We at WATG often answer questions from parents and guardians of gifted children. Here are some answers to the question, “what can parents and guardians do?”
WHAT CAN PARENTS AND GUARDIANS DO?
1. Ask questions and seek answers from resources, educators and
Use a variety of avenues to seek out information about gifted
learners and parenting gifted children. The Wisconsin Association for Talented
and Gifted (WATG), the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), and
Hoagies Gifted are good places to start. Join a parent group, read, attend a
conference or webinar to learn more about tools and strategies that work with
2. Communicate regularly in partnership with the school and
Connect with school staff and explore the options available to
students in the school. Ask questions about how students are
identified for accelerated learning opportunities. Find out how often students
are identified, what programming is offered, and how often opportunities and
placements are reviewed.
3. Advocate at the school, district, and state levels.
Build a strong relationship with educators and let them know you
are a partner and advocate. Offer support and encouragement
to the school community. If your child needs gifted and talented services
or is receiving them, communicate regularly with school staff. Two-way
communication is optimal for building a strong and proactive relationship.
This solid relationship will benefit your child, other children, and the school
community at large.
Gifted and talented advocacy offers a multitude of possibilities. In Wisconsin,
gifted education is mandated, but not funded. Writing to state legislators and
asking for funding for gifted education could accelerate change. Though WATG
has asked for $5,000,000 for gifted education, gifted education in Wisconsin
only receives $237,200 in the form of competitive grants. Much more funding
is needed. Additionally, you can write letters asking that gifted education
coursework be included at the college level of teacher training. Currently in
Wisconsin, teachers do not experience any classes in gifted education.
Advocacy and networking often go hand in hand. Join WATG, attend
the annual WATG conference, and visit WATG’s website to determine
if becoming a member of the board might be a fit for you. Additionally, WATG
always welcomes volunteers to further our mission, “to advocate for and
educate about the needs of gifted in Wisconsin.” Through networking in your
local school district, CESA (Cooperative Educational Services Agency), state, or
nation, you will join others who share your commitment to gifted learners.
5. Celebrate best practices in gifted education.
Celebrate the efforts of educators who are successfully meeting
the needs of gifted learners. Let administrators at the school and
district level know about the specific strategies and the positive impacts they
are having on student achievement. Encourage the use of these strategies in
all classrooms and schools so that they can impact more students. Nominate
a teacher, administrator or community member for a WATG award for the
significant contributions they are making for gifted students. Recognition of
success generates more success.
Finally, parents, realize the power you have to impact change in the school
community. When informed and united, parents can and do effect change at
all levels. Working together with educators, districts, state and national policy
makers, parents can experience first-hand the difference that they can make in
the lives of their gifted children, and all gifted children.
WATG would like to extend a huge thank you to Esther Vasquez Guendulain for translating this article into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking families and educators. The translation can also be found below. It is an excerpt from WATG’s Acceleration Report.
En WATG a menudo respondemos preguntas de padres y tutores de niños con habilidades excepcionales. Aquí hay algunas respuestas a la pregunta, "¿qué pueden hacer los padres y tutores?"
¿QUÉ PUEDEN HACER LOS PADRES Y TUTORES?
1. Hacer preguntas y buscar respuestas en los recursos existentes, educadores y administradores.
Utilice una variedad de vías para buscar información sobre alumnos con habilidades excepcionales y cómo criarlos. La Asociación para niños con habilidades y talentos especiales de Wisconsin (WATG por sus siglas en inglés) y la Asociación Nacional para niños talentosos (NAGS por sus siglas en inglés), son buenos lugares para empezar. Únase a un grupo de padres, lea, asista a conferencias o seminarios en-línea para aprender más sobre herramientas y estrategias que funcionan con alumnos avanzados.
2. Comuníquese regularmente en colaboración con la escuela y el distrito.
Conéctese con el personal de la escuela y explore las opciones disponibles para los estudiantes en la escuela. Haga preguntas sobre cómo se identifican a los estudiantes para las oportunidades de aprendizaje avanzado. Averigüe qué tan frecuentemente se identifican a los estudiantes, que programas se ofrecen y que tan frecuentemente este acceso a oportunidades de aprendizaje y acceso a programas son revisados.
