Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Asynchronous Development

By Stephanie Newitt, B.S. Early Childhood/Elementary Ed.

On April 10th, Gilbert Supporters of the Gifted hosted a guest lecture that focused on the asynchronous development of the gifted child.  How does child development play a part in gifted education?  That is what this lecture explored.

To begin with, let us review two components of the Gilbert Public Schools Gifted Mission Statement which was developed in 2012 by educators, administrators and parents in the Gilbert community.  The GPS Gifted Mission Statement, in part, states that GPS seeks to …
·         Address the specific needs of gifted, highly gifted, profoundly gifted and twice-exceptional students …
·         Address the social, emotional, cognitive, academic, physical, and kinesthetic needs of each gifted or twice-exceptional student.

First, what does it mean to be gifted, highly gifted, profoundly gifted, or twice exceptional?  
Doesn’t gifted just mean really smart?  To better understand this, we need to step back and obtain perspective.  Let’s look at the common bell curve, the height of the bell curve representing students with typical intelligence. 

Those on the extreme far left fall far below the norm and qualify for special education services.  

We can see that those on the extreme far right are the same distance from the norm and qualify for gifted education services. 

Within Special Education there is a spectrum:  mild, moderate, and severe/profound.  Those unique individuals who qualify for special education services due to the unique “hard-wiring” of their brain have very specific intellectual and developmental needs.  They therefore, require services to grow and meet their potential.  Not all students in special education receive the exact same types of services.  Services are based on student needs. 

Now let’s look at the gifted spectrum.  That’s right, giftedness also has a spectrum:  gifted, highly gifted, and profoundly gifted.  These unique individuals also have a unique “hard-wiring” of their brain which affects their intellectual and developmental needs.  They too genuinely need appropriate services in order to grow and meet their potential.  Not all students in the gifted spectrum should receive the exact same types of services, as services should again be based on student needs.

A student who is Twice Exceptional (2e) qualifies for BOTH the special education and gifted education services.  This could be a child who has dyslexia but functions above grade level in math.  This could be a student who reads three levels above grade level but who also operates within the autism spectrum.

We have defined the gifted spectrum.  Now, let’s move on to the second point we wish to cover - addressing the needs of the whole gifted child.  Why is this necessary, I mean, aren’t all gifted students well adjusted in school?  To answer this question, let’s look again at our typical student.  A typical 12 year-old student at the height of the bell curve most likely functions at grade level in almost all areas and has hit almost all developmental milestones within appropriate times, give or take some individuality.   Their overall development is in synch with the age of their body, or their chronological age. 

A gifted child, due to their unique hard-wiring, experiences development that is “out of synch,” or asynchronous, to their chronological age.  Their hard-wiring affects the depth and breadth of their emotions, which can be hard to self-regulate; their intellectual processing speed, and their ability to notice and internalize social cues.  Let’s look at both of these students on a bar graph.  They have the same chronological age, but their developmental areas fall in very different places.

Asynchronous development is the defining characteristic of gifted children. 

Dr. Linda Kreger Silerman has stated, "...gifted children develop in an uneven manner, ... they are more complex and intense than their agemates, ... they feel out-of-sync with age peers and 'age appropriate curriculum,' ... the internal and external discrepancies increase with IQ, and ... these differences make them extremely vulnerable.”

As giftedness increases on the spectrum, the child’s development becomes more and more “out-of-sync” with age peers.

Let’s try another visual.  Let’s imagine circles within circles.  Like tree rings, each circle indicates an age.  For a typical student, like a tree, the most outer ring is the student’s chronological age and the age of their overall developmental levels, again, give or take some individuality.  The circle is divided up into pie shaped slices, each slice indicating an area of development.  For the typical student, the circle is filled in nicely. 

Let us look at how such a pie chart may appear for a gifted student.

The gifted student’s pie chart is very different from that of a typical student and their unique needs and deficits require services in order for growth to occur.  Because of their asynchronous development, gifted students can experiences difficulties in school – academic as well as social.  

