Advocacy Bullies Is your child gifted?   Finding opportunities  Gifted Now what?  Mindmaps Resources    What did you learn in school today   Young gifted    When the system isn't working
Parent Focus (inside  view)

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Aidez vos enfants hautement surdoués Traduction de l'ERIC Digest n° 477 de Stephanie Tolan chez Douance Org.

FAQ Enfants Surdoués

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When the system isn't working a planning checklist 
Please let us know if you have anything to add to this list, or any discussion of how you found a solution

Every fall during the second week of school I receive countless calls in my role of president of the Gifted Children's Association of B.C.  Many parents realize very early on in the school year that this year that their child is facing a crisis connected with school.  Here is one checklist to help find a solution: 

Lesley Ansell-Shepherd, GCABC
   Define the problem
  •  ___ Is this primarily a social or 
  • ___educational 
  • ___Other (developmental, ie handwriting or medical (hearing etc.) problem .
  • ___Does it face the child on all fronts?
  • ___ only at school.
  • ___ Is it time dependent (need to be registered in ______ by _____ in order to be      eligible for _____)
  • ___ Is it something your child can address by themselves with support? 
What support does the child need
  • __Other gifted children?, 
  • __parents, 
  • __specialized staff (someone who can teach math 9 to a 7 year old)
  • ___ counsellors? 
  • __Community liaison, 
  • __Medical personnel? 
  • ___Other specialist _________
Draw up a plan to contact and search out a solution and follow it with your child.  Drawing up a plan gives the child a means of framing the problem and a possible list of contacts who may be able to help.  It also gives them back a sense of control of the situation as well as a sense of purpose, instead of the hopeless feelings which may make the issue seem larger than it is. 

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If it is beyond the child's ability to address (playground policy, gangs, bullying, district education policy, class sizes, teacher training  etc.) 
  • ___ Does the school have any formalized support (counsellors, peer counsellors, Parent advisory councils? cluster classes) 
  • ___Are their community programs dealing with similar issues? (integration of children with differences is often well covered and presented by community groups dealing with disabilities) do they have resources you can use, do they have experience of dealing with your school or local system. 

  • Contact a local gifted support group or if you have none, any other non profit agency connected with children to find out what records, programs or contacts they may have to help you with your situation.
  • ___ What outside resources can be brought in to make adaptations for the child (distance ed or correspondence courses, on line courses, community experts, high school textbooks)
If you must advocate on behalf of your child do the following:
    • ___ Know the stages in your process. List them and check them off with notes and a date as you progress through the system.
    • ___ Write a list with the problem at the beginning, your goal at the end and the steps you assume you need to take to get there.  Ask the class teacher or the principal to check your plan to ensure you are following the proper procedure.  (Sometimes just seeing  a written problem, a hoped for resolution and the steps you are prepared to go to will fast track discussion!)
    • ___What is the least intrusive approach for handling the problem, keeping your child's self esteem intact. 
    • ___ Is the problem resolvable ?  If resolution is unlikely make a list of your alternatives.
    • ___ Is it likely to escalate?  What is your plan if the situation gets worse?
      Begin at the lowest level of the system. Document the discussions and phone calls and be prepared to move slowly up the system.  Determine what is the appeal process in your district. 
        • ___ Is the difficulty classroom based
        • ___school based? 
        • ___system based, 
        • ___Does the school or district have any policy which relates to your issue? 
        • ___What is their knowledge base?___________________________

        • _________________________________________________________
        •  ___Do you need to bring in "expert testimony" , articles, specialists to extend their understanding of the issue.
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Where is the line in the sand for your child, for you ? 
  • _____At what point will you remove your child from the situation?  Although most situations can be resolved with a bit of work, dealing with a gifted child has some special parameters.  Both of you may carry previous baggage from other occasions.  Most gifted children see so many possibilities that issues become very clouded by "what ifs" .  Reassure your child and yourself by establishing guidelines.  (you try to talk to the principal about this first.  If that doesn' t change the situation by ___  I will do ____ with you.)  Knowing there is a specified end or change point gives children the framework to prevent hopelessness. 
  • ___Discuss options so that a situation which cannot be satisfactorily resolved can be changed.  Be open to various solutions, some of them may later be offered up by the parties involved and it is better your child have a chance to go through them beforehand.


Do not ignore signs of severe stress!   Our own first formal clue that a situatation was untenable for our child was a series of mouth cankers in our 5 year old.  He felt helpless and didn't want us to feel ashamed of him so he never spoke of the trauma he was undergoing. Watch your children for signs of stress, tension, and depression and discuss issues with them as soon as you can.

