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No room for gifted kids

As parents fight for scarce resources, bright young minds are left to languish


 

No room for Gifted kids

Jenn Marshall hadn’t started teaching her son to read. So she was surprised when she overheard Jeremy, barely four, sounding out words on a page in their basement apartment in Mississauga, Ont. Apparently, he had figured it out himself. Only when he started school did she realize how different he was. As his classmates learned phonics, Marshall says her son, who by five had graduated to the Harry Potter series, sat alone with a novel.

Despite Jeremy’s abilities, his overall performance was poor. Still, at the end of Grade 1, his teacher suggested he might be gifted, and thus eligible for a place in a specialized class. But when Marshall, who asked that her real name not be used, approached the principal, she was told that because of Jeremy’s poor handwriting and social skills, “he would never become a priority for testing.” Desperate, she cut off the family’s Internet service to save for a private assessment. But when she presented the results—Jeremy was found to possess profound giftedness as well as signs of a learning disability—his Grade 2 teacher piled on extra work, and chastised him when he encountered difficulties. “She was always saying things like ‘Aren’t you supposed to be smart?’ ” says Marshall.

For decades, the nation’s education policy-makers have acknowledged that extreme intellect often comes at a price. But as funding cuts and the push for inclusion have made regular classrooms ground zero for students with special needs—everything from giftedness to ADHD to autism—teachers are attempting to satisfy a range of abilities that’s wider than ever before. And the country’s brightest minds, say advocates, are languishing.

According to educators, the problem is nationwide. Gifted programs are dwindling, and fewer students are receiving formal identifications. The stakes, meanwhile, are high. Studies have shown that gifted students, who make up about two per cent of the population, risk social alienation and boredom, which can give way to underachievement and behaviour problems. It’s possible for these kids, as well as the profoundly gifted (the top 0.5 per cent), to be saddled with a learning disability. And though their potential to achieve may trump that of their classmates, as some experts have found, so does their propensity to drop out.

But as parents intervene, the battles for limited special education dollars become highly polarized. As former Edmonton Public Schools superintendent Michael Strembitsky points out, “Every dollar that is provided to one group, that’s a dollar less to another group.” And when forced to choose, some argue that educators can’t be faulted for tipping the scales in favour of those whose struggle is most apparent.

The very notion of extreme intellect as a special need still seems like a stretch to some, and making accommodations for it in tough times a luxury. As Shari Orders, co-author of a University of Ottawa study on the advocacy experiences of parents of gifted children, explains, “The societal notion is that gifted kids have it made.” According to Bill Morton, who has been teaching gifted students in Ontario since the mid-’80s, “Every time money gets tight, gifted comes under the light, because it’s not a popular exceptionality.”

Jack Goldberg, a University of Alberta education professor, says it’s not unreasonable that gifted kids often wind up near the bottom of the list: “[The gifted student] may be bored. The loss, though, would be largely his own. Parents would argue it’s society’s loss, because this kid is a budding Einstein. But the truth is that most gifted kids don’t become Einsteins.” Goldberg specializes in conduct disorders; conditions characterized by severe violations of social mores. In Alberta, identifying a gifted student no longer entitles schools to additional funds, but confirming a conduct disorder can bring in more than $16,000. “This is the kid who is going to be out there raping and murdering and robbing, and being a total financial loss to society. So of course, it’s a greater priority,” he says.

At both local and provincial levels, meanwhile, education officials insist they haven’t taken sides; that even in regular classrooms, gifted kids are getting the support they require. But in B.C., the number of students identified as gifted has dropped by nearly half since 2000. (The decline coincides with the province’s 2002 decision to stop earmarking special education dollars, which, says Education Minister Shirley Bond, gives boards “flexibility” to “best meet those needs.”) According to ministry records, the number of students receiving gifted programming has stayed consistent in Ontario and Alberta. But services and identification of students vary. Almost four per cent of students in Ottawa-Carleton have been identified as gifted, but a recent review revealed that in nearby Renfrew County, fewer than 20 students (0.2 per cent) had received the designation. Alberta Association for Bright Children president David Laughton says, “There are some jurisdictions that still claim they don’t have any gifted kids.”

