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What's Best for a Gifted Girl with JRA?
Q: How do I find out if my 12-year-old daughter is gifted? She has had JRA (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis) since she was 6. She was identified as bright when she was enrolled in elementary school, but I have never had her privately tested. I am considering homeschooling, but she really has good interpersonal skills that need to be maintained. She needs to be around peers that enjoy learning, not teasing.
She has been invited to an exam school for next year and must take an OSLAT(?) test. But I cringe at the size, schedule, and educational focus of the school, which is math and science, when her strength is really language arts. She has always enjoyed learning, catches on quickly, has a passion for reading and problem-solving, and compassion for people and issues in society. Yet, she's beginning to have real problems with focusing on her study skills and being with insensitive classmates and teachers who either label her an over-achiever, etc. Her poor attendance -- due to her JRA -- also presents a challenge to the system.
I would like to continue to advocate for her to obtain opportunities to grow and get a quality education with no bars on her potential, but sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a society that will not accept physically challenged kids with other God-given talents (namely, a sound mind).
A: Your daughter is in the gifted group identified as having "Multiple Exceptionalities." Does she have a special-education plan in place? If gifted education is mandated in your state, then her gifted programming could be included as part of her Individual Education Plan (IEP). She would qualify for this under the Americans With Disabilities Act -- most likely under the section of Other Health Impairment (OHI). This would allow her poor attendance to be taken into consideration when planning her work load. If gifted education is not mandated in your state -- they identify her giftedness but do not have to provide services -- then you have to be her advocate.
I believe that the test you are referring to is an Otis-Lennon Achievement Test. Perhaps that is the testing criteria for entrance into the advanced school. What were her percentile levels in math and science that qualified her for entry into this program? If they are very high, then maybe she is indeed academically ready for this program. Go and visit this new school and meet with the school administration to see if they can accommodate your daughter's needs. Legally they must be able to make some adaptations, if she has a qualifying medical diagnosis. (For example, if she could not attend at times, could she do work online to keep up?)
My professional preference would be for her to continue with school enrollment as much as possible. Your statements that she needs to maintain her interpersonal skills, study habits, etc., are correct. In an environment of advanced peers and teachers, she may be more likely to do this. If she is an advanced student, then she needs advanced education.
If you want to have your daughter individually IQ tested, that is a possibility. Ask your school district for local referrals to psychologists in private practice. Speak with the psychologist you choose in advance to make sure she has experience with giftedness and to advise her of any physical problems that might interfere -- individual IQ tests do require manual dexterity.
By the way, I do not think it's possible for anyone to be an "overachiever." Either you are able to do something or you aren't. With a supportive mom like you, your daughter will likely be able to do whatever she chooses. Good luck.
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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.