Monday, September 29, 2014

Fearless advocacy: A day in the life of a gifted child's parent

Gifted advocacy

What do you think about when you hear those words?
  • Meetings with school administrators?
  • Lobbying to get your gifted child identified?
  • Insisting on ability grouping, enrichment or acceleration?

But battling with the schools is not the only place for advocacy; parents find themselves championing the needs of their gifted child wherever they go. Dismissive comments about gifted children are overheard as often at family reunions and the sidelines of soccer games as they are during parent-teacher conferences At first timid and uncertain, parents quickly learn that if they don't educate others about gifted children's differences, their own child will suffer.

Most parents never expected to become spokespersons for gifted children. Yet by default, they become experts, educators and ambassadors, endlessly explaining facts about giftedness to those who don't understand. They confront misinformation, always careful to avoid the appearance of boasting, and seamlessly reframe their child's offbeat behavior in light of gifted intellectual and social/emotional complexities. Every day can seem like a new challenge.

Here is a partial list of advocacy efforts that regularly occur in the life of a gifted child's parent:

(How many of these fit for you?)

1. Asking teachers for more complex, challenging, meaningful schoolwork (not extra homework or busy work)

2. Overcoming reluctance to tell friends and family that, yes, your child is gifted, has unique needs, and deserves accommodations in school

3. Explaining contradictory behaviors to others (why your child's immature or childlike behaviors do not negate her giftedness)

4. Meeting with school administrators to explain your child's needs and how they are not being met in the classroom or gifted pull-out program

5. Having to "apologize" for your child's "rude"  (blunt, uncensored) comments to teachers and other children ("So sorry he said the classwork was boring - I know he needs to learn tact. I guess he just wants something a little more challenging.")

6. Commenting in online forums, blogs or articles to remind others that no, not every child is gifted!

7. Explaining the difference between gifted traits and behaviors that warrant a diagnosis (high energy, intense curiosity vs. ADHD; detailed, hyper focus on an area of interest vs. OCD)

8. Helping relatives, neighbors and other parents understand that your child's moods, quirks and intensities are associated with her giftedness (and are not behaviors she just does to be annoying)

9. Speaking up regularly at school board meetings to request (demand) more appropriate and necessary gifted services

10. Meeting with other parents of gifted children to form parent advocacy efforts (groups, lobbying efforts with the schools, collaborative meetings with gifted supervisors)

11. Letting your young child's friends know that when he wants to play by himself, it's not because he doesn't like them; it's just because he really wants to play by himself

12. Researching alternative educational options and presenting them to the teacher (online courses, subject acceleration, special projects, mentorships)

13. Learning about state-wide and nation-wide advocacy efforts and getting involved

14. Educating people you never thought you would have to inform about the complexities of giftedness: your child's teachers, pediatrician, coaches, spiritual leaders, trusted friends and family

15. Defending any accommodations offered to your child at school when others question the need for them (explaining that additional challenging work or acceleration is not a privilege or honor, but a necessity)

16. Advocating for yourself: asking for support and advice from those who understand, and letting those who don't understand know how hard it is for you

You never planned for this. No one prepared you. Yet, you are the chief proponent, enthusiast, spokesperson, defender, and champion of services for your child. It just comes with the territory. Once you overcome your hesitation and fears about advocacy, you can move on to what is necessary.

You can make change happen.

Let us know what a day in the life of advocacy is for you in the comments
section below.


This blog is part of the Hoagies Gifted Education Page Blog Hop on Gifted Advocacy. To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at:



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