Gifted education is recognizing where a student is in their areas of development, across all slices of the pie, and providing support for their strengths as well as their weaknesses.  Gifted Education is also understanding the emotional intensities and perfectionistic tendencies that impact the learning and growth of gifted students. 

As parents and educators we need to recognize, understand and provide support for our gifted students in their asynchronous development.  As much as we would like to always be able to treat our 12 year old child like the 17 year old mathematician that she is, we need to remember that ability does not equal maturity.  Providing her with complex math is fair and appropriate; it is also fair and appropriate to treat our mathematician like a 12 year old when we give out responsibilities, express expectations and introduce her to new social situations.

As Gilbert Public Schools looks forward to fulfilling its Gifted Education Vision:

Gilbert Public Schools is a premier provider of services to Pre-K through Grade 12 students identified as gifted or twice-exceptional, using research-based instruction to address the needs of the whole child.

GPS understands that more teacher-training needs to be provided.  To this end, GPS is increasing its professional development offerings in gifted education for its educators.  Gilbert Supporters of the Gifted will also continue to provide opportunities for parents to better understand the giftedness of their children.  Together, as parents and educators, we can provide appropriate support for the gifted students and their families within our community.

In conclusion, we need to remember –
       ASYNCHRONOUS development is TYPICAL  development for a gifted child.
       A gifted child’s intellectual age is often well-above their chronological age, but their judgment is often more closely aligned to their chronological age.
       Intelligence and knowledge ≠ emotional maturity, understanding or wisdom.
       Adults who are unaware of a child’s asynchrony can easily fall into the trap of expecting the child to act her older mental age rather than their younger chronological age.
       The more gifted a child, the more likely he is to have a wide spread of abilities.
       To be aware of our gifted child’s asynchrony. 
       More information on asynchronous development can be found in the book A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children by James Webb, et. al.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Guest Lecture on April 10, 2014 - "Raising Gifted Children, A Pediatrician's Perspective"

Dr. Katherine Krieg, M.D.,

“Raising Gifted Children, 
A Pediatrician’s Perspective”
How does being gifted affect your child’s development?  A pediatrician and mother of gifted children shares her unique observations and gives a medical perspective.

April 10th
Greenfield Elementary Library
2550 E Elliot Rd., Gilbert, AZ

All attending are invited to come  early at 6:45 to connect with other parents

Lecture starts promptly at 7:00 pm.

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Click HERE to read our follow-up post about this lecture night.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tips for Parents: Friendships of Gifted Elementary School Children

Sometimes gifted and talented children struggle with making and keeping good friends and getting along with their peers. This GREAT ARTICLE from Davidson Institute for Talent Development is full of tips that can help your child create some connections.  

Click HERE to read article

Monday, March 24, 2014

Focus on the Good Stuff

By Stephanie Newitt

This year I went to the Parent Day of the Arizona Association of Gifted & Talented’s (AAGT) educator conference, held in Phoenix.  The concluding keynote speaker was Dr. Dan Peters.  Dr. Peters is a licensed psychologist , co-founder and Executive Director of the Summit Center in Walnut Creek, California.  His topic:  Parenting Your Gifted Child for a Successful Life:  Focus on the Good Stuff.

Dr. Peters first asked us to define our goal as parents.  What is important?  Good grades?  Advanced performance?  The courage to take risks?  Perseverance?  Independence?  The ability to cope with adversity?  Our goal, as parents, will determine how we interact with our children, moment by moment in each day.  What if our parenting goal was that our children would become independent and successful in life?  Would we focus on outcomes or effort?

Dr. Peters suggests that a good parenting goal would be to grow healthy kids who are motivated and engaged in learning and life.  Paths to success will take a different shape for each individual.  How often is this path a straight line from beginning to end?  How often is the path to success full of curves, turns and even “U” turns?  It would behoove us as parents to keep our focus on the forest, not the trees. 

