Teaching Children with Special Needs: Gifted Students

I've been writing articles about special education for many years. I just realized I've totally neglected the area of gifted and talented. Some believe it doesn't belong in the same planning process as disabled student education. This may be technically true when you're looking at federal funding, but not if you're trying to be truly inclusive in your planning process in the district.

You know who these students are. Many students in your school achieve on a high level; they're very bright kids. A truly gifted child, however, presents with a cluster of characteristics. They are often advanced in these areas:

  • Creative Thinking
  • General Intellectual Ability
  • Special Academic Ability (STEM)
  • Leadership
  • Psychomotor
  • Visual/Performing Arts

Sometimes, you'll find a truly exceptional child that excels in more than one area. It is very important that we have a formal process in place to identify and nurture these children. Often, in our zeal to provide services for students with disabilities, we leave gifted students to fend for themselves. We are in danger of losing them to boredom.

You can spot gifted kids by their behaviors in these areas. They are:

  • Perfectionist and idealistic
  • Sensitive to their own expectations
  • Miles ahead of their peers in knowledge and skill
  • Problem solvers
  • Abstract thinkers that tackle complex problems as a challenge
  • Sometimes upset with any grade less than an A

When we spot students who are overly hard on themselves, it's time to bring parents in for a chat. They may not be aware or may only suspect that their child is gifted. They need to know so they can participate fully in the planning process for their child's education.
There are other characteristics of gifted students as creative and independent thinkers. They are:

  • Original thinkers in oral and written expression
  • Able to provide several solutions to a given problem
  • Able to find humor in unorthodox situations
  • Creative and inventive
  • Challenged by creative tasks
  • Improvisers
  • Comfortable with being different from their peers

We need to protect this last characteristic as students approach middle school. Sometimes the need to belong is so strong that gifted students will "act stupid." I believe this has been especially true for girls, but I'm pleased to observe this is changing as girls become surer of themselves in general and in popular media. Many girls are now depicted in leadership roles. When I was in school, I knew many super bright girls who were afraid to show their talents. There a site MyGiftedGirl.com with resources and conversation for parents of gifted girls. 

Some resources for your review:
National Association for Gifted Children
National Society for the Gifted and Talented
48 Essential Links for Parents
Summer Institute for the Gifted (online courses and resources for teachers, parents and students)
Great Kids

Special education is constantly evolving; let me know how the systems work in your school.

Grant Name: Serves Grants

Funded By: United States Tennis Association (USTA)

Description: Awarded to nonprofit organizations that support efforts in tennis and education to help disadvantaged, at-risk youth and people with disabilities. To qualify for a USTA Serves Grant, your organization must: Provide tennis programs for underserved youth, ages 5-18, with an educational* component OR Provide tennis programs for people with disabilities (all ages) with a life skills component for Adaptive Tennis programs.

Program Areas: Disabilities, Health/PE

Eligibility: Public School, Private School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  10/1/2015

Address: 70 West Red Oak Lane White Plains, NY 10604

Telephone: 914-696-7175

Email: foundation@usta.com

Website: United States Tennis Association

Availability: All States