Allison Cornish has an interest in gifted education, no doubt because she was a gifted child long before the phrase was coined. At 16, she received a university music scholarship which led her to leave home and school years before her peers. Her musical talent and a desire to travel eventually led her to owning a music store in Sydney. She sold the business and returned to her native Tasmania where her interest in gifted children began.
About 8 years ago she taught a gifted child with an IQ of 161. Despite the ‘gifted’ label (which suggested everything was rosy), Allison found that most aspects of this child’s education presented difficulties.
She realised that gifted children are as far from average as children with serious learning difficulties and she saw how little gifted children’s needs were met in the classroom. Consequently, these children are prone to experience extreme frustration (with their peers and teachers), boredom (from lack of challenge), low self esteem (from a sense of achieving nothing they have had to work hard at) and social frustration (because their intellectual peers are much older).
Gifted children, Allison says, have special needs that must be met in order for them to learn and achieve at school. If these needs are unidentified and unmet by the teacher, the personal outcomes for gifted students are sobering.
Most parents would like to believe their child is gifted, and indeed they may be in a particular subject. Allison explains there are different types of giftedness and the commonly accepted model to describe it is Francois Gagne’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent. (http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/policies/gats/assets/images/dmgtcolor.PDF )
Gagne lists four gifted domains: intellectual, creative, socioaffective and sensorimotor and people may be gifted in one of these domains but not others. For example, a gifted sportsperson (sensorimotor) who is ungifted academically.
Additionally, giftedness is about potential. A gifted child may have the capacity to achieve at dizzying levels, but if they are denied support — or the opportunity to work at such heights — then their abilities go unrecognised.
There are many useful checklists to assist parents in identifying talent and gifted children tend to share some common characteristics, but there are many exceptions.
These links will help parents get a basic idea. If you are ticking a lot of boxes, further investigation through formal testing may be helpful to identify academically talented children. Those gifted in sport, music or the arts are more easily identified and are usually catered for relatively well in the education system.
Parents can contact their state’s gifted association for extra information and support. A list of Australian state organisations can be found here http://www.aaegt.net.au/associations.htm
In Part Two of this feature article, Allison discusses the potential problems surrounding gifted children and their educational outcomes.
In Part Three, Allison discusses funding issues and misconceptions about gifted programs. She also helps you to identify if you were a gifted child.