7 Ways To Advocate For Your Gifted Child

Whether you have a gifted child, or one with learning issues or other disorders, it is important to be an advocate for them. You, as the parent, know your child the best. They are too young to speak up for themselves, and hence, you are the best person to speak up for them. There are some ways to advocate their right to learn.

1. Read Up On Any Available Materials

Some parents of gifted children have no idea their children are gifted until a teacher makes a comment. Others might have noticed that their children are different and have unusual memory. Some of them could read and write at an early stage. If you are still at the denial stage, do read up on any available information online. Some websites that were really helpful were Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, SENG, Davidson Institute and even Kiasuparents (Singapore). Other personal blogs were helpful too. At that time I had no idea how to handle my child, because he had other issues. He could be extremely intense and sensitive, had issues with making friends, poor sleeping habits and asynchronous development leading to unhappiness and meltdowns. However, the more I read, the clearer it was for me to see that he could be gifted. It was when I joined groups that focus on gifted children, I finally got the answers I needed. I found a tribe that could provide support. It is only after you have sufficient knowledge, you are able to speak up and advocate for your child. If you do not have research to back up your points, people are not going to take you seriously.

2. Work With Professionals

I had spoken to my child’s paediatrician, and he mentioned that my son had asynchronous development. At that time, he could not talk, but was spelling words such as ‘c-a-t’ and ‘b-u-s’. That was when I had a little more direction to do research on my own.

I took him to a sleep psychologist who happened to be an educational psychologist too and after observing him and hearing about his behaviour, she mentioned that he could be advanced intellectually, and proposed a few solutions, such as having lessons to build up routines for him. There were no tests for giftedness at the hospital I took him to, so I did not get him tested.

In Singapore, there is nothing much you could do except wait until they are in Primary Three where they will sit for a screening examination held by MOE Singapore to test for giftedness. Only then would there be corresponding support given to the child. The exception is when your child is exceptionally gifted, which could be determined through psychologist tests such as Stanford-Binet 5 taken after age 5 or WISC-4 after age 6. Then there would be the possibility of skipping grades. However, it appears that MOE does not actively recommend acceleration, and feels that homeschooling for the gifted may or may not work. I believe they would prefer the children to have 10-12 years of education in the local school system. You could always speak to a psychologist, or even someone from the gifted education branch to find out more.

Getting an psychologist evaluation may be helpful, as they are able to surface strengths and weaknesses of the child. I have heard of people getting referrals from polyclinics to go to KKH for testing. I have also heard that the National Institute of Education (NIE) provides evaluation as well. There are other commercial options available.

3. Educate Your Family Members

People in your family might not know how to handle a child that is different. They may think that you are pushing your child too much, or they are simply delighted they have a very smart grandchild. Since the brain is wired differently, gifted children may or may not have meltdowns that people could not understand. They will simply scold the children for acting up. Sometimes, it could be due to lack of sleep, or sometimes they have over sensitivities. In addition, while these children may be intellectually ahead of others, they may be behind others in other aspects due to asynchronous development. People forget that. Family members may also keep praising the children for being smart, but forget that effort is important as well. The children may refuse to do certain things because they find it too difficult, especially as they get older and are afraid to fail.

Some may also keep praising the gifted child, without realising that the child is very advanced, and think that the sibling is stupid and slow, while that sibling is merely functioning at normal speed as other people. This creates unhealthy comparison between the siblings, and may lead to deteriorating ties. Hence, family members should be more aware in the way they speak to different children.

My helper sometimes makes tsk-tsk sounds and goes ‘Wow’ to show she is amazed by how smart my child is. I do not agree with this because it will make him think that he is superior, and he may get impatient with other people who do not get him quickly. Hence, it would be important to gently remind people in your family who make intelligence a big deal to focus on other things.

4. Work With Your Child’s Teachers
In Singapore, being gifted is equivalent to being very smart. There is a difference. Smart children are smart, but gifted children are wired differently. They make connections at a faster speed and think differently. Smart children could provide answers, while gifted children could come up with questions. Some question both the questions and answers. They see patterns others do not see.

Instead of applauding the child for being smart, we should applaud the child when he puts in the effort to do something well. Some gifted children may not perform well in school depending on how gifted they are. Some are eager to please, and they will do the work for their teacher even if they are bored. Others may simply refuse to do. I am sure some of you might have heard of children losing marks because they refuse to write down the working, because they had already calculated that mentally. In many situations, the higher the scores in intelligence, the harder it is for such children to function ‘normally’.

Not many teachers are trained in gifted education. They are not trained to look out for gifted children. They may notice some of their students are different, but they do not have the means to fully engage them. With large class sizes in Singapore, it is difficult to truly have differentiated learning for children of different abilities.

You need to let your child’s teachers know what they are capable of, and what they need help in. There are teachers who roll their eyes when parents say their child is gifted, and they think the parents are deluded because the child is an average performer, or even misbehaves in their classrooms. I had seen how teachers at a Facebook group for teachers laugh at such parents recently. It was quite distressing to see that behaviour.