3. Abogue en la escuela, el distrito y a nivel estatal.
Construya una fuerte relación con los maestros y hágales saber que usted es un colaborador y puede abogar. Ofrezca apoyo y motivación a la comunidad escolar. Si su hijo(a) necesita servicios o está recibiendo estos servicios, comuníquese regularmente con el personal de la escuela. La comunicación de dos vías es óptima para construir una relación fuerte y proactiva. Esta sólida relación será de beneficio para su estudiante, otros niños y la comunidad escolar en general.
El abogar por estudiantes con habilidades excepcionales ofrece una multitud de posibilidades. En Wisconsin, la educación para estos estudiantes es obligatoria pero no financiada. El escribir a los legisladores estatales y pedir fondos para la educación de estos estudiantes, podría acelerar el cambio. A pesar de que WATG ha solicitado $5,000,000 para la educación especializada para niños con talentos especiales, este programa de educación en Wisconsin únicamente recibe $237,200 en forma de subsidios competitivos. Se necesitan muchos más fondos. Adicionalmente, puede escribir cartas pidiendo a los legisladores que se incluyan cursos acerca de cómo trabajar con estudiantes con habilidades excepcionales para maestros como parte de su formación universitaria. Actualmente, los maestros en Wisconsin no reciben ninguna clase de entrenamiento en esta área.
4. Red de comunicación
El abogar por una red de comunicación, van de la mano frecuentemente. Unase a WATG, asista a la conferencia anual de WATG y visite la página web de WATG para determinar si el ser miembro del Consejo, es una buena posibilidad. Adicionalmente, en WATG los voluntarios son siempre bienvenidos a ayudar con la misión de “abogar y educar sobre las necesidades de los estudiantes con talentos únicos en Wisconsin”. A través de la red de comunicación en su distrito escolar local, la Agencia de Servicios de Educación Cooperativa (CESA por sus siglas en inglés), el estado o nación; se unirá a otros que comparten su compromiso con los alumnos que poseen talentos excepcionales.
WATG desea extender un enorme agradecimiento a la Esther Vasquez Guendulain por traducir este artículo al español para nuestras familias y educadores hispanohablantes. La traducción también se puede encontrar en los blogs de nuestro sitio web. Es un extracto del informe de Aceleración de WATG.
I have been bubbling with excitement ever since I became a Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted board member. The reason is simple; my oldest son is a brilliant learner. He isn’t just a voracious academic, he absolutely loves the process of learning. He relishes school routine and he soaks in the minute details of preparing for exams.
Now, I know many of you are reading this and likely telling yourself, “We’ve heard the same thing over and over before. There are plenty of highly gifted learners in this state.” That’s true. However, Carson is in the fifth grade. He is in the 99th percentile in standardized testing and routinely talks about where he wants to go to college. (That would be Purdue University, because, as he states it, “It’s one of the best engineering schools around.”) Now this is where the story becomes a story about patience, because my 11-year-old desperately wants to be 18 tomorrow. He wants to graduate from high school, and be off to start his collegiate career -- now. That all sounds awesome at a cocktail party, when everyone is bragging about their kids. We all like to imagine their bright futures.
However, we can’t forget to live in the moment. Even though my son may be 11, he isn’t too old to build forts, play tag, or roast marshmallows. He’s still a kid. I think so many of us want our kids to grow up so fast, but in reality, the opposite should be true; we should be preserving the joy of their childhoods. Our kids are innocent and experience that childlike enthusiasm only once in their life. So, while it’s OK to imagine the future, we also need to be consistently focused on today.
How many regrets would parents have if they allowed their children to jump too soon into adulthood? There could be so many lost opportunities for growth - for both the parent and the child. For example, the parent might want to teach the child about his or her experiences and try to use them as an example for learning, and the child might want to ask questions, so as not to make the same silly mistakes that his or her parent made. Childhood gives children many chances to make mistakes, learn, and grow in a safe and supportive environment.
