Sunday, December 9, 2012
THE POWER OF PARENT ADVOCACY
Research on parenting gifted children is the same (Jolly & Matthews, 2012; Webb, Gore, Amend & DeVries, 2007). What we know is that parents and families can identify traits of giftedness early and can clearly describe when a their gifted child first spoke in full sentences, the kind of quirky humor they express, how they surprised them by reading on their own for the first time, and ALL of the other indications that their child is uniquely different.
The parent is the one who experienced a child crying when a tree was cut down in the woods, a parent was the one who first saw their child’s reaction to homelessness, and a parent is the one who helped their gifted child deal with the inconsistent messages heard in the adult world. Extended family members are also important to gifted children (Davis, 2010). Grandparents, aunts, older siblings, all share a role in listening to and nurturing gifted children. In some communities, the extended family is a very important part of their tradition and cultural legacy.
You understand..parents and other family members see, interact with, and experience the exceptional nature of gifted children early and on an intimate level every day. Parents then send their children to school only to have some schools disregard any notion that their child is highly intelligent, or has any potential beyond that of the ‘norm’. Some families become frustrated with schools, some withdraw their children to home school (thus, the increasing number of Black parents who are homeschooling nationwide), and others may send their children to private schools. Many families, however, don’t have these choices OR believe firmly that the public system has a duty to provide the best for ALL children.
For families of color, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Biracial- these disappointments and frustrations are accentuated because many schools are less likely to recognize and identify the gifts and talents their children demonstrate because of long-held biases and expectations that these children are not as intelligent as others (Castellano & Frazier, 2007; Davis, 2010; Ford, 2011).
I have had the good fortune of meeting many parents across the country throughout my career. Most recently, through workshops and a national study, (resulting in interviews and narratives from parents) many families have shared their stories of having to literally and figuratively ‘fight’ for their child to access gifted identification and advanced learner classrooms (Davis, Fears & Bianco, in progress).
Here are a few excerpts from their stories:
v There’s the Latino family from the far Southwest with five, that’s right, five identified gifted children. The mother of this family has spent a great deal of her time advocating for her children (and for others) to ensure that they would be identified. School personnel, she reports, didn’t believe in her children as she did. In one case, a son was misdiagnosed as having a behavior problem. Later, when placed in a new school (that mom advocated for) with trained teachers who understood giftedness- this same child is now flourishing!
v A rural area African American mother of three girls in a mid-Atlantic state had challenges in both the former and a new district getting her oldest daughter (who by all accounts was quite exceptional) identified as gifted. After moving to a new district, the mother provided evidence of exceptional school performance and test scores from the previous district (where the girl was eventually identified as gifted)- and the new school district personnel were still slow to respond. This mother was a strong advocate and continuously asked questions to ensure that decisions about her daughter’s placement would be made swiftly and fairly. She simply wanted to make her daughter’s transition to a new school, classmates, and new environment as smooth as possible. Any parent wants that for their child.
v Out west, there is a Native American mother whose twice exceptional son attended a regular school where educators focused more on his weaknesses and refused to recognize the gifts that her son demonstrated. As with other 2E (twice exceptional) students, this young man, was challenged in a school setting where teachers felt bound by law to serve him for his disability, but felt no such obligation to nurture his strengths. The teachers’ lack of understanding of the Native American culture also posed a challenge in identification of her sons’ gifts. The ‘cultural mismatch’ between students and teachers has been recognized in research literature as a systemic form of discrimination that leads to low performance (Davis, 2010).
In all of these cases, it was the POWERFUL ADVOCACY of parents that made the difference for these gifted students from culturally diverse families. Parents, you know your children best! Be make sure that educators understand your child’s intellectual abilities, social-emotional, and academic needs. Take advantage of expert resources (some are noted below) to support your belief in your child’s unique and exceptional abilities!!
Improved family advocacy nationwide can make a strong impact on addressing under-representation of students of color in gifted education programs.
Castellano, J.A. & Frazier, A.D. (2010). Special Populations in Gifted Education: Understanding our Most Able Students from Diverse Backgrounds. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press
Davis, J.L., Fears, N.S., & Bianco, M.M. (in progress). Multicultural Families Raising Gifted Children: A National Perspective.
Davis, J.L. (2010). Bright, Talented & Black: A guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press
Epstein, J.L. (2001). School, Family & Community Partnerships: Preparing Educators and Improving Schools. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Ford, D.Y. (2011). Multicultural Gifted Education, 2nd Ed. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press
Jolly, J.L. & Matthews, M.S. (2012). A critique of the literature on parenting gifted learners. Journal for Education of the Gifted, 35(3), 258-290.
Webb, J.T., Gore, J.L., Amend, E.R., & DeVries, A.R. (2007). A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.
For more Gifted PARENT/FAMILY ADVOCACY resources, go to:
www.hoagiesgifted.org/ – Resources, links, articles, programming for gifted learners. Largest online link re: gifted education, in general
http://nagc.org/php.aspx Parenting for High Potential , A Publication of the National Association for Gifted Children.
http://www.sengifted.org/ Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted- National organization providing membership, scholarship, parent training, articles, resources, expert advice.
Upcoming SENGinars: http://www.sengifted.org/programs/senginars
Check the listing for the SENGinar on Feb, 2013- Title: ‘Addressing the Unique Challenges of Culturally Diverse learners: Issues & Solutions’. Go to the website for more information.
http://scottbarrykaufmann.com : Articles, studies of interest re: intelligence, assessment, and gifted education, in general.
Also, check your state organization's website, and other parent support groups.