How is exceptionality in children determined? What programs are available for children who are gifted? Most parents and some teachers of exceptional children ask these questions. Often, the answers they receive are less than helpful. This article will aid in answering these questions.
Parents are often told that their son or daughter has a talent or gift that outshines their peers. However, determining whether the talent or gift is exceptional can be tricky.
There are three major methods used for determining whether a child has an exceptional talent/gift.
Parental interview - Parents know their children better than anyone does. Usually, they are aware of any extraordinary talents or gifts their son or daughter might be exhibiting. Interviewing the parent is the first step in assessing exceptionality in gifted students.
IQ testing - Testing a child's intelligence through an IQ test can help to identify exceptionality, but it should not be the only tool used. IQ tests do not always show that a child is gifted, especially if the child is young. Other factors should be taken into consideration.
Portfolios - This would be a collection of the student's work from both school and home that demonstrates the talent/gift. This could be in the form of written work, videos or recordings.
What Are the Best Resources?
Like a plant that dies when neglected, gifts and talents will not grow if not nurtured. This is the reason it is imperative to recognize a student's gifts/talents. Enrichment, both in and out of the classroom, will enable the student to grow to their highest potential. In academic terms, enrichment is the extra opportunities given a student with gifts/talents while the student remains at the same level academically as their peers.
Enrichment takes many forms. Some strategies include:
Enrichment programs - these would be programs within the school system, which provide opportunities for growth to students identified through the IEP process as gifted or exceptional.
Special schools - since providing enrichment programs is not yet mandated by the federal government, many parents opt to find schools that focus on students with gifts/talents. An example of such a school is the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School in Hadley, Massachusetts. This school offers students in grades 7-12 the opportunity to develop their gifts and talents, as well as their critical thinking in an environment that encourages exploration and creativity.
- Teachers who focus on specific advanced subject matter, i.e., advanced art, advanced science, etc.
- Community mentors - people from the community that can offer opportunities for students to learn, often with hands-on experience in the areas that the student excels.
- Resource Rooms - some schools have established specific rooms that provide students with gifts and talents extra resources for study. Often, students attend a class within the resource room with other gifted/talented students.
- Independent Study - in schools that do not have the resources for special classes, enrichment programs or resource rooms, an independent study is an excellent option. This is an assignment that can be given to the student at the beginning of the semester, from which they can receive extra credit, as well as the ability to explore, create and increase their knowledge within their area of expertise.