I know that Carson is going to succeed at whatever he does because he dives in with both feet and gives every ounce of effort. He often gets frustrated when he can sense a “talk” coming on as I try to pull back on the lure of the future, and ground him in the present, but he has accepted it more and more. He also knows that when he goes to college, he won’t be seeing his two younger brothers nearly as much, and that these childhood years with his siblings are very precious.
Though it’s human nature to surmise that things are greener on the other side (or in the future), you will be missing so many wonderful things that are right in front of you if you don’t also live in the moment. Seize those moments.
WATG Board Member
WATG’s Government Action Committee is fully entrenched in the biennial budget process and we are so excited to see what comes next! We are advocating for an increase in state funding for gifted education and we are dreaming big! It is exciting to imagine what it would look like to have gifted funding in every single school district across the state. Maybe we won’t get all the way there this year, but we can guarantee that we are closer than ever before.
So, how can you help? We are so glad that you asked! First and foremost, contact your legislator! How? Here’s the step by step process, right down to what you can say. To find your state legislators, go to the legislature home page https://legis.wisconsin.gov/; find the section called "Who Are My Legislators?" and enter your HOME address. Your state Senator and Assembly Representative and their contact information will pop up.
Now you are ready to write; here is some simple verbiage for you to use:
As the (parent/guardian/grandparent//teacher/neighbor/friend) of gifted children, I would like to request that you please support gifted education in the upcoming budget process.
(You may want to add a personal comment about why this is important here…)
Your full home address
Yes, it really is that simple to make a difference! Here are a couple of pro-tips:
It is critical that legislators hear from their own constituents on these issues! Please contact your legislator today!
Additionally, the Joint Finance Commission will be holding live listening sessions on these days: in Whitewater on April 9th, in Rhinelander on April 21st, and in Menomonie on April 22nd. A statewide virtual hearing will be held on April 28th.
WATG is committed to having someone give a live, two-minute testimony at every session. If you are interested in attending and testifying, please contact
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org For more information on the Joint finance Committee visit:
Thank you all for your support as we move closer to funding gifted education in Wisconsin! Together we can make a difference.
Government Action Committee
Families in the largely rural “Driftless” Region of Southwest Wisconsin – essentially, the greater Mississippi Valley blufflands – now have a new way to network with other local gifted and twice-exceptional families: A new parent group loosely based in La Crosse, Wisconsin covers the entire Wisconsin/Minnesota/Iowa tri-state border region and, in its effort to build community, is consciously reaching out to the underserved surrounding counties within about a 1.5-hours’ drive radius from the city of La Crosse. This new parent group has just become WATG’s first official partnership.
Called “Driftless Gifted” (or “DG2e” for short), the Group was established last fall by a long-time area resident. She shares her motivation: “It’s been so hard for my highly gifted, suspected 2e child to connect with any kids even remotely close to his own age here in our medium-sized town and largely rural surrounding area – and it’s often been hard for me to relate to, or share with, other local parents as well. I’ve started this group in an effort to find and connect with ‘our people’ and to help other locals in our predicament also connect with each other.”
Currently at only thirteen families strong – and with some of these having joined from outside the Driftless Region from as far as Milwaukee and the Twin Cities because they have ties to the area – the Group is still in its infancy. The hope is to build and strengthen the community online through virtual activities via the Facebook Group and – post-Covid – to eventually provide a platform for in-person meet-ups, field trips, and joint activities as well.
Collecting no dues or fees, the obligation-free Group is intent on simply growing and connecting. To help ensure that any families searching for such a resource can find it, a website has been set up for Driftless Gifted at https://www.driftlessgifted.com/ and a Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1300372823630651. New families can join by either requesting membership in the Facebook Group or by sending an email to email@example.com.