Whether boards are doing enough to educate gifted students is open to interpretation. But since the tide turned toward inclusion, Ontario has seen some of the most protracted parent-board conflicts surrounding special education students, including gifted kids. Unique legislation, passed in 1980, requires boards to have procedures in place for the early identification of exceptional students, and either provide them with programming or purchase it from another board. And, significantly, if parents disagree with the outcome of an assessment or a placement decision, they’re entitled to an appeal.

Cornwall resident Michele Alexis started down this road when her son Cameron Bharath was in Grade 6. Her charge was that the Upper Canada District School Board’s criteria for giftedness was too high, because only a handful of students had been identified. In July 2001, the special education tribunal ruled in her favour, identifying Cameron, by then in Grade 8, as gifted, and ordering the board to place him in a full-time high school program. When September rolled around, however, no such placement had been created. Alexis took the case to divisional court. But because the wording of the tribunal order “was too imprecise,” she lost, and was on the hook for the board’s legal fees. After turning down her proposal to repay the $15,000 in instalments, the board seized her wages. For five months, Alexis, a doctor who owns a family practice, did not get paid.

The following August, the case went to tribunal again. Before the decision was rendered, the board extended an olive branch, which she accepted: it paid to have a private car transport Cameron to a full-time gifted class for the duration of his high school career. (The board later provided the same solution for his two siblings, the youngest of whom is currently in Grade 12. Alexis estimates the annual cost to be close to $30,000.) “I still consider myself kind of traumatized by the whole thing,” she says. “It’s hard to describe how you feel when you’re made to believe you have certain rights and privileges, and that the process is there to protect your child—and you discover it does neither.”

The board declined an interview. But in an email, the superintendent of student support services said that since the ruling, the board has begun scanning all Grade 4 students for giftedness, has offered enrichment to gifted kids, and developed a coaching model to help teachers with differentiated instruction.

In the vast majority of jurisdictions, however, the parent—not the province—remains the primary watchdog: “We are required to do it, but the problem is the province and the ministry have not enforced [the legislation],” says Ontario’s Halton Catholic District School Board trustee Bob Van de Vrande. “That’s a huge and critical gap.” It’s a gap that has also opened the door to costly demands that cash-strapped boards may be on the hook to meet. Although some parents are justified, according to gifted education expert Dona Matthews, “There are people who take it too far in terms of what their kids need.”

Pressure from government, teachers and parents means the context for cutting special education services is rarely the subject of candid discussion. Still, there are signs that in some jurisdictions, systemic changes are underway. The Ontario government is training teachers already on the job to satisfy a range of abilities through differentiated instruction, and recently gave the Ontario Psychological Association a $20-million grant to ease the backlog in assessments for all exceptionalities. Recruitment efforts are underway in B.C. to fill school board psychologist vacancies. And Alberta is creating a new framework for special education through public consultation—which, according to Strembitsky, who served as superintendent in Edmonton for 22 years, is key to staving off conflict. “In the absence of transparency, you get the different lobby groups, each feeling they have been shortchanged,” he says.

Jeremy Marshall’s family was fortunate to find a solution. Halfway through his Grade 2 year, they intentionally moved to a neighbourhood that had a school with a gifted program. Immediately, his mother knew they had made the right decision: “He would come home and talk about the other kids in his class. He knew their names, he knew what they looked like. He was interested in them.” Today, Jeremy is a well-adjusted 13-year-old, who babysits and often MCs school assemblies. “He’s so different now than that insecure little child who just loved to read,” she says. “I think finding other gifted children has probably allowed him to have a normal life.”


 

No room for gifted kids

  1. Interesting article. Nice to see a more realistic view of what gifted kids face – not all gifted kids are going to be university-ready at 11!

    Wondering how much of the funding increase for identification is being used for gifted? And exactly why is it that Ontario school boards are interpreting ‘require’ as optional – unless ‘enforced’?

    So… if we wait for the ‘social alienation and boredom’ to achieve ‘conduct disorder’ status – does that mean we can get funding?

  2. My child is in the gifted class where the photos were taken for this article. The board has taken steps to provide a new and fantastic home base for the kids, an AMAZING teacher, excellent technology and the students have been welcomed and included in their new school community and have integrated very successfully.
    Unfortunatlely, the board has not offered stability to the students or their families and there is talk of moving the program before the first year of its inception is over. The school board need to put people in place who support gifted education and who will give this program a chance before making changes just for the sake of making changes.

