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About Us

In February 2008 Giftedkids.ie was launched as a support website for parents and educators of “gifted” children in Ireland. It was unique in that it was the first website in Ireland to actively meet the needs of parents, teachers and exceptionally able children from an Irish perspective. The website currently acts as a signpost for resources and has a huge range for parents, teachers and children, including a very popular online community forum where parents and teachers can share their experience of parenting or teaching a gifted or exceptionally able child. Giftedkids.ie is run on an entirely voluntary basis by a dedicated group of parents and teachers who contribute their time and expertise completely free of charge. As a small voluntary group we are unfortunately no longer able to reply to individual requests for information. Our online community forum however is a great way to link up with other parents and teachers and ask for advice.

Background

The site was largely borne out of the founder, Margaret Keane's frustration at the lack of resources and information available in Ireland about the issues that confront families with gifted children and the negative stereotypes that exist both in the media and society at large. Since its launch Giftedkids has grown in scope, largely in response to feedback from users. We are please to say that a large proportion of our users are now teachers, both primary and post-primary.

In October 2009 Margaret Keane, Giftedkids.ie founder was awarded a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Level 1 Award for her work in gifted advocacy. The funding provided by the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award was used to produce a pilot series of six free online webinars aimed at parents, teachers and other professionals working with gifted children. The series was launched in January 2010 with the support of the National Centre for Technology in Education and LearnCentral.org and has been a great success.

Some of the Problems facing “Gifted” Children in Ireland

“Identification of the Gifted and Talented can pose a problem to teachers and education professionals because they are not a homogenous group. The typical picture of the highly able child is of a hard working pupil who diligently completes work and perhaps is known as the class “swot” or “brain box”. In reality the picture is more complex than that. Alongside the gifted achievers are those who – despite their gifts and talents – persistently underachieve due to boredom, lack of interest or crippling perfectionism, young people who are cognitively advanced enough to play games with complex rule structures and yet not socially mature enough to deal with the frustration that occurs when their peers cannot grasp their game; children whose giftedness may be masked by the fact that they are not being educated in their first language or also who have a disability.”
From “Gifted and Talented In and Out of the Classroom”, A Report for the Council of Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) February 26th 2006

  • The exceptionally able can be found across all socioeconomic groups, in all parts of the country and also amongst new arrivals to Ireland with English as a second language.  At present there is no coordinated effort to reach this group in its entirety at school level and support their unique educational and social/emotional needs.
  • There are estimated to be 23,000 children who fit the “exceptionally able” or “gifted” profile in Ireland yet there is no concerted effort at school level, either primary or post primary to engage with these children. Unlike other countries such as the US, the UK, Canada and Australia there are no gifted education programmes run within primary or post primary schools. In 2008 the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum & Assessment) published it’s “Exceptionally Able Draft Guidelines for Teachers” which is a very welcome advance, however these are only guidelines; it is entirely up to a school’s Principal and teaching staff whether they read or implement these recommendations. According to the NCCA: “Students who are classified as exceptionally able belong on a continuum of students with special educational needs. In every school there will be a group of students who require greater extension of breadth and depth of learning activities than is normally provided for the main cohort of learners. Exceptionally able students are not a homogeneous group, and often their identification can pose a problem for teachers.”
  • There are huge misconceptions and misunderstanding of the “gifted” label amongst the public at large which only serves to further isolate those parents and children dealing with the realties of being “different”.  It’s largely seen as an “elitist” label.  Being intellectually talented or able is not seen as having “value”. Even the words society uses to describe them, from “nerds” to “geeks”, serves to reinforce this very negative stereotype that parents and children have to battle on a daily basis.  It’s simply not “cool” to be “gifted” either amongst your peer group or the wider community.  Many children are forced to “dumb down” in order to fit in and be socially accepted. This can lead to significant underachievement.
  • Exceptionally able and twice exceptional children often experience extreme levels of sensitivity due to asynchronous development. This is made all the more difficult in that few teachers have had formal training in gifted education as part of their primary degree, so that supporting these children in the classroom can be problematic. Often these children remain unidentified as exceptionally able and can be labeled disruptive. Instead of excelling, they can end up significantly underachieving or even dropping out of the school system altogether.
  • Parents, in particular, struggling to help what may appear as an “overly sensitive” child, are worried sick - does he have Aspergers? Has she Adhd?  With few professionals in this country with a background in gifted assessment there is a real danger of misdiagnosis.  The sensitivity issues which are characteristic of the exceptionally able can sometimes mimic autistic spectrum disorders and it’s important that those professionals involved in assessment have the knowledge and experience to be able to distinguish between the two.
  • The legal situation in Ireland around the provision of resources for special educational needs for the exceptionally able is very muddy indeed. The first piece of comprehensive legislation dealing directly with education in Ireland was the Education Act 1998, which governs the legal responsibilities of the government with regard to all aspects of education, including special needs. The Act is useful in that it defines certain key terms such as: "special educational needs" means the educational needs of students who have a disability and the educational needs of exceptionally able students" {Part 1 Section 2} However, when the EPSEN Act - The Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004 was drawn up the “exceptionally able” where omitted from the bill, leaving this group of children in a legal limbo.
  • Currently, all of the resources for special needs are focused on the lower end of the spectrum, on those children below the 10th percentile and while it is a vital that this support continues, there is no extra provision for children at or above the 95th percentile without an additional diagnosis of a learning or behavioural difficulty. Education professionals all agree that children at the top end of the spectrum equally need interventions in order to support their educational and social/emotional needs. (See NCCA Guidelines) As a result of this lack of resources, we have found on our forum that some parents have felt pressurised into seeking an additional diagnosis in order for their child to get access to additional education supports, e.g. resource hours and learning support.
  • Often these children find school very difficult; their heightened sensitivities, their outside interests and even vocabulary setting them apart from their peer group, leaving them isolated and the targets of bullying. 
  • Parents feel isolated and are unable to discuss these issues even with friends or family because they’re frightened that they’ll be perceived as “bragging”, such are the misconceptions around “giftedness”.  As a country we support talent in art and sport but find it difficult to support those with high intellectual ability due to negative stereotyping.

Mission Statement

It is our aim to help other parents and teachers to find the information, support and advice that they may need in order to effectively parent, teach and support the gifted children in their care.. Exceptionally able and twice exceptional children can come from all socio-economic groups and from all parts of the country. It is the ethos of Giftedkids that all children, regardless of their home circumstances, should have equal access to an appropriate education, specific to their individual educational and unique social/emotional needs. Gifted education should be about ability not ability to pay. These children have enormous learning potential and with the right supports in place could play a key role in Ireland's economic recovery.

Support

Giftedkids.ie is proudly supported by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. Social Entrepreneurs Ireland aims to ignite social change by identifying, investing in and supporting Irish social entrepreneurs – individuals who are prepared to take risks by applying their energy, drive, ambition and innovation to tackle some of Ireland’s most entrenched social problems.

 

Disclaimer: This is not an expert site, it is run on a voluntary basis and as such is based on opinion and experience but we hope that it acts as a signpost for educational resources and other support services for Irish families with exceptionally able children. By using this website you accept that any dependence by you on such information, opinion or advice is at your own risk.

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