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Mind Maps

If you have a visual spatial child (or one who needs help remembering and organizing information) you may need to explore the concept of mind maps.    Mind maps are pictoral ways of sketching out relationships.  For many people this technique gives  a framework for information recall, especially the type of information you may have to recall for tests.  Tony Buzan is the guru of memory training using mind maps.  He has a long list of published books on his techniques which are well worth using with your gifted child. Two to start with are  Use your Memory,  BBC books 1994 (revised)   and Make the Most of Your Mind, Fireside books 1984   A wonderful website with all kinds of information on memory training, mnemonics, book reviews and Great minds is run by Michael Tipper, linked through the Happy Child web pages in the uk .  Several software sources exist for mind mapping as well.  Emindmaps
is supported by Tony Buzan and Inspiration  is an American product with similar uses.  If you have children who need to start learning techniques to prepare for final exams and university entrance, mindmapping is a good thing to look into 

Advocacy

Advocating for our Children is a new online special newsletter produced by the GCABC.  It includes a simple form to fill out for your child if you are trying to advocate for them in a particular situation (school or otherwise)  Let them know what other special newsletters you would like via their website at http:// www.vcn.bc.ca/gca

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Bullies 
Have you or your children run into issues with Bullies?
email  us and share your thoughts and ideas

Gifted children are probably bullied more often than we realize.  Our children are different and they usually realize that long before we ever recognize them for their differences or talk with  them about what it means to be gifted.  Through no fault of their own they are separated out for different treatment, sometimes viewed as "special" treatment by jealous classmates.  Couple this inability to change how they are treated, with the gifted child's identifying characteristics of strong empathy for underdogs and often righteous egalitarianism, and it is no wonder many of our children become targets for  bullies.  What is worse is that their "mature" outlook is often viewed as an ability to deal with issues more easily than the perpetrator. Often our children are sent off for counselling and courses on how to avoid being victimized when the bully remains at  large.

As a parent how can you help your child avoid bullies? 

  • First discuss openly with your children what their differences are, and how others may perceive them.  Ensure they understand how they can adjust those perceptions. 
  • Make sure they avoid the appearance of a "victim". 
  • Try to ensure they have a good friend and get to hang out with them as often as possible in  "normal" situations (not only at orchestra practice or in the gifted class)  so that they learn some childhood skills of give and take with the support of a friend. 
  • Encourage them to find some way to "give" to their immediate community of peers (classroom?)  so that they are perceived as a supportive part of the group, not someone always singled out as the "good" example.  Avoid the traditional types of activities for gifted children like reading to the group, helping the teacher, or helping peers with "hard" work, these usually increase the gifted child's isolation and create situations where they are perceived as outside the norms.
  • Teach them advocacy skills so that they have skills to negotiate with difficult peers and can explain any predicaments clearly to adults in power.
  • Make sure their environment is safe. Walk to school with them and discuss the route, discuss what to do if someone is bothering them in class, on the playground, on the route home.
  • Listen and be proactive.  If your children are worried, discuss their concerns and help them find a workable solution. 
 London Family Court Clinic has Canadian information for parents and teachers concerning bullying 

 Bullying in school and what to do about it Dr. Ken  Rigby,  is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Psychology and an educational consultant based at the University of South Australia whose site is devoted to school bullying.

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Resource Collection

Looking for ideas for fall; school, out of school programming?  email us and let us know of good ones you have found and we will post them here. 

Find reviews of children's books, videos and other material courtesy of the Manitoba Library association at CM: An Electronic Reviewing journal

Software reviews for games and programs for younger students as well as site links for downloadable games  can be found at Kids Domain, the UK Kids Domain  site also has lesson plans for teachers as well as software reviews, lists of downloadable games etc.  The reveiws at both sites are done by parents and kids and are very thorough.  They update reviews often.

Math reviews

Calculus  by and for young people  I recently ordered the calculus workbook developed by Don Cohen  the Mathman.  My kids are primarily visual learners who do math in a non linear fashion.  They will be great mathematicians if they can only make it through high school.   Don Cohen's book is great!  It presents calculus in a format which can be followed  by keen seven year olds and yet is clear and appealing to all ages.  The workbook has been designed by someone familiar with keen problem solvers as well as math phobes (best of all parent input is rarely needed, speaking of calculus phobes.)  Each page deals with options for solving involved calculus problems.  You have to flip over the page to see the next step (which helps with my sons who are speed readers and often read the solution before mulling over the problem).  All kinds of problem solving options are explored and discussed, with an emphasis on pattern recognition and visual methods of examining calculus problems.  The book is designed to be used to work on observing (creating) and solving problems.  It is not a text nor a curriculum based book.  It is a wonderful way to introduce any keen or math shy child to the joy of working on and solving what appear to be difficult problems.  This is truly a collegiate approach to math, not the dry presentation of facts.  Available in Canada via Jean Lau  who is building up a catalogue of materials for gifted kids including Zome toys and Aristoplay games.

