Ever since my first daughter was born there was such a special way about her. She was different. I was delighted by her every move. I knew in my heart that she was gifted.
By the time she was two, my sister and other relatives and professionals would comment to me about how wonderful she was. When she toilet trained herself, learned her colors, numbers, ABC's, and words to more than 30 songs by the age of two, I simply beamed with joy over her accomplishments. She longed to do things and go places. She was a sponge for information and experiences.
She begged to go to school by the time she was three. She knew how to read independently and had the vocabulary of a six-year-old. Her kindergarten teacher was impressed with her, her first grade teacher did not want to admit that she was even above average, and her second grade teacher could not stand to have her in her class because she acted as if she was bored, or at best, knew more than the others.
She was tested with the usual New York State test that would clarify that she was way above grade level in Math and in Reading, as well as in Comprehension. She will be put in the school's third grade AT (academically talented) program in September. However, we have no official IQ test, and we do not believe that she is getting all she needs from the school system.
I feel as if somehow I have failed her. If a sponge is not given water, it will dry up. I want my sponge to expand. Right now she is reading on an 11th grade reading level and a 10th grade comprehension level. She has a library of books that she reads and rereads, including children's encyclopedias, and she visits the library often. She cannot get enough to read, and she reads what she gets with amazing speed and understanding. I don't know what to do for her or where to take her to find out if she is truly "gifted."
I know my wonderful daughter is bored with things and needs more, more more. It is very frustrating to not know where and how to give it to her. If you can give me some insight, I would appreciate it greatly.
Proud but Worried
Having a gifted child is a great joy, but it can demand as much emotional and creative energy from a parent as dealing with a child who has a learning disability. Here is some advice:
- Speak to the school principal and find out which programs within the school and outside of it exist in which your daughter can participate. He should also know which tests are available for your daughter to take and the procedure involved. You might also want to find, through word of mouth, if possible, a good educational psychologist whom you trust who can administer the test/s and advise you. Call your local Board of Education as a resource also and, if you live near a university, call the Department of Education at that University and ask if they have someone you can consult with.
- If you are in a position to afford it, check out the programs at local private schools. They may be better equipped to deal with children like her, though the tuition may be prohibitive.
- Supply her with an ample amount of reading and creative materials at home. Let her have free run of the local library. Sign her up for stimulating extracurricular activities to the extent that they are affordable.
- Most important of all: Validate her, validate her, validate her! Let her know that you are on her side and that you are her friend. It is tricky, however, when it comes to encouraging her to feel comfortable with who she is when you are dealing with a teacher who doesn't know the score. We all want to raise our children to be respectful but it is difficult when they occasionally have teachers who do not understand the way their minds work. I am not putting down all teachers; I'm a teacher myself. But I know the terrible frustration that a child can go through when he feels that he cannot communicate on the same wavelength with the people in positions of authority with whom he has to spend a major part of his day. That is why it is so important that you maintain a good relationship with her at home.
By the way, you say you feel as if you have failed your daughter. You haven't. You realize that you have a gifted child and you are looking for ways to help her to be fulfilled and happy. That is far from failure. She is lucky to have you as a mother. Every child is different and there is always trial and error involved in child-raising, more so when the child does not fit into a simple category. (Few do. Every home with children is a unique learning lab.)
Hold on to that thought. Your daughter, too, will one day light up the world.