What Gifted Children REALLY Need: Parent Advocacy
Miseducated. Underserved. Unchallenged. Neglected. Misunderstood. Mislabeled.
This is a pretty grim string of adjectives that can accurately describe the lives of many of our gifted children in our traditional school systems today. Gifted education budgets are cut to the bone or are bare, regular education teachers are not trained to understand the unique learning needs of gifted learners, gifted students languish in regular education classrooms and become bored, and society mistakenly believes our gifted children are high achievers who have it made. In my many years of teaching and parenting, I don’t think I have ever seen the educational environment for our gifted students so — just so wrong.
I’m sure each of us could find an endless amount of facts and evidence supporting how our gifted students are miseducated, underserved, unchallenged, neglected, misunderstood and mislabeled. How many times have you, as a parent or teacher of gifted children, experienced these situations? Read any internet forum, group support site or message board for gifted children and you will most definitely read endless stories of how difficult the journeys are for families of gifted children. A quick search on any online book seller reveals hordes of books on gifted children, and nearly all of theses books are written to offer help, support, advice and guidance on raising a gifted child, or surviving life as a gifted individual. Pretty scary stuff if you think about it. Definitely not the enviable got-it-made reputation most people in society associate with gifted individuals.
My family has had a heartbreaking journey with our youngest gifted child and it is far from over. I’ve done my share of complaining in my blog posts here, here, here…oh…and here, and venting helps with the acceptance and the healing. Alas, complaining and commiserating with other gifted families, whether in person or online, about our very similar experiences is a much-needed validation that we are not alone on this painful journey. But, once we share, vent and complain, we realize the scope of the dismal circumstances our gifted children are in–in our educational system and in society as a whole. We all then quickly realize that we need to do something to change this troubling state of affairs.
As parents, the single most significant action we can take to help our gifted children is to advocate for them–all of them. Gifted specialists, educational professionals and gifted teachers can only advocate to a point before it is seen as a conflict of interest, or appearing as advocating against the school system that employs them. Parents can’t solely rely on the professionals in our educational system to change the educational environment for our gifted children. It is up to parents to raise our voices confidently, persistently and collectively; change can happen when we advocate together.
Joining or starting a gifted parent advocacy group is a perfect place to begin your advocacy efforts. Start by finding local and/or state gifted advocacy groups listed on the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) website. Hop on Facebook and search for pages and groups specifically for parents of gifted children like Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. Can’t find a Facebook page or group for gifted support for your area? Start one–it’s easy! Join Twitter and find others who are tweeting about everything gifted using the hashtags such as #gifted, #gifteded, and #gtchat. Join Twitter chats such as #gtchat to learn more and build your network of gifted tweeps.
Still not sure how to start advocating for your child, here are some organizations with all the information you need to get you going:
Read, research, talk to others, ask questions, join a support group, start a support group, join Twitter, hop on Facebook—let your voice be heard and follow your heart. Our gifted children need you.
They need US now!