This requires a nurturing parent approach.  Dr. Peters suggests to parents that this includes:
·         Trusting their child’s judgment, based on the child’s developmental age and maturity
·         Respecting their child’s thoughts and feelings
·         Supporting their child’s interests and goals
·         Keeping their children safe and providing boundaries
·         Modeling self-control, sensitivity and values that parents believe to be important
·         Modeling and teaching self-regulation
(More information is in Dr. Peters’ book Raising Creative Kids)

An example of this is to discuss the pros and cons and how each situation would play out.  I thought of a time when I had the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons with my youngest child.  I wish I had done more of this with his older siblings, but I am glad I am not too old to learn.  Our youngest is ten years old.  He qualified for the 2013-2014 GPS gifted self-contained class and we attended the spring open house last May.  However, he was not among the first group pulled from the lottery.  I asked him if a spot opened up before school started, would he want to go.  He told me, “Yes, if it’s before the first day of school.  If it is after the first day of school, no.”  The first day of school came and went without a phone call.  We were disappointed, but not heart-broken nor bitter, as we know that it is our own attitude that helps us make the most of any given situation. 

The third week of school we received the phone call.  A space had opened up in the gifted self-contained class.  Would we be interested?  We were invited to take the time we needed to make this decision.

I sat down with my son and told him the news.  He felt a big weight on his shoulders and felt almost frozen and debilitated.  When I told him we would make the decision together, the posture in his shoulders literally changed and he stood a little straighter.  I arranged for us to visit the self-contained class at the end of the school day so that he could see the class and also where he would line up for the bus and meet the children on his bus route.  Back at home after the tour, I took out a piece of paper and together we brain-stormed the pros and cons of each school setting.   For the self-contained class, we used information from our visit to the classroom and what we had learned at the spring open house.  He asked his older siblings for advice on how they made decisions and how they transitioned to new schools.  We added his siblings’ comments to our lists on the grid.

Once the grid of pros and cons was complete, we transferred everything about the new school and gifted self-contained class to a bubble map.  We had addressed the logical side of things, and now I wanted to address the emotional side of the decision.  I told my son that we can live a balanced life when we make decisions equally with both our heads and our hearts.  On each bubble of the bubble map, I asked my son to attach the emotion that he felt when he read the statement in the bubble.  When he was done, I took a hi-lighter and, as I read the emotional label he had given, I asked him if it was positive, negative or neutral.   Though he ended with 16 positives, four negatives and one neutral, I could tell that my son felt the weight of the four sad emotions very heavily.  He told me he didn’t want to talk about it anymore.  He was emotionally tired. 

I waited a few hours and then encouraged him to come back to the kitchen table.  He was now ready to continue our discussion.  I asked him if the four statements that he had labeled “sad” or “very sad” were permanent situations.  He said three of them weren’t and I asked him why not, how could they change over time?  He shared with me how he thought those situations – and feelings – could be changed as he got to know his new school and new classmates.  We were smiling through this discussion and we re-labeled these three with the pink hi-lighter. 

The fourth and last “very sad” reason was that he would miss his old friends.   It was a very tender moment for both of us as we honestly talked about the sadness felt of leaving his old friends.   Together we decided that an option would be that he would write a letter on the computer to each of his friends, telling why he would miss them and expressing the hope that they could still get together.  He would include our home phone number and address and my email address so the friends could contact us.  He felt these letters would help him stay connected.  Once he had this feeling of hope he quickly went to the computer to compose his letters.  He printed them and put them in envelopes, ready for the next day of school.

My son wanted to go to his old school one last time so he could give his friends their letters.  He asked his friends not to open the letters until they got home.  This allowed them to have normal play at lunch time.  I had told my son that I would pull him out of school early and we would go out to ice cream.  I wanted him to have something positive to look forward to at the end of his school day.  We went out to ice cream and laughed and talked.  It was a good way to have closure to the decision making process.

