The Gifted and Talented Child (page 2)
Identifying a musically, athletically, or artistically gifted child is often less difficult than identifying the intellectually gifted child. An intellectually gifted child is characterized by a pattern of attributes in her/his approach to learning. The gifted child challenges generalizations; sees relationships between diverse subjects; has a curious, questioning attitude; shows a propensity for creative thought; has an intense sense of justice and morality; has multiple and varied interests; exhibits a strong commitment to task; is persistent and tenacious; has keen powers of observation; has the ability to abstract, conceptualize, and synthesize; is skeptical and critical; has rapid insight into relationships; and often has a keen sense of humor.
Gifted children learn to read earlier, often before entering school, sometimes on their own, and with a greater comprehension of the nuances of the language. They usually have large vocabularies for their age. They learn basic skills more quickly and need less practice. They display an ability for abstract thinking in advance of their peers. Their concentration and attention spans are longer. They often have a wide variety of interests and experiment with them. They have a highly developed sense of curiosity and a limitless supply of questions. They are good guessers. They can construct relationships between things that are not readily obvious. They can retain a lot of information.
The ideal school program for the gifted child fosters his/her ability to evaluate facts and arguments critically; to create new ideas and originate new lines of thought; to reason through complex problems; to associate and interrelate concepts; to understand other situations, times, and people; to work independently on research projects; and to develop an interdisciplinary approach to subject matter.
Intellectually Gifted with Learning Difference
Some intellectually gifted children also have learning differences and become particularly frustrated with their inability to produce in the classroom in exactly the same way as their peers. Parents must be strong advocates for their children in order to enable these young people to find satisfying expression of their special gifts.
The Gifted Preschooler
As there are strong indications that mature intelligence is developed between conception and 4 years of age, it is important for gifted and talented youngsters to be exposed to a high-quality learning environment as soon as possible. Parents play an important role in identifying the gifted preschool child, as they can supply developmental information and other data not readily observable in more structured situations.
Some characteristics parents and teachers should look for in preschoolers:
- The use of advanced vocabulary for their age;
- Employment of spontaneous verbal elaborations with new experiences;
- Ability to construct interesting or unusual shapes or patterns through various media;
- Ability to assemble puzzles designed for older children;
- Sense of humor used in general conversation;
- Understanding of abstract concepts, such as death and time;
- Mastery of new skills with little repetition;
- Demonstration of advanced physical skills;
- Demonstration of advanced reasoning skills through the explanation of occurrences.
Children's perceptions of their peers also can be a revealing source of information. To find out how children who possess unique abilities are perceived by their peers, the following types of questions can be asked:
- Which child in class can make a broken toy work?
- Who in the class can make up the best new game?
- Who is the very best at following directions?
- Who asks the most questions?
Tips for Parenting
Gifted and talented children challenge traditional ideas and attitudes about being parents. Sometimes the responsibility of helping children become all they can be weighs heavily; but giftedness should be looked on as a challenge and not a problem, and parents, hopefully, will enjoy the experience. These children are wonderful treasures.
Parents can help meet the needs of their gifted and talented children by providing them with a wide variety of experiences. Take children to museums, airports, the library, and musical and dramatic performances. Play new games, do experiments, engage in sports together. For children enrolled in a structured educational or enrichment program, parent participation, input, and support are vital.
It is important to provide a variety of stimuli and experiences geared to the child's natural interests. In addition to books, toys, stories, puzzles, and games, parents should also provide materials and experiences that encourage the use of imagination, challenge the child's abilities, and encourage the development of perceptual and motor skills. The computer can become a fascinating source of learning. Encourage your child to record his/her ideas in some way, even if the written word is not yet fully developed. Allow ample time for thinking and daydreaming. Assign household tasks that coincide with interests. Encourage your child to translate her/his interests into specific products, e.g., stories, pictures, collections, inventions, tools. Accept and use your child's tendency to see things differently and encourage active rather than passive learning. Play all kinds of word games whenever possible.
Parents should develop the habit of asking the children as many questions as possible. For example, "What would happen if...?" "How does it work?" "How would you change it?" "What else can you do with that?" "Why?" "What will it be like a (week, month, year) from now?"
It is important to remember that gifted and talented children are children first and gifted and talented second. Like all children, they need and respond to love, caring, interest, and guidance from their parents. Sometimes, however, being gifted and talented becomes a burden, especially if their environment does not meet their needs and expectations, or if peers react negatively to their abilities. The gifted child may become insecure, withdraw, or act out frustrations in the form of disruptive behavior. It is not uncommon for gifted and talented children to achieve at levels lower than their capabilities if lack of challenge in school produces disinterest or if giftedness is accompanied by learning disabilities. Meeting these problems will require a cooperative effort between parents, school officials, and, in some cases, a professional counselor.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of State.
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