Having a gifted child can be frustrating and gratifying in equal measures. Gifted children are often a joy to their parents — bringing home stellar report cards, talking precociously and enthusiastically about a variety of subjects, and receiving loads of praise and recognition from their teachers and other adults. These are the scenarios that often come to mind when one pictures life with a gifted child. If you happen to be the parent of one, however, you know that these children can just as easily struggle as succeed. Meeting the special needs of gifted children can be especially challenging since many times, their needs are under-recognized. Although the people around them, including (at times) their teachers, may not acknowledge their unique needs, it’s your job as a parent to ensure that these needs are met, both inside and outside of the classroom.
To help you do so, here are seven strategies you can use to guarantee that your gifted child receives the special attention and resources he or she needs to succeed in school and in life:
- 1. Advocate
Whether or not your child has a specially trained teacher or is enrolled in a special education program for gifted children, you still need to make it your responsibility to be your child’s number one advocate. Although the teachers and administrators at your child’s school have the professional skills necessary to provide your child with the services he needs and is entitled to, they don’t have the natural instincts that comes only with being a parent. You know your child better than anyone else, and you can sense when he’s thriving and when he’s not. Use these instincts to advocate for your child. Make it your mission to ensure that he receives the proper balance of enrichment and challenge that all gifted children require in order to excel and reach their full potential as learners.
- 2. Participate
Recognizing that your gifted child has special needs is the first step, but it’s only the beginning of the process. Since gifted children often require more attention and instruction than their peers, it may be necessary for you to participate in their education a bit more than you would otherwise. Take charge of your child’s learning, and if you see that her curriculum is not adequate to meet the special needs of gifted children, then take some initiative and step in to fill in the gaps. This may mean providing books that are more appropriate for her reading level or doing hands-on science experiments at home to accommodate her curiosity and learning style.
- 3. Engage
As simple as it may sound, one of the best things parents can do to meet the special needs of gifted children is to engage them in conversation on a regular basis. Don’t limit the discussion to school subjects only. Talk to your child about issues at work, the government, the economy, and the like. In other words, talk to your child like you would an adult, censoring where necessary of course, and encourage him to ask questions about the things he doesn’t understand. Constantly stimulating your child’s curiosities is the best thing you can do to promote ongoing learning.
- 4. Provide
Even the most well-funded programs for gifted children often fall short of providing adequate resources for every child. After all, each child is unique and has diverse interests. As a parent, you can leverage these interests to create learning opportunities for your youngster. If your child is into sports, provide him with some biographies of famous athletes. If she likes animals, take her to the zoo and then follow up with a research project on one of her favorite animals. Providing these resources and experiences for your child will help her expand her learning outside the boundaries of the school curriculum.
- 5. Facilitate
One of the most common areas of difficulty for gifted children is social engagement. Trouble socializing and developing interpersonal relationships is one of the special needs of gifted children because they are often very aware of how different they are from other children and sometimes become self-conscious as a result. Teach your child about the similarities and differences amongst all people — not just gifted children — and then facilitate friendships by hosting parties, play dates, and other social activities. Engage in role play with your child before and after such events to help him further hone his social skills.
- 6. Explore
Explore your community to find other resources for learning outside the walls of the classroom. Take your child to museums and art galleries. Sign her up for music or dance lessons. Take advantage of summer camps and enrichment programs. Remember, not all learning experiences need to directly relate to math, social studies, or other core curriculum areas. Life is a playground for learning, so help your child take advantage of every opportunity available.
- 7. Monitor
Gifted children are particularly sensitive to their environment, and if there needs aren’t being met, they will find a way to let you know it, even if it’s in a subtle way. Monitor your child continually for signs that he needs some extra attention or instruction. If she loses interest in school, for instance, or becomes withdrawn, then it may be time to take a closer look at the situation.
The special needs of gifted children aren’t something to be ignored or taken lightly. It’s easy to look at the row of “A’s” on the report card and assure yourself that your child is doing fine. Before you take their success for granted, however, make sure that you’re looking at the bigger picture. Completing school assignments and achieving good grades is only one part of the equation. In order for your child to meet his full potential and embrace learning as a pleasurable part of life, she needs to be challenged and supported. Use these seven strategies to ensure that your gifted child continues down the path of success throughout her school career and beyond.