  3. There are similar battles ongoing between schools and parents who have children afflicted with
    learning difficulties. Often recommendations made by professionals who’ve assessed the child
    are not adhered to, replaced instead by the teachers own beliefs . Often information supposedly contained
    in reports that are to follow the child at year’s end winds up somewhere in the educational Outer Limits etc. etc. etc.
    But of course, these are learned people and know everything.

  4. I had a very similar experience to the kid in that article (particularly the jerk grade 2 teacher – well it was grade 3 in my case). For me, I think the main advantage was social – I was in a class with fellow nerds, many of whom remain good friends.

    I really can’t imagine that gifted kids are as costly to teach as the article suggests – I would be curious to know where the added costs come from, in fact.

  5. I had mixed feelings when I read this article – yes it is a shame that gifted children can not get the services that would help them stay engaged, but I’m not sure it is the education system’s job to provide everything for every child. It is important that children who are falling behind because of learning disabilities have a chance to get through to graduation. But parents of all children have a job to ensure that their child is stimulated beyond what the school can provide. Parents of gifted children can enrol them in courses, programs, activities outside of the school system that will encourage and support them to develop other skills and/or use their exceptional abilities elsewhere – how about a gifted child helping a non-reading child to learn to read or develop math skills (learning to teach and share your skills wih others is one of the most challenging activities a child can engage in). Schools have been tasked to solve so many problems that, even if given all the resources available, would not be able to do. I watched the movie October Sky the other night about the ‘rocket boys’ in the 1950’s – what an inspiration about teenagers exploring something that they found amazing and without a whole lot of ‘programming for gifted children’. However in our safety focused world of today, shooting off rockets probably would not be acceptable (unless we built a huge facility to help children engage) – but some of the best challenges I had as a child was cycling my bike to new places and figuring out how to get back. I guess my wandering points are – schools can’t do everything, parents need to engage their children in many ways outside of school, and if child is truly gifted, it might not take thousands and thousands of taxpayers dollars to help.

    • Using gifted students to teach others actually tends to be a waste of their “ability”, much for the same reason university research professors would be wasted teaching high school.

    • MJM, I understand your view – I used to have similar views myself – until I had a gifted child.

      First – teaching children has always been the role of school, hasn’t it? I expect my children to be helpful in school, but being a reading buddy for a kid in your own grade leads to issues of sticking out – for both children. Might work fine in Kindergarten, but after that there can be resentment from the perspective of both kids! Don’t use my child as a teacher’s helper! He is already different enough!

      Outside activities are great. My kids take karate, one is in hockey, one plays softball (and the government gives tax breaks for that) – but I don’t have the money to have them in learning programs on top of that. If I choose to put my kid in an academic after-school program, we would have to go without sports, video games or in some people’s cases… internet, clothing, food, rent? You choose. If you saw the cost of those programs you would understand.

      On the cost of gifted ed – The expense for gifted eduation is only $30,000 to the school board IF the school board refuses to implement cost-free solutions such as acceleration, gifted clusters, or the very small cost of grouping gifted kids in contained classes in their OWN school board!

      The expense of dealing with gifted and behavioural or gifted dropouts, etc. can be much more.

    • MJM, often the parents cannot provide activities outside of school for a gifted child. Why? The parents may just not be gifted.
      Just as parents of other exceptionalities are not trained to help their child, how can an average parent cope with their child’s giftedness? How can they cope with a gifted teenager?
      Please, educators everywhere, please accelerate or provide cluster grouping for all gifted kids – not just the kids with the pushy parents.
      Accelerating kids in clustered groups used to be the norm for education in Ontario, and parents didn’t need/have to know. Now everything is complicated and parents have to advocate, taking time away from their families and for what?

