Sidney M. Moon, co-director of the Gifted Education Resource Institute at Purdue University and an assistant professor of educational psychology, notes that exceptionally talented children have no more problems than other children. But some problems are unique to talented children, and Moon has some advice for their parents.
She says parents should be alert for signs of problems that might indicate a need for family counseling. Such problems include a student who doesn't want to go to school, conflict in the family, an above-normal number of peer problems, or a big change in achievement at school. For example, she says, talented girls often go "underground" in middle school because they are embarrassed about their talents.
"Parents should educate themselves about giftedness," she says. "And they should practice responsive parenting -- listen to the child, identify the child's interests and then provide resources to match those interests." For example, if a 3-year-old shows a talent for coloring, a parent might set up an "art studio" in the corner of a room, equipped with paper, finger paints, chalk and crayons.
But parents also should recognize that one characteristic of talented children is that they quickly jump from interest to interest. "One week it's dinosaurs, and they can't get their fill of information about dinosaurs at the museum or the library," Moon says. "And then a week later, they're only interested in space travel, and the next week it's Rembrandt. This illustrates an area of gifted education that parents can take a hand in -- helping the children develop discipline.
"Also, when children develop this almost insatiable appetite for information about a particular subject, it can put a real strain on families that are short on resources."
She notes that another strain can occur when the school is unresponsive to the child's special talents. Parents can handle that problem in three different ways, she says:
For parents who want to learn more, Moon offers this list of books (all are available in the Shared Information Services Library, a large collection of gifted education materials maintained at Purdue by the Gifted Education Resource Institute in Purdue's School of Education and the Indiana Department of Education, phone 317-494-1887):
Source: Sidney Moon, (317) 494-7301; Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Frank J. Koontz, (317) 494-2080; Internet, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
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