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Tips on what to do when your child is gifted

Parenteen By John Muturi

Gifted kidAround one or two children in 200 are gifted. Gifted children have the same psychological needs as any other kids — the need to be loved, to feel secure and to fulfill their potential. The dividing line between a gifted child and others of her own age is her exceptional thirst for learning.

They may possess exceptional abilities outside of academic. They may also have superior talent in music, art, writing, science or leadership. These children may undertake projects that no one their age may have imagined or attempted.

Many gifted children demonstrate the signs at an early age. They may exhibit the following:

• Unusual artistic ability, such as drawing realistic pictures.

• Uncommon interest and facility for numbers, like doing calculations in their head.

• Is ahead of peers in terms of developmental milestones. She may talk and walk at a younger age than would normally be expected.

• Uses advanced vocabulary. Her vocabulary is often extensive and she is able to talk fluently about a wide range of topics, long before her peers.

• Speaks in full sentences at a younger age.

• Shows extreme curiosity. She may show great interest in the world around her, asking many questions about abstract issues for instance, about life and death.

• Is active, but not hyperactive.

• Concentrates exclusively on one task for long.

• Shows passion for his or her interests.

• Ability to memorise facts and recall information from TV, movies, or books and her imagination may be unusually vivid.

• Expresses a feeling that she is different from the other children.

• Becomes easily frustrated due to the ability to think faster than she can communicate.

Many child psychologists conduct tests for giftedness. The average Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is from 85 to 115, with gifted kids having an IQ of over 130.

It however takes more than test scores to see whether a child is gifted. The gifted child has special education and emotional needs. If you suspect your child may be gifted, find a qualified professional with experience in working with gifted kids.

There are three approaches to the education of gifted children.

First, segregation where the child attends separate classes or even separate schools for children of exceptional ability.

Every child in the class is classified as gifted. The disadvantage is that the child loses contact with most others of her age.

Second, acceleration that involves a gifted child progressing through the ordinary school curriculum at a faster rate than the other pupils. She may even skip one year entirely. Like segregation, this approach carries with it the danger that the child is thrust into situations that she can cope with intellectually but not emotionally or socially.

And third, enhancement, in which the child has mainstream schooling for most of the week, but in addition attends special classes to enrich her knowledge and understanding.

The advantage of enrichment classes is that her intellectual ability is stretched and yet she is still able to spend most of her time with children of her own age.

In Kenya, education authorities are reluctant to provide special classes for children with exceptional ability.

Special help is only available for pupils with learning difficulties.

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