“We found that mathematical gifts and a variety of aptitudes have a significant impact,
but that special educational opportunities and commitment can dramatically increase
this impact," Lubinski said. "These students are intellectually gifted, and those
gifts are best fully realized when they have the full support and understanding of
their teachers, their parents and their social network.” (PEGY’s emphasis).
Exceptionally gifted children occur at the rate of 1 in 10,000 and profoundly gifted
even less frequently, so most people, including teachers, will never meet one. Teachers,
parents and academics who are trying to find an appropriate education for these children
are likely to come across reactions of incredulity and even hostility when they propose
an appropriate educational solution. These children and their needs are simply outside
most people’s experience. One academic has even referred to profoundly gifted children
as “precocious, freak show geniuses”, and the media tends to emphasize adverse stereotypes.
Few people in the UK are aware of the research-based information on their needs,
so parents and teachers will find it necessary to inform themselves as thoroughly
as possible, and advocacy is usually necessary in finding a suitable education for
exceptionally and profoundly gifted children.
"ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"
(p. 3). Darwin, C. (1871). The descent of man. London: John Murray
Points to consider
Teachers may need to advocate for a child they have discovered, both to the child’s
parents and to other teachers in the school, while other parents may need to advocate
for their child.
This list of suggestions for more effective advocacy may prove helpful:
- School is not going to be perfect, but should not be detrimental to the child’s
academic, social or emotional well-being.
- Don’t use the word bored! Many teachers associate this with children who have
not understood the material. Others take alleged boredom as a personal criticism
of their teaching.
- Always assume teachers/parents are doing their best for every child in their class
and really want to work with you to solve the problem.
- Parents, offer to help in the classroom or in the wider school if you possibly
- Be sympathetic to the load the teacher carries. Don’t forget the child is only
one of up to 30 or more that the teacher is working to challenge and educate at the
- Be sympathetic to the strain parents may be under. They may well be receiving
advice from well meaning friends and relations, telling them to keep the child as
‘normal’ (ie as close to and as similar to age peers) as possible, and they may not
be familiar with the research on exceptionally and profoundly gifted children. They
may also be struggling with coming to terms with the fact that their child is so
different as to need such modification to their educational path, and will probably
be worried about their child.
- If you can find someone who is not involved, it may be beneficial to talk things
over before taking action.
- Parents, offer to send in workbooks or reading books at your child’s level to
take some of the workload off the teacher.
- Be flexible and open-minded. Teachers may know of options for gifted education
in your area of which you are unaware.
- Note that acceleration will reduce the teacher’s workload as much less differentiation
will be needed after acceleration.
- Never meet parents/teachers when you’re tired, frustrated or overwhelmed.
- Start advocacy with the child’s teacher, moving to the school’s gifted and talented
co-ordinator if this is unsuccessful, the Headteacher and then local authority Gifted
and Talented Coordinator if necessary. The school governor with responsibility for
the gifted and talented should be involved at an early stage. Meetings with Headteachers
and onwards should be formal and not tacked on to an open evening or other function
at the school. Some parents have found letters to their MP effective in getting things
moving. You may also need to change schools, or ultimately consider home education.
- Make dated notes of conversations with parents/teachers and during meetings take
notes of points that are agreed and points of difference, if any. It’s easy for a
parent/teacher with a distressed child to think things are taking longer to happen
than they actually are. Always send follow-up letters after meetings to document
what was agreed as many busy people don’t remember all the details. However, be polite
and friendly as some parents/teachers may find such letters intimidating.
- Try to anticipate all the questions which may come up and practice answering them
before the meeting.
- Consider compiling a short portfolio of objective evidence of the child’s advanced
intellectual abilities and academic achievement. Consider asking the school if they
will informally administer above level tests (KS1, 2 or 3) to the child. In this
way they may prove to themselves that educational adaptations are required.
- Be honest about the child, acknowledging weaknesses as well as strengths – teachers
will certainly have spotted them.
- Consider single subject acceleration as a way of easing into whole year acceleration.
- Suggesting a trial period may reassure all concerned – but ensure the receiving
teacher is willing to work for a fair trial.
- Consider using the Pegy ‘Points to consider’ for acceleration decisions and sharing
it with all the parties concerned.
- The Iowa Acceleration Scale may be helpful in organising thinking, although the
achievement tests it refers to are from the US.
- Parents might like to consider bringing a man to meetings, preferably dressed
in a suit. Some report their case being taken more seriously as a result – but sadly
some are intimidated by the suit and react badly, so use this tactic with care.
- Remember the impression you leave when advocating for a gifted child will stay
with people, and may influence decisions for the next gifted child who needs educational
adaptations. Also remember that you may be coming after a previous gifted child,
where advocacy efforts may not have left a favourable impression on the school’s
- Parents, remember also that if your child is distressed and your efforts at advocacy
are not bearing fruit, there may come a point when you have to draw a line under
your efforts to advocate and leave, either for another school or to home educate.
- Never give up working for the child.
Books, articles and websites which others have found helpful:
“Getting to Yes” Fisher and Ury http://www.amazon.co.uk/Getting-Yes-Negotiating-agreement-without/dp/0140157352/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226597024&sr=8-2
“Getting Past No” http://www.amazon.co.uk/Getting-Past-No-Negotiating-Difficult/dp/0712655239/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1227544194&sr=8-1
http://www.gt-cybersource.org/Record.aspx?NavID=2_0&rid=11491 by Julia Osborn
“This article is based upon the family experiences of twelve exceptionally gifted
students (students who scored over 160 on the SB: LM) as the parents advocated for
appropriate educational plans. Once the parents had accepted the reality of their
child's educational needs and had some ideas about how to meet those needs, they
needed to work with their schools to set up educational activities that were appropriate.
The work of advocacy was ongoing, at times successful and at other times unsuccessful.
As the families reflected on the factors that led to success, they had many pieces
of advice for other parents about to embark on the same process.”
“Tips for Parents: Acceleration (8th Grade & Younger)”
“It's that continuous chain of parent-educator relationships which becomes the backbone
supporting a child's educational experience. It can become the stabilizing agent
which holds a child's education together and gives it continuity across years, schools,
and curricula. Therefore, it is paramount to ensure that this renewable relationship
gets off to a good start at the beginning of each new academic cycle.”
“Advocating for our children” http://www3.bc.sympatico.ca/giftedcanada/advocat.pdf
By The Gifted Children’s Association of British Columbia, sets out advocacy techniques
and an approach which includes a plan and portfolio.
Finally, if things get difficult and frustrating:
“Asimov's Law and Advocacy” by Toni Goodman http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/asimovs_law.htm
“Recently, in a discussion between parents of gifted children, someone asserted the
following quote of Asimov's Law: "Never attribute to malice what can be adequately
explained by ignorance or stupidity."
I was immediately struck by the fact that while this seems an inherently important
principle of advocacy, it is also, perhaps one of the most difficult to be mindful
of, particularly, when your child is suffering at the hands of that ignorance.”
“Some teachers of students who are being considered for whole-grade acceleration
even feel a sense of failure, as though it's their fault that the student isn't challenged
by the grade level material or they have been unable to teach those students.” From
“Tips for parents: acceleration and the profoundly gifted” by Lupkowski-Shoplik