When Your Special Education Students Are Gifted: Tips For Teachers

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Distinguishing a Gifted Child from the Highly Capable Student

Some students tend to exhibit advanced learning abilities without being gifted: They are more eager to learn, are more involved, and are generally more interested in all academic activities. Gifted students can be nearly antithetical in their methods. They may not seem interested at times, they may problem-solve in an uncommon way, and may even seem distracted or unwilling to cooperate. Special education teachers need to assess gifted students by studying their tendencies and habits and adjusting teaching methods or curriculum from time to time.

Focusing Teaching on the Gifts

A special education teacher can and should use material that targets the specific gifts that a child may have. General class assignments will often be “child’s play” to the gifted student, so customize tests and achievement goals to their needs. If they are advanced at math, give them harder problems to solve and adjust the grading accordingly. This may require extra time and effort on the part of the special education teacher, and so it is important to avoid special education teacher burnout by doing as much of this in advance as possible, ideally before the start of the school term.

Inclusive Curriculum

Special education teachers should involve the gifted student in their own study goals. Finding out what the student’s special interests and aptitudes are helps with teaching special education students who are also gifted. Let them help to decide which topics need to be studied more, and also include them in the scoring curve. This will make them feel more comfortable in the classroom and will also encourage them to pursue what they are most qualified to learn.

Take Advantage of the Gift

Propose elements of higher learning when at all possible. Introduce concepts of critical thinking and advanced problem-solving methods to exercise this gift. This type of student will eventually need to learn how to focus their gift in a practical and purposeful way, and getting a head start on this should be a part of special education teaching early on. Helping them to set realistic life goals that allow for positive use of their gifts must part of the approach for special education teachers.

Special education teaching for gifted students can be a rewarding undertaking for both the teacher and the student, as long as a focused and concentrated effort is made. Additionally, advance preparation of specified curriculum will help to belay special education teacher burnout.