      • Hi there, im new to this site. My son hasn't been tested, but i have a strong feeling that when he is tested this year, he will be tested as gifted. Can you explain to me what "acceleration" and "cluster grouping" is. Im not sure i have a very supportive principal – and not sure about this year's teacher either. I need to know a bit more about school systems, ours is york region. thanks,
        LB

    • It was ok, and novel when my child was in grade 1 and helped his “reading buddy” who was in grade 5. Now in grade 6, his independent testing shows vocabulary, spelling and reading comprehension at a post secondary level. So day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year he goes to school hoping to learn. The stated requirement is that teachers have to follow the grade 6 curriculum. The Peel board has a policy against acceleration. It is reasonable to expect that if a Board requires the lock-step grade-by-age, then a child should expect some value from the time they spend in school. Could you imagine having the grade 6 kids day after day be satisfied with the kindergarten curriculum? And can you guess what behavior “problems” would ensue? Adding travel time to attend his “gifted program” puts him at a 40 hour week. His body is still that of an 11 year old. There are not enough hours in a day for him to languish in the classroom, and then have “real” learning after school hours and weekends. He needs time to play with other kids on the street, hang out, help around the house, be a kid, and get enough sleep.
      As for additional costs – the only visible difference is busing. The class size is the same. There are no additional resources. The best thing about a gifted class is letting children discover that they are not alone – that there are other kids out there like them. Something that most children get to discover in their home school.

      • Although I hate relying on anecdotal evidence and revealing personal information, I tested gifted in elementary school as well. Children from all over the municipality had classes once a week together in a special gifted class. We still had regular school four days a week and it didn’t turn us into delinquints. It was fun and all but I can’t say it made that big a difference and that I would have become disengaged without it. I still did most of my school work as did pretty much everyone else in the program. If kids are acting up in school, I suspect that their giftedness isn’t the source of the problem, or isn’t the only source.

        • Exactly – giftedness should not be the source of the problem, and it isn’t. Throwing dead weights at the fastest runners/skaters/swimmers etc. would cause more than a bit of parental anger from the sidelines. And yes – I would bet that those lead athletes who had the good fortune of physical genetics would get discouraged. My point is, why as a society do we support school board policy that insists that the fastest (note not best) thinkers cannot go at their natural pace because their bodies haven’t aged enough? Why don’t you tie the skates together of the fastest kid on the hockey team? Don’t the other kids feel bad? Does the coach feel insecure because he personally can’t demonstrate every move better than the child? The underlying message is often – well you really aren’t that good.

        • I’m certain (100%) that other posters have 130 IQ’s and some well beyond. We should not assume that our experiences are the same however.

          • Anyone else is, of course, free to speak about their own experience, especially those who have been in gifted cirriculums, and what they feel it means/meant to them. I’ve always been surprised at the notion that me and the others in my gifted class were somehow at risk if we weren’t there. In fact, it always seemed pretty absurd.

    • It would be nice to be able to enroll these kids in extracurricular activities, but the problem is that it takes time and money,things that very few parents can afford.

    • Yes, parents should always be involved. But, not all parents of gifted children have the resourses or expertise to challenge their gifted children.

    • MJM – I completely disagree. The primary rationale for special-needs classes and a plethora of programming for children on lower end of the learning curve is that all children have an equal right to a meaningful and stimulating education in a classroom setting. That’s what our school system is meant to provide. Kids who are on the other end of the learning curve have that same right. That’s equality.

      • If this were actually true, then calculus could never be taught in school, because it is the least meaningful and stimulating thing in the world.

        Rather, school is there to impart a base level of skills and knowledge in children. If you meet the minimum requirements you get to go on to the next grade, and so on until you graduate. It makes far more sense to concentrate on those who are having trouble reaching that baseline.

        • …and to babysit. Mike you are plain wrong.

          • I am sorry you feel this way.

        • You are wrong because calculus is not meaningless and is not the least stimulating thing in the world-again you are discussing your experience or opinion. Many people find calculus exciting and rewarding.
          If as a society we demand mediocrity from our institutions and stop encouraging greatness in all respects (intellectual, personal or otherwise) we are doomed for failure. By your expectations the elusive cures for our ills may take hundreds or thousands of years and not decades to discover. Global warming will continue unabated etc.
          My experience tells me there are serious problems with our education system presently. Every parent of a child with an LD or special need whether it’s behavioural or giftedness or other, that I have had the pleasure to meet that has a child in the system presently (not 20 or 30yrs ago-it was very different then (from experience)) is experiencing a system that is tragically flawed and broken. We aren’t making it up. It’s not simply about money either.

