek documentation from those teachers who know your child well and recognize your child's unique abilities and needs. Ask them to write year-end summaries and recommendations for instructional programming and placement for the year ahead.
  • Involve your child in the plan for his/her program, the goal setting process, and the evaluation of learning and achievement. Encourage your child to become his/her own advocate ... to be tactful ... to solve problems ... to be sensitive to others along the way. Network for ideas and support. You will be surprised how many teachers will appreciate your efforts.
Some Final Thoughts
Clear communication with your child's teachers and other school staff is critical at every point in your child's education. Be consistent. A parent's concerns and caring should not be a negative mark, but an obvious indication of need for recognition of the uniqueness of each child. Parents know their children in ways no system can measure or understand. Successful partnership between home and school depends on common knowledge, direct and honest communication, mutual respect, and focus on solutions through shared responsibility. Whether parent or educator, we each have the opportunity to build trust and find answers for education welfare of each child. Together we can make a difference.
Charter School for the Gifted? Probably Not.
by Gina Ginsberg Riggs, Executive Director, Emerita
Mission: "To establish a charter school for elementary grades that offers an educationally challenging curriculum to high ability students."
We had planned to include the entire mission statement in this newsletter but recently passed legislation, signed by Governor Whitman, makes that obsolete.
Here is an excerpt from this legislation:
"A charter school shall be open to all students on a space available basis and shall not descriminate in its admission policies or practices on the basis of intellectual or athletic ability, measures of achievement or aptitude, status as a handicapped person, proficiency in the English language, or any other basis that would be illegal if used by a school district; however, a charter school my limit admission to a particular grade level or to areas of concentration of the school, such as mathematics, science, or the arts. A charter school may establish reasonable criteria to evaluate prospective students which shall be outlined in the school's charter."
The hardworking ad hoc Charter School Committee did its best to persuade sponsors of the legislation and members of the education committees of both Houses to change the legislation to make it possible for us to start a school but, unfortunately, without success. Here is a quote from a letter this office received from New Jersey Commissioner of Education Leo Klagholz:
"The issues you raise are important ones but the wording on Page 4, Section #7 is to prevent a 'creaming off' of the best students in a district into a Charter School. In doing so, it focuses on preventing restrictive admission requirements. However, Charter School founders could still create a school with a highly challenging curriculum."
The charter school topic will be on the agenda of the next board meeting. It is possible that the board will pass the legislation to one or more of our lawyer members to see whether it leaves room anywhere to try for a charter school for the gifted.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our truly outstanding ad hoc Charter School committee for its hard work. We assigned "homework" at each meeting and, whether a specific member was able to attend the next meeting or not, the "homework" was always sent in. That was a first in my 30 years with the Society. Thank you again. It was truly a pleasure to work for you, in spite of the frustration.
© 2016, The Gifted Child Society.  All rights reserved.