In addition to the partnership with WATG – the details of which are still unfolding – Driftless Gifted (DG2e) has also set itself up as an official parent group within the framework of MCGT (Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented) and plans to work toward a collaboration with ITAG (Iowa Talented and Gifted Association) as well. Collaborations such as these hold the potential for deep synergies that can ultimately strengthen all branches of the gifted community.
Kindly refer any gifted/2e families you know who live in Southwest Wisconsin, Southeast Minnesota or Northeast Iowa to Driftless Gifted (“DG2e”)!
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1300372823630651
WATG Summer Scholarships
Wisconsin Students in Grades K-12
Applications Now Open
April 15, 2021 Deadline
Each year, WATG awards scholarships to students across the state of Wisconsin to attend summer enrichment opportunities. Awards are available for students in grade K-12 and are based on the strength of applications & the availability of scholarship funds raised by WATG.
A student essay or video/multimedia presentation, along with three non-family references are required to be submitted with the application. The student essay or video/multimedia presentation should include information on the applicant’s background and advanced education enrichment needs, as well as information regarding the summer opportunity that the student wishes to attend.
Visit https://www.watg.org/awards--scholarships.html for more information
Applications are due April 15.
Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Award Application
Wisconsin Students in Grades 3-6
WATG is now accepting applications for the Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards.
Nicholas was a bright seven-year old who was killed in a senseless shooting while on vacation in Italy. Nicholas’ parents started the Distinguished Student Awards because they wanted to recognize young people who are working hard to make the most of their lives and develop their unique gifts and talents, and who are now about the age that Nicholas was when he died. Nicholas’ parents donated the money they had saved for his college expenses to fund a scholarship to recognize a gifted student in each state, every year from 2000-2013. When the funds ran out, WATG decided to continue this recognition in Wisconsin.
An essay composed by the student, and a recommendation letter from someone other than a family member are required to complete the application. The student essay should be about a special area of interest and may be in the areas of academics, leadership, or the arts. Students must be in grades 3 - 6 at the time of nomination. A WATG selection committee will review the applications and make the $250 award based upon MERIT.
Visit https://www.watg.org/awards--scholarships.html for more information
Applications are due June 15.
Dal Drummer, WATG Advisory Board Member
The other day, I was perusing an article in Edutopia, by Sara Gonzer, entitled The Spatially Gifted - Our Future Architects and Engineers are Being Overlooked, which triggered a number of thoughts about the arts and education of our students. The premise of Gonzer’s article was that gifted programs usually miss students who are gifted in the spatial arts. As a result, gifted programs that focus on using the main assessments of verbal reasoning and math concepts to screen students for gifted programs, tend to leave out students who are spatially gifted and often weak in verbal areas and math. Often, these missed students are also ones from minority populations or ones with disabilities. As a result, gifted program populations tend to perpetuate the very disparities that schools keep working to fix: gifted programs that are lacking in students of color, or lacking in those with disabilities, or 2e (twice exceptional) kids. They remain focused on students who do well academically.
Students who are spatially gifted tend to be the future artists, architects, designers, and sculptors who are so important in our world. These spatially gifted students often struggle with their academics because: 1) academics aren’t as interesting as creating something; 2) the students often have weak academic areas within their abilities; 3) for spatially creative students who cannot create, or create often enough, school just isn’t important to them and as a result they have higher absenteeism and/or suspension from school; 4) spatially gifted students often ONLY attend school because they are allowed to be in creative programs that meet their needs. They tolerate academics in order to create. Most likely, if students’ academics are suffering, or they are absent too often from school, these students probably wouldn’t even be considered for gifted programming, resulting in greater socioeconomic/racial disparity within specialty programs.
So how can this be solved? Gonzer recommends change in 3 areas: 1) develop curriculum for the spatially gifted in the classroom; 2) provide teacher staff development on how to work with and look for the spatially gifted child; 3) develop new assessments for spatial gifts. I would also include a fourth: allow students with spatial/artistic gifts into gifted programming and provide needed help for their weaker academic areas. In other words, just because students have weak academic performance, that shouldn’t automatically screen them out of gifted programming where they can develop their spatial/artistic gifts.