The next day I took him to the regional bus stop, a neighborhood park, and he was excited to play with his new friends of the gifted self-contained class.  He has adjusted well to his new class, and three months into his new experience I asked him if he regretted his choice and wanted to move back to his old school.  With a smile on his face he responded with a firm and resolute, “No!”

Since his transfer to his new school, he has been able to see occasionally friends from his old school.  He knows he is still connected, that they are only a phone call away.

We are a prayerful family and during this whole process I invited my son to pray about his decision and I did also.  We sought for feelings of peace.  Together we felt peaceful that transferring to the gifted self-contained class would better meet his needs and, through our discussions and idea sharing, we learned to navigate this journey.  We acknowledged both our head and our heart, and treated our thoughts and feelings honestly.  We strove for balance and peace.

Whatever journey you and your child have ahead of you, this choice, of focusing on the forest, the big picture, helped guide us on our journey.  I want my son to feel engaged in learning and in life, and to learn to be self-motivated, to work hard and be resilient.  Having these open and honest conversations, giving him a safe place to express both his fears and hopes, will set the pattern helping him to know  how to have a life of balance and peace.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gifted Education conference in Phoenix Thursday & Friday, Feb. 6th & 7th

The Arizona Association for Gifted & Talented (AAGT) is having their 40th annual educators' conference this Thursday & Friday, Feb 6th and 7th, at the Black Canyon Conference Center in Phoenix.

On Friday there are special presentations for parents, as well as special parent pricing of $100.

To register, or to see the topics for presentation, click here - AAGT Conference 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Barnes & Noble Bookfair on 1/22/14

Bookfair fundraiser at Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, January 22nd for the GPS self-contained gifted 4th & 5th grade grade classes.

Please save the date for Wednesday, January 22nd for a book fair and game night!  The Self-Contained Gifted Class of Gilbert Public Schools will be hosted at Barnes & Noble at Dana Park from 3:45-6:45!  Dana Park is located at the NW corner of Val Vista & Baseline.

Students are welcome to come and play games and check out some of the newest publications that Barnes and Noble has just released!

A percentage of all purchases that afternoon and evening will go directly towards the 4th & 5th Grade Self-Contained classrooms at Towne Meadows.

If you cannot attend, please consider visiting online from Jan 22nd to Jan 29th at BN.COM/Bookfairs and enter bookfair ID 11278561.  Books make great gifts for future birthdays and holidays as well as educational milestone rewards.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January 23rd Guest Lecture

“Strategies to help your gifted child deal with perfectionism, fear of failure and taking risks.”

Does your child spend hours trying to complete an assignment “perfectly”? Can they envision what they want to accomplish, but feel it is too hard and so they give up? Are they open to new ideas or do they sometimes appear frozen, unable to move forward? Are they hesitant or fearful of trying new activities? Come to this presentation to hear strategies to help your child cope with perfectionism. Come meet other parents who understand your concerns.
Greenfield Elementary
2550 E Elliot Rd.

**All attending are invited to come early
at 6:45pm to network with other parents.

**Will this be your first meeting? Then come at 6:30pm for a mini-Gifted 101 breakout.  This will prepare you for the guest lecture later in the evening.

Mark your calendars:
  • The Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented is hosting a Parent Day as part of their annual Educators' Conference.  The conference is February 6th and 7th.  Parent Day is Friday, February 7th and Parents can register for a reduced rate of $100.  For registration and more information, please visit:  The blue Registration button will take you to information about Parent Day. 
  • Gilbert Public Schools has formed a Gifted Education Parent Council.  If, as a parent of an elementary gifted child, you are interested in serving on this council, please contact your elementary school principal.  The council meets once a month on a Thursday, 12:30-2:00pm, at the district office.
  • Our last Guest Lecture in our 2013-2014 series will be on Thursday, April 10th.  "Raising Gifted Children, A Pediatrician's Perspective" by Dr. Katherine Krieg, M.D.