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Child Hides Giftedness

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Rita Culross, Ph.D.

Q: My kindergartner is very sharp and intelligent, but he takes a long time (sometimes never) to let teachers or friends realize his real capabilities. As a result, I feel that he doesn't get the complete benefit of having a gifted mind. How can I help him show his world that he is gifted and that he should be challenged more?

A: Gifted kids are often uncomfortable acknowledging their abilities. Many students dislike the term "gifted" because of its connotations. "Geek," "nerd," and "brain" are just some of the terms applied to gifted students by other children or by characterizations in movies, on TV, or in literature. Gifted kids are also sometimes hurt by others who taunt them with statements about how they never have to study or how easy school must be for them. Given the perception of giftedness by others, it is no wonder students try to hide their abilities.

Take the time to discuss your son's strengths and weaknesses with him. Use yourself as a model by talking with him about some of your best abilities as well as some areas that you find difficult. Talk as well about the many types of talents in the world, and help him to recognize others who may be very similar to him or very different from him but also talented.

Once you have identified his strengths and interests, the two of you may want to choose an activity or two that builds on his abilities. If he's an advanced reader, there may be a children's reading group at the local library. If he shows talents in math or science, check into whether a local museum or science center offers classes for young gifted children. If he's a budding actor, community theater productions of musicals such as "The King and I," "Oliver!," or "The Sound of Music" may include children's parts. Focus on activities that he thinks are fun and that can also provide enrichment beyond his classroom experience.

Working with his school librarian or the children's librarian at a local public library, you can identify biographies of gifted persons to read with your son. Knowing that there are others like you can be reassuring and motivating.

A new book you might enjoy reading is Smart Boys: Talent, Masculinity, and the Search for Meaning by Barbara Kerr and Sanford Cohn. The book focuses on the specific challenges of gifted males and how we can nurture their development into bright, productive adults.

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Rita Culross is Associate Dean, College of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. Culross has served as the consulting school psychologist for a public school elementary gifted program, and has written a book and several journal articles on gifted education.

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