As examples of what I am talking about, I want to relate several personal examples of what supporting the spatially gifted can do for students. First some background. I taught in and was the Artistic Director of Lincoln Center for the Arts (a 6-8 middle school) in Milwaukee Public Schools. A large group of us founded the Lincoln Center, and grounded it by offering a wide selection of the arts as well as the normal academics, knowing that many students whose focus/interest lies in the arts get missed for specialized programming. The arts offered were: visual arts, musical arts, both instrumental and vocal, TV and radio broadcasting, computer arts, wood working, theater. The school featured ten different professional artists and studios, all housed within the school. To get into Lincoln, students completed a simple entry form. They had to write/show us by example what their art interest was, and why they should be accepted into the school. This was the only screening offered. We knew that this would bring us wide variety of students, many of them poor and diverse cultures, especially those who could not get into a school elsewhere. But we also knew it would attract those students who had a keen interest in the arts, even those with disabilities.
Here are two of their stories (names have been changed):
Scott was a 6th grader when I met him and his mother. He didn’t speak, only nodded his head and only when prodded. Scott only got in the door of the school because his mother literally dragged him in crying. We accepted him, after his mom (not he), showed us some of his work. It was well beyond the work of a student his age. For the first week, Scott refused to come into the school and his mother often had to take him back home. The second week I was able to coax him into my art room to sit for slowly extended periods of time. Then he would bolt out the door of the school, only to repeat this the next day. Finally, I was able to get him to start doing some artwork, not what we were doing in my class of course, but his own ideas. And he began to slowly talk to me.
Of course, during this time I was besieged by requests from his academic teachers as to why I wasn’t getting him to attend their classes. He was failing them due to no attendance! My argument with them and the principal was this: “He is finally attending school. He said he would not attend academic classes, and while I have tried to get him to do so, we should be grateful he is feeling safer in school, and we will get him there eventually. But not now.”
It took me fifteen weeks of school to get Scott to attend one academic class, with an escape plan. If he needed to, he could still come to the art room at any time. By semester, Scott was attending all of his academic classes, but still coming to the art room in all of his free time. It was his safe haven. By year’s end, Scott was getting B’s and A’s in his academics and spent all his free time working on art in the art room.
Scott successfully went on through 7th and 8th grade and was accepted into High School of the Arts, an arts college, and became an artist in his own right, and an art teacher.
Granted, Scott was an extreme example, but his feelings are mirrored by many spatially gifted students.
Theo was a skinny, stuttering, rapping student from a very poor black family, living in the inner city of Milwaukee, when he came to Lincoln. He couldn’t sit still for more than five seconds or he would begin rapping some rhythm out on his desk, his table, his leg, or whatever. I’m sure he drove his teacher nuts!
We managed to get Theo enrolled in instrumental music (drums, what else?) and since he also liked to act out a lot, in theater. Theo muddled through 6th grade. In 7th, he began to take a more active role in different art programs besides theater and drums, and his academics picked up also. In 8th, he began making his own music on the side, while keeping up with his academics. He, too, was accepted into High School of the Arts and went on to a career in music (rap of course!). He returned several years after graduation, when we had him perform on stage at Lincoln. Afterward, he took me aside and told me that if it hadn’t been for the arts in school, he wouldn’t have graduated, much less gotten into a successful career in music, because academics just didn’t interest him! He said he hoped more kids like him, from the inner city, would come to Lincoln.
The Arts matter! We do our students and our society a disservice by missing highly creative students, and not offering them the same opportunities to develop their gifts as we do those who are academically gifted. We need to make some changes. Kids like Scott and Theo are counting on us.
Are you looking for holiday gift ideas for kids who are interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) topics? Are you interested in gifts that will pique curiosity, or develop and interest, or gifts that will continue to provide enjoyment? Then you may want to check out this list from Modern Parents Messy Kids.com, which features the Toy Awards that “parents in-the-know” have already viewed over 7,000,000 Times! The list includes toys, games, and activities for children up to about 14 years of age. Happy browsing!