Computer programs                  back to top site map

Two we have tried out and found really useful for gifted kids are  Dorling Kindersley's I Love Math (for younger kids) which does a great job of visually examining fractions and word problems without the 'attack' approach of many other math programs which focus on drill.  Levels work well and smoothly for primary grade math topics and the program is more interesting than many of the simple drill problems.  (fun for kids 4 and up)

Study Works Math  involves curriculum from Canadian Grade 7 on.  This is not a drill approach but has clear visually enhanced topic descriptions from pre-algebra through algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus and stats.  The interface is a bit tricky to start with but with a bit of perseverance kids enjoy clicking on the problems to produce an answer.  The worksheet and resource room formats are great for doing homework and the program will automatically generate an answer to problems you type  into it (the trick is to type in the equation correctly) as well as print off homework sheets and allow graphing and graphing calculator functions.  It isn't a game based math program but it offers good support for kids who learn better visually or at their own pace outside a classroom.  The program encourages mental math although a calculator is available and it asks kids to look for relationships between problems as well as solve them. There is also a web connection for help and connection to discussions and problems. 

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What did you learn in School today?

Looking for information on what your child should cover in school next year?  The BC Ministry of Education site has  very soft (and frustrating) online handbooks, the Parents Handbook on School Curriculum 

More useful are the actual Integrated Resource Packages, the actual "blueprint" for curricula for all grades in B.C.   If you are wondering if your child already knows the material for next year, check out this site.

The Nechako School District in B.C. have some great resources at their E-Bus home site.  One of the best is a list of sites concerning assessment information  for parents who want to determine how well their children are doing in various subjects.  Many of these sites have great resources to teach children how to critique their work, and they are useful anywhere in Canada.

If you have been frustrated by your school lately maybe you need an alternate view.  Read John Taylor Gatto's article The Curriculum of Necessity or What Must an Educated Person Know.  If you find that thought provoking you may want to check out more of Gatto's writings.

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Finding Opportunities for Your Gifted Child
Contributed by Lesley Ansell-Shepherd, president, GCABC

Interiors versus exteriors
Parent frustration goes hand in hand with raising most gifted children.  Often our children are assessed and defined by what they should be able to do.  What the child could produce, becomes the focus rather than who the child is.  Education is especially prone to defining children by their products, including making value judgements about effort and intent which may be totally unconnected with the inner reality of a gifted child. 
Defining our role as parents
As parents we owe our children the opportunity to be children.  Unusual children, but children, like any other, who need unqualified support from a parent.  We need to assist our children find opportunities to converse, work, and play with peers, although those peers may not be age based..  These children deserve the opportunity to struggle, to learn to critically examine their individual progress, which is often totally outside educational norms for their age.  As parents we need to teach them to understand who they are, how they differ from much of the population, the benefits and difficulties that engenders, socially, emotionally and intellectually.  We need to find them safe, secure and supportive environments to support their unique learning abilities.
How to find opportunities?
Follow your child's passions is often mentioned in gifted literature but what does that entail?  Here is our example.  Our son has been fascinated by Austin Mini cars for years.  (His first spoken word was one he developed for tires and we have photos of him assembling his bicycle on his first birthday)  About age twelve he became entirely focused on searching for his car.  (In school it had been the topic of all his English essays)  Obviously he had a passion.  We supplied him with Mini pictures, calendars, collector cars etc. but these although appreciated, did not assuage his desire.  He counted his pennies, collected pop bottles, saved his allowance and began to search the "beater" section of the automotive pages.  He phoned, searched the net and spent all his free time looking.  Finally we let him insert an ad in the cheapest of the local papers.  Within three weeks he had located a university student who had bought a 1967 "project" car, restored the engine, but could not weld (minis are welded together I learned ) and would consider selling the car to a serious collector, at a price our son could afford.  Fortunately he chose our son to carry on the torch.  Our son checked the net, assured us that if he lost interest he could sell the car and still make a bit of money on his investment.  The car, all the spare parts the student had collected and the car's research file including "birth certificate" arrived to grace our garage.  At twelve our son owned a car.  (It was not our idea of a gifted child's development but he was insistent)
Giving them space to realize their own goals.
After ownership, then what?  Our family is best described as mechanically challenged and our son attends an academic prep school with no shop courses.. He searched and found a car restoration course at the local college.  The age barrier of 16 was waived if his father accompanied him to the night school course.  He learned to weld and use a plasma cutter alongside a mainly retired population of auto buffs who have been thrilled and supportive of his interests.  His reading and math have benefited from the real world experiences involved in his project.  He has learned to keep accounts, read technical journals and manuals and has had to do the geometry to square his car body.  A previously retiring child has developed confidence in his ability to solve problems and search for assistance.  (His friends are awed by his car ownership which has given him some popularity and self respect, he can converse easily now with any generation.)
Follow their instincts
His interest has led outward from his project.  Last summer, on a family trip to Europe, he arranged a side trip to meet with John Cooper, the race car driver and designer of Mini Coopers.  Mr. Cooper took our son through his garage, told him of his racing career, his impressions of Pierre Trudeau, signed autographs  and posed for pictures with his young fan.  It was the highlight of our son's trip. 
Let them choose a path and trust their judgement
The car is still in our garage in pieces, but it is destined for repainting and perhaps road trials this summer.  Our son is not yet fifteen.  Now that his car is well underway he is turning to an interest in video production.  (Ever seen the movie the Italian job?)  The learning process is continuing, for all of us!

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