It’s difficult to define exactly what ‘gifted’ is. In the U.S., gifted children are seen as those who have the potential to perform exceptionally in five areas: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability or visual/performing arts. This definition is so general that it leaves the identification of gifted children and their education up to the various states they live in.
Some states have tests and criteria in place for the identification of gifted children and programs to help them succeed while others do not. Whether a gifted child is identified as such and put into an academic program that fosters their gifts is largely a geographical potluck. It is also an economic reality that most gifted programs have been eliminated or severely cut in the last couple of years. In part that is also because states are mandating more funding and support to students with disabilities or handicaps. Gifted children who are not identified rarely succeed and there is a large percentage that drop out of school altogether because school bores them. As such it is really a parents task to support and enrich their gifted/talented child’s learning.
While giftedness is not easy to identify: Although gifted students may have the aptitude to excel, they often have trouble communicating or taking tests. Although some tests do exist to measure giftedness, the information may not be presented in a way that the gifted child will be able to process. Gifted children are not just regular children with a high IQ; they need special nurturing to fulfill their potential.
Gifted students are not all geeks, nor are they all socially inept. Gifted students come with every physical and personality trait imaginable. There is no set of characteristics that define giftedness, which is why it is also so difficult to identify.
Gifted students will not succeed on their own. Just like any other student or perhaps more so, gifted students need guidance and nurturing. While some claim that in an age of austerity and budget cuts, it’s not possible to continue funding special programs for gifted students, these programs remain essential to the success of gifted students. Of course, for those who can afford special education services and individual tutoring there is less of a need for society support.
Our ability to guide and develop the talents of gifted students is one of our most valuable intellectual assets. Gifted children do require special programs, but their contribution to society makes their development worth every cent. Gifted students are not the vestige of the wealthy and many families are simply not able to provide the specialist education that their gifted students need without state funding. Sadly, when this happens we all lose!
Early detection of gifted students is possible. Most states only start testing for gifted students when those students have reached the third grade. However, the National Association for Gifted Children is able to start testing in the pre-kindergarten phase. The sooner giftedness is detected, the more support parents, and schools can provide and the greater the gifted student’s potential for success.
Gifted students provide an exceptional rate of return for the financial investment made in them by the state. Programs for gifted students need to be expanded and testing methods refined so that gifted students are given as great an opportunity for success as possible.