As many of you know, WATG’s annual conference was held recently. For many of the board members, amidst the planning, preparation, and implementation of the conference, doubts emerged - doubts regarding the effectiveness of the platform we chose, doubts about delivering timely content in a virtual format, and doubts about the effectiveness of a completely digital conference. These doubts could have stemmed from insecurities regarding the newness of the conference format, or they could simply reflect general social stress during a pandemic. In a world that has so often been disappointed and stressed in the last year, our Board hoped to produce a virtual conference that would run smoothly and be highly meaningful for our constituency.
Ironically, despite waiting to hear negative feedback about various conference or delivery details throughout the week, none came. Even when participants were given the opportunity to evaluate their experience, our worries were unfounded. Those worries seemed to be figments of our own imaginations and thankfully, not manifest in participants’ experiences.
This led me to think about the role of perfectionism in our world, and how gifted students (and adults) experience it. Gifted students today are often plagued by those same frets and worries that our WATG board experienced this last week. However, the fears students encounter are more pervasive, and they permeate everyday tasks, from academics to personal life. Perfectionism can be immobilizing for gifted youth as they become entrenched in vicious mind games with themselves. Oftentimes, perfectionism is largely self-imposed, based on internalized fears of external factors. For some, the thought of disappointing someone, or letting others down is ever present. When it comes to executing daily tasks then, perfectionists get caught up in the details. If there are doubts about the potential quality of the work, perfectionists struggle to get motivated to begin, already anticipating the eventual disappointment of not living up to personal or perceived standards. Whether real or imagined, these standards become controlling. Perfectionists cannot help but fret about the details and work they are completing, rendering them unable to finish work or unable to hand it in until they feel satisfied with the end result. If that satisfaction never comes, then the work, regardless of the quality seen by others, will be a failure in the eyes of the gifted child.
Much of the drive for perfectionism can be an attempt at controlling a situation. This is especially dire for gifted students in the U.S.right now. In retrospect, our WATG board’s worries about the conference were limited to the weeks surrounding the conference; many of us were able to move on and shake off our nerves following the completion of the conference. However, for gifted kids struggling to maintain a semblance of control in a world that is decidedly out of control, it is not as easy to just “move on” or “let go.” Attempting to control life situations is ongoing.
As parents, educators, and mentors of gifted children, we need to be aware of this vise-grip that perfectionism can have on some of our kids. It is not their fault for striving for perfection. It is not them being difficult. For many of them, it’s part of their personality. In the words of my daughter who has been a perfectionist for decades, “If I could care less, I would. I would love to be confident in the final product, to see what others see in my writing or work. Sometimes it physically pains me to submit materials when I feel I could have done better. I get stuck in a cycle of if I think I can do better, why don’t I? -- and it starts all over again.”
In an effort to better present my thoughts about perfectionism, I looked up the definition of the word perfectionism. Besides the typical definition in Oxford Languages “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection,” an interesting tidbit came up with the definition. There was an N-Gram that demonstrated the use of the word perfectionism over time. Interestingly, there was a blip in the early 1600’s, the 1840’s, and then a rise that has not subsided since the 1940’s. As a matter of fact, one can see the exponential growth in the use of the word perfectionism in the last two decades. Clearly the English word “perfectionism” is being used more and more in writing, perhaps in part to address the issue that is plaguing our gifted children. You are not alone if you are experiencing this in your family or classroom!
We are not going to solve this in this writing. But we have to ask some questions and keep working on the answers. What’s the link between giftedness and perfectionism? What are the factors in our world that are driving some of our gifted kids (to drive themselves) to the limit at their own expense? What can we do to mitigate those factors? How do we infuse the idea of perfectionism into the lessons of a “growth mindset”? If this is something that you would like to continue having a conversion about, please let us know. Perhaps we could arrange for a Facebook Live event or a webinar on the topic. WATG is here to help support our gifted kids. Let us know how we can help!
Suggested resources- If you are interested in learning more about the use of the word “perfectionism”, here is a link to the graph provided:
by Cathy Schmit, WATG Board President