You could ask your child’s school for support. Some schools are better than others in stretching the top students. Some provide more support for others with special needs. It is important to be respectful. I had a parent of a child with ADHD request for a meeting with the child’s teachers. Another parent with a special needs child also tries to help me keep her child on task. Other parents may think that such parents are demanding, but when done properly, teachers will know how to engage the child better. Not everyone is trained or experienced enough to engage different types of children properly.

Some teachers may think your child is not gifted, because your child is different from their own children who are gifted. That is why you need to engage the teachers more, but at the same time, be aware of the limitations they have, in terms of manpower, resources and time.

It would be great to write thank you notes for these teachers, or administrators who had taken time to respond to you, or to do some testing. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and your note may go a long way.

5. Keep Records
School reports are useful documents for those who wish to accelerate their children or request for special accommodations. If there are interviews for admissions in the future, evidence of work and other records of interactions would be very useful.

Some teachers may not be able to see how advanced your child is. If you could show the teacher what your child is capable of with the previous teacher, or at home, the teacher would have a clearer picture.

Some children may regress academically when they go to primary schools. This is because they are unable to sit still for long and they get told to keep quiet and sit still. They lose the intellectual curiosity. They may also get a teacher who may not challenge them adequately. That is when the records would come in useful.

6. Monitor Your Child’s Progress
After meeting with your child’s teachers, do request for feedback on a regular basis. Some teachers meet parents of students who misbehave or are weak academically only. If your child does not pose a problem in the classroom, it does not mean the needs are well met. Do find out from the teacher how your child interacts with others socially. Does the child work well in groups? Does the child have any fine or gross motor issues? Is the child able to speak up in a large class? Does the child participate fully? Sometimes the child may be great in certain classes with certain teachers, but not in other subjects.

If you could have the time to volunteer for events, it would be good as you get to see your child in the school setting. It was only when I volunteered to take my son and his friends on an excursion that I realised he had made some improvement in his social skills.

Another way is to meet up with other parents of your child’s classmates. They offer valuable information on what is happening in class. One parent, who is non-Chinese and I had met her at a class excursion to Kampong Glam, told me that the other children had been going for Chinese enrichment lessons. That was when I realised I needed to do something about my child’s poor command of Chinese.

7. Spread Awareness
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I had not specifically stated my son is gifted, because he had not been tested. Some peers of mine are also uneasy with this, because it makes them feel bad that their children are not achieving the same things as my son could do, and some think that I am bragging. Life is too short to be affected by what others say.

I have decided to be part of Hoagies’ monthly Blog Hop, by writing articles that are relevant to the topic of the month. It means that I have to open a little more, and be more explicit when I talk about my son. At first, I was still a little unsure whether I was doing the right thing or not. Then, my friend contacted me, and said she felt a sense of relief after reading my post(s). She has a child who is likely to be gifted, and she has faced a lot of stress from others who do not show much understanding. That was when I realised that even if my posts only help just one person, I would continue to blog about gifted children and education.

I was telling my friend that among our circle of friends, we may have more children who are gifted than we care to admit or identify. I had talked about them in my previous post about different faces of gifted people. Some of these friends may know their children are gifted, while others may not. It is through bringing the topic up that more could benefit.

This is my way of advocating for gifted children. If more people know about them, perhaps they could be more understanding and less judgemental. I hope they do not see a pushy and demanding mother, but one who simply wants to understand her child more. If people could recognise some attributes in their children, they know there is one more person to talk to.

Some of you may choose to start your own Facebook group. Others may speak to politicians who could effect changes. Some, like me, could just choose to blog. I know, because some bloggers who had blogged about their gifted children, especially those in Singapore and many in other countries, had helped answer some of the questions I have, as I trawled through the internet for information. The more people know about issues close to your heart, the better it is.

This is part of the monthly blog hop from Hoagies.
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Click on the image below and check out other blogs on the blog hop.

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6 thoughts on “7 Ways To Advocate For Your Gifted Child

  1. Thank you for pointing out the issue of parent denial of a child’s giftedness. I think it is such a little-known, but very important problem. Many of us parents with gifted children, including me, were in denial at first, and being in denial of your child’s giftedness only adds to the already long list of issues we deal with with our gifted children. Your post has so much good, useful information! Thank You!

    • Hi Celi, it is much easier when we just have a smart child instead of a gifted one, but it is better to know earlier and handle them to the best of our abilities. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  2. It’s so true that few teachers have training in true gifted education. Suggest periodicals for them, or leave a copy in the teachers’ lounge. You’d be surprised how many will take notice!

    • Due to streaming based on results, there is a lower possibility that there are gifted children in my school, but nevertheless, there are some who might slip through the cracks, especially those who are 2e. You are right. It is important that we do not miss these children out and teachers should know more about them. I’ll go post my suggestion to my school about having periodicals in the staff lounge today!

  3. there is a difference between denial and lack of awareness. I had no idea my son was profoundly gifted when he was very young. I thought that was just how kids are. He was my first child and i had never spent time around other toddlers or small children, so I had nothing to compare him with. (my husband still teases me that I thought our 2nd child was learning disabled because she was 18 months old and didn’t know the alphabet)

    • You are right. In my case, despite telling my husband my elder son is gifted, he still doesn’t think that way, and so he thinks my younger son is slow because he cannot spell at 2 years of age.

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