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Gifted Middle-Schooler Falling Between the Cracks

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Felice Kaufmann, Ph.D.

Q: My 11-year-old gifted son was accepted into a state college early enrollment program this summer, but we chose not to enroll him due to time and distance constraints. He attended a gifted summer program through the local school district but was bored by it. The local community college has a program for high-school gifted kids, but not younger students. My son is definitely falling between the cracks. Any suggestions?

A: It seems as if you have several options available to you. The first thing I'd like to suggest is that you contact the people who run the high school program at the local community college to see if there are any faculty members or advanced students who would be willing to serve as a mentor to your son in an area of his interests. He might do supervised projects or perhaps serve as a junior assistant in a lab. I know of several faculty members who really enjoy this sort of arrangement because they don't have a lot of opportunities to be around young, bright children, and the experience serves as a good counterpoint to their regular teaching and research responsibilities.

Another possibility would be for your son to audit classes at the community college. Presumably someone at the counseling center at the college would be knowledgeable about this, especially because they already have services for gifted high-school students.

You might also contact a senior adult center to see if there are some retirees who would be interested in serving as a mentor -- especially a professional person who pursued a career in your son's area of interest. Many senior centers already have this type of program in place.

Another alternative is to use the Internet to locate a mentor who might challenge your son. If you can identify an interest that he would like to pursue, you could use the website of a professional association in that area to see if they have an outreach program, or you could type a few key words into a search engine and find individuals who are conducting research on the topic. This sort of arrangement is not as personal as face-to-face contact, but written correspondence between a child and an older professional can have benefits for both individuals. Good luck!

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Felice Kaufmann is an independent consultant in gifted child education. Kaufman has been a classroom teacher and counselor of gifted children, grades K-12, and a professor at Auburn University and the Universities of New Orleans and Kentucky, where she created teacher training programs in gifted child education. She has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children and the Executive Board of the Association of the Gifted.

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