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Son Is Gifted, but Daughter Isn't
Q: My ten-year-old gifted son (about to enter fifth grade) is currently enrolled in a GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) program. My nine-year-old daughter didn't qualify for GATE last year, though she was close. She's worried about testing again this upcoming year. She's very smart, but I feel that it doesn't come as naturally to her as it does to my son. How do I counsel her if she again fails to qualify for GATE?
A: The problem of having one sibling identified as gifted and the other not qualifying for the program can be very difficult, but this does not have to be as painful as it might seem. First, you should do all you can to help your daughter relax about taking the test. While she may be disappointed if she does not meet the criteria for the GATE program, nothing about her or her capabilities will have changed. Whether or not she gets into the program, she is still the same girl that you have always known and loved.
If it turns out that your family must face this dilemma, however, honesty will be the best policy. You might tell your daughter that the simple process of deciding who is going to be admitted to a gifted program is not at all simple -- that a committee has to make a decision, and that the process is not always perfect. She needs to be reassured that people on these committees do the best they can and sometimes really excellent students cannot be accommodated. You could let her know that this does not mean that she is any less bright or valuable than her brother or than her friends who were invited into the program, only that the committee made other choices this year.
At the same time, she needs to be reminded of the talents she has displayed over the years. Be as specific as possible. Remind her of the time that she created an original gift for you or of the time she produced an unusual project for class. Talking with her about a range of talents -- not just those that are tested for the gifted program -- might allow her to see her entire array of strengths. For help with this, you might want to check the work of Howard Gardner and his associates concerning "multiple intelligences." He suggests many ways in which people can be smart and competent. His book, Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice, provides some excellent strategies. Thomas Armstrong's book, Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, has similar information that would be helpful to parents. Also, you might wish to look at some of the books from Free Spirit Press, especially The Gifted Kids' Survival Guide for Ages 10 & Under, which is written especially for children. Hope this helps!
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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.