I recently returned from an international professional conference at which some educators and parents of gifted students got together to discuss the state of gifted education in their schools. It was a diverse group of educators and parents from many different states. Many commented how interesting it was to listen to the options for gifted students in other places. Some teachers talked about the resources and instructional practices they are able to use school-wide on an individualized basis such as subject and full-grade acceleration, and technology access for projects even in needy schools. Not everyone had those resources or practices available in their school. Some parents talked about a singular teacher who made a major difference in their child’s life who became a mentor and friend even far after that grade level. All talked about frustration at not being able to identify and reach gifted students in their school district, or other districts because of lack of funding, lack of state and local support, and the myths and misunderstanding of gifted students by the vast majority of people.
Everyone left the meeting vowing to support each other, regardless of location, to impact gifted education in their local area and state, and to share resources and practices. While there are listservs available throughout the country it was interesting to see the close connection built in a short period of time among people who were free to talk about gifted students in a non-judgmental place. This perhaps was the greatest result of this meeting. Both parents and teachers could speak freely about gifted students without fear of misunderstanding and judgment from others. I encourage you to try to find that place in your area. Try to find a parent and/or teacher with whom you can talk freely because they understand gifted students. Knowing one is not alone is a way to find comfort and support on this incredible journey with amazing gifted students. See the following websites for support.
“The Care and Feeding of Gifted Parent Groups: A Guide for Gifted Coordinators, Teachers and Parent Advocates” by Dr. Wenda Sheard
Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, www.sengifted.org
“Tips for Teachers: Successful Strategies for Teaching Gifted Learners”
Recently I was in a meeting with educators and parents where the topic migrated to critical concerns in schools today. Everyone there unanimously said the same thing: mental health issues are reaching epidemic proportion. This was not the general grumbling about a few moody students. The people in the room were genuinely very concerned about the issues today’s students face and bring to school, even as young as first or second grade. Conditions may include depression, anxiety, self-injury such as cutting, bipolar disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), eating disorders, addiction, or others. These conditions are becoming more and more common in classrooms and with students of any age, including gifted students. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time, such as becoming stressed with too much to do, but mental illness is when symptoms are ongoing and affect one’s daily life functioning.
Peer-pressure to fit in, perfectionism, boredom, and others’ expectations often lead gifted students to develop mental health disorders or behaviors. Following are some resources to explore to learn more about mental illness conditions, and organizations that provide information. These resources are just a beginning. There are many more resources available. If you have the need to investigate mental illness further for your child or others, use knowledge of your particular need to seek out a mental health professional in your local area, search the Internet, or talk to others including the school psychologist, social worker, or nurse as a place to start. Mental illness should be addressed to help the individual improve their life. This is especially important for students so they can be successful in school, graduate, and look to their future.
Mental Illness-Mayo Clinic
Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted-SENG
National Alliance on Mental Illness-Mental Health in Schools
Association for Children’s Mental Health-Problems at School
Mental Health in Schools: A Hidden Crisis Affecting Millions of Students
Psychology Today-Giftedness Should Not Be Confused with Mental Disorder
Kids in Crisis: An ongoing series by Gannett newspapers addressing teen suicide and youth mental health issues in Wisconsin.
Ask the Doctor