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How to Support & Encourage your Exceptionally Able Child

Dad and SonSupporting a gifted child at home is paramount to his or her fundamental happiness and self esteem. Like all children a safe, secure and emotionally supportive homelife is key. This is the ideal but the reality is that sometimes overstretched parents, juggling a busy work and home schedule often find it difficult to give a highly intelliegent child all the support he or she needs.

Parenting is never easy, but when you add "giftedness" to the mix it can be very challenging. As a parent you are dealing with a child that thinks in a different way to other children. If this is your first child you probably don't even know that he or she is exceptionally able; just very bright, questioning and an interesting kid. It's often when your child starts pre-school or primary school that the differences become self evident and the worry starts. Why aren't they making any friends? Why isn't he getting on with the teacher? Why is he so over sensitive? Is this normal? Is there something wrong? The simple anwser to both of these last questions is yes, it is "normal" for an exceptionally able child and no, in most cases, there is nothing wrong. Probably two of the main concerns for parents are:

  • How can we support our child/children to achieve their fullest potential?
  • What can we do to help them with their social interaction difficulties?

Raising a Gifted Child

"The key to raising gifted children is respect: respect for their uniqueness, respect for their opinions and ideas, respect for their dreams. Gifted children need parents who are responsive and flexible, who will go to bat for them when they are too young to do so for themselves. It is painful for parents to watch their children feeling out of sync with others, but it is unwise to emphasize too greatly the importance of fitting in. Children get enough of that message in the outside world. At home, children need to know that their uniqueness is cherished and that they are appreciated as persons just for being themselves."
How Parents Can Support Gifted Children by Linda Kreger Silverman

Some Practical Tips

  • Spend some time alone with your child, if you can. This is often difficult if you have other children. Listen to their ideas. Try to share their passion.
  • Read to younger children even though they may have learned to read early on. Reading together provides a wonderful opportunity to share ideas. Remember they are just kids, whatever their abilities and they still need cuddles!
  • Encourage their passions. Help them discover new ideas with trips to the library, museums; even a walk in the local park can bring forth discussions on nature, the universe and everything.
  • Praise the effort, not the ability! Underachievement is a big issue for exceptionally able children. The gifted label can become a liability if the child strives for perfection and will only pursue those activities where they are almost guaranteed 100% results everytime. By praising the amount of work the child puts into an activity it's giving him or her the message that it's okay to make mistakes and that effort gets results rather than intelligence just on its own. Remember even Einstein had to put the work in!
  • Try to get in touch with other families locally so that your child can spend time with similar children. Not always easy but check the local Support Groups Page for a list of support groups nationwide. If there isn't one nearby, take the bull by the horns and start your own.
  • Advocate on your child's behalf with your school.
  • Get informed about the special needs issue.
  • Stay sane, talk to other parents, share your frustration, ideas and experience.
  • Stop making excuses for your child. He is who he is. (Or she as the case may be.) If you find yourself saying "he's very bright, but . . ." stop it. It's not helping you or him. Giftedness, exceptional ability, talent are all positive words. Dump the negativity and be proud of your child. This does not mean bragging, but we should stop being apologetic!

Personal Stories

"Sometimes I find myself stumbling over words trying to explain to other parents or my family about my child's ability. I do everything not to appear as if I'm bragging so as not to offend anyone."

"Keeping up with her is sometimes difficult. Even from a young age she had an insatiable appetite for books. Thank god for the local library!"

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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