Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Advocating for your Gifted Child

First some provisional good news: I heard back from the principal of the charter virtual middle school that Wolfie and Xavier are considering for next year. He had had some reservations about the boys taking GOAL classes from the University of Missouri-Columbia. These are essentially high school classes offered to 4-8 graders. He was concerned, and rightfully so, that the boys might be in over their heads if they took high school classes in 6th and 7th grades. After I sent him the boys' test scores, grade reports and information on their current accelerations, he said he could see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to take the advanced classes. Yippee!

He also wanted to run the idea past the guidance counselor who is due to start May 1 for a second opinion. Hence the "provisional" good news. However, their test scores (ACT and EXPLORE) clearly show they are capable of doing high school level work in at least one subject, and since the school has a policy of allowing students to change classes during the first 20 days if they're not a good fit, I am not anticipating any problems.

Julia Osborn's article How to Advocate for your Gifted Child, published on GT-Cybersource, is an excellent summary of the experiences of the parent-advocates of twelve exceptionally gifted students. (Are there enough prepositional phrases in that sentence?) From the article:

A list of very specific do's and don'ts were offered by the parents:

1. Get a professional evaluation. Don't demand a specific test; look for information on strengths and weaknesses.

2. Use tests that the schools understand and respect so you can talk their language. (SAT, the WISC-III, the SB: IV)

3. Be cautious about using tests that are less familiar and well respected (SB: LM).

4. Learn everything you can about your child. Pay attention to what your child loves to do. Study standardized scores for signs of your child's strengths.

5. Study the school. Learn everything you can about the programs and the key decision-makers.

6. Study other programs.

7. Read the district policy statement.

8. Make an educational plan for your child.

9. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.

10. Stay calm: don't act belligerent, don't act entitled, don't talk when you are angry.

11. Document everything.

12. Practice your responses to false or misleading statements.

13. Anticipate objections, have ready responses.

14. Think about how the school fits into your child's life rather than how your child fits into the school.

I would like to add: 15. Find a parent support group. I have learned just about all I know about advocacy from the BTDT (been there, done that) parents on the Mensa Bright Kids list (link at right). The list is open to everyone, Mensan or not. I know there's a stereotype of Mensans being elitest and competitive, but I have not found that to be true of anyone on the Bright Kids list (and I've been a member for more than a year). We are a bunch of parents of gifted kids who are sharing information and ideas about how to help those kids feel comfortable in their own skins.
[Full disclosure: I've recently be appointed to Mensa's Gifted Children Program Team, but I'm going to have to assume y'all don't think I'm snooty or else you wouldn't be reading this!]

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