By Tiombe-Bisa Kendrick, SSP, NCSP.
Often, parents are thrilled to learn they have a gifted child. In addition, teachers, school administrators, and the school counselor are also often excited to hear this great news. However, many times, gifted students are not present at the eligibility meetings and therefore are not prepared for the transition from a general education classroom to a gifted classroom. Many educators and parents of the gifted often plan for their future academic development but fail to plan how they will address social and emotional needs.
Being a gifted child can be a lonely experience for many gifted students, especially those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Without proper preparation to help these children understand the rigor of a gifted educational placement, the increase in expectations, and the possible impact such a placement might have on their social world, many of these students may soon regret agreeing to participate in gifted classes. Teachers and educators must consider how a gifted classification will impact students on a social and emotional level.
Educators should consider allowing students to attend eligibility meetings and to participate in their own educational planning. Many times, these students are unfamiliar with the actual purposes of gifted education or what being gifted actually means. These students should be able to ask questions about their new classes and be able to provide feedback during the meeting. Once a decision has been made to allow students to participate in gifted classes, parents should speak with their child about this new journey. Students must be able to relay their concerns and questions to their parents in a comfortable environment and will need the ongoing support of their parents. Guidance counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists are highly encouraged to run groups for students entering gifted programming. These group sessions are a place where students can share their concerns in relation to peers and social lives. Such groups will provide gifted students with a school-based support system while providing valuable information about the individual needs of each gifted student participating in the group. For example, guidance counselors may be able to identify students who may need additional support services or those that may need to be linked to outside mental health services.
Parents and educators will need to pay particular attention to students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Many times, these students may attend schools that have a low number of students in their gifted programs, which may affect the quality of services for gifted students. Others may attend schools with gifted programs that enroll few students of color, which often results in feelings of awkwardness. These students may choose to cease participation in gifted programming due to the issues described above. Many times, these students require a tremendous amount of support to help them transition and remain in gifted classes.
While the identification of a gifted child is a joyous time for parents and educators, it may not be so for the actual child. Parents and educators must consider the need to prepare these students properly for their transition to a gifted educational placement. Parents and school-based mental health providers should partner together to prepare these students. In addition, these students should participate in all future educational planning. This should be a wonderful time for students, as well, and everything should be done to ensure students entering gifted programs feel comfortable doing so.
SENG Director Tiombe Kendrick, SSP, NCSP, is a nationally certified school psychologist and is licensed to practice school psychology in the state of Florida. She has been employed with the Miami-Dade County Public School District as a school psychologist since 2005. Ms. Kendrick has a very strong passion for addressing the needs of gifted students from culturally and linguistically diverse populations and has been instrumental in significantly increasing the numbers of culturally diverse students participating in the Gifted Program at her schools. She has presented at numerous professional conventions on the topic of gifted children.