          • obviously i was kidding about calculus – I guess it is OK for some. But the flaw in your reasoning is that the opportunities for greatness just don’t exist in high school. By all means, let people develop as far as their capacity will take them. That’s the other side of the bare minimum standard I was explaining. Those minimum standards keep getting higher and higher (through high school, then university then grad school and beyond) and eventually only those with the best tools (either through natural ability or hardest work) will remain.

          • The standards are NOT getting higher, they’re getting lower. The Peel board now says that a level 2 on the EQAO is acceptable because level 2 is equal to a C which is a passing grade. If a student gets a D the teacher can, and sometimes is required to, bump it to a C.

            Gifted children are bored in the regular classroom. Try taking a beginners typing lesson 5 days a week for 6 weeks, you’ll see what I mean. You’ll likey dropout before the course is over.

          • My child’s school told me that previously they had a “wonderful” gifted program but that the most recent provincial government cancelled all funding when they came into power.
            Why does their have to be $$$$ dollar signs (i.e. funding for gifted) on my child’s head before the schools will do something for him??? Why do I have to become someone who has to push constantly to get things done for my child knowing they are being done begrudgingly rather than willingly.
            The thought has occurred to me that if there was funding for a school lunch program/breakfast program and you knew that there were kids for whom this may be their only meal for the day, would you stop trying to feed those kids if funding was cut?? Of course not.
            Where is the professional/moral obligation to our kids?? …..It isn’t there.
            We need to educate the educators, educate the public and keep our voices heard…not just as individuals but in numbers.
            Our kids are not just bright, they are gifted…..there should not be guilt associated with saying this…. it is just a fact.

          • My son is not allowed to develop (at school) as far as his capacity will take him. Not only is he not allowed, his abilities have been ridiculed by (some) teachers. He is forcibly held back intellectually at an unnatural level. This has a profoundly negative affect on spirit-on his soul. Why wait till high school to allow minds to flourish? One risk of not encouraging their intellectual tools is that they drop out (school and society) at a larger rate than the minimum standard folks. The greater risks are societal. We all lose out if this is allowed. There is way too much emphasis on meeting the needs of the educator and not the student. Output is the measuring stick not knowledge. This was not the case in the past.

            No one has discussed bullying as a risk-it’s there too and it’s bad.

        • “If you meet the minimum requirements you get to go on to the next grade”

          That is just not true though – if you meet the minmium AGE and ACADEMIC requirements – you get to go on. This is my biggest problem – you don’t really have acceleration options in Ontario anymore. It is the cheapest, and possibly most appropriate method of meeting these kids needs. If it was done routinely, both subject based (by holding all math classes at the same time and allowing kids to move to the most appropriate level class, same for English, and Science) and full grade – where appropriate by proper analysis using a tool like the Iowa Acceleration Scale, you would see happier kids all around!

          • This is true of course, and it if it were put into place it would affect more than just gifted students. I believe many school systems don’t advocate it because there can be peer problems if you end up being significantly younger than everyone else in your class (and if it’s true that the gifted children will perform noticeable better across the board, and there are negative affects to general age imbalance, it could actually negatively affected the gifted to a greater extent than others. It might not mean much to be a year or two younger than most in the class, but if your the kid who is getting ready to finish high school in grade 6 i could see how that could be uncomfortable).

          • This is actually in response to Mike..

            That is the thing Mike – there have been very few additonal social problems for radically accelerated kids, – check out A Nation Deceived and read up on the Iowa Acceleration Scale – if done properly, acceleration works very well.

            You have to take into account that a kid who is 5 years ahead in Math for example ALREADY sticks out in the regular class. Being in a class of older kids might make him stick out, but at least people can understand *why* a bit better. Older kids tend to be more mature than the grade-mates anyway, just because they are older. They could be more accepting of someone so different.

        • Why on earth would you claim that calculus is not meaningful nor stimulating? Calculus is wonderful. I loved it.

  6. I was clumsy with my fingers so my Grade One teacher told my parents I wouldn’t be able to learn to print let alone write. On the other hand I could read before I started school. Does that mean I was similar gifted and learning disabled? Or just that different people learn different things at different times?

    My expereince in elementary school was that teachers were only comfortable with a mushy middle group that could learn at their prompting. Kids who learned on their own (me except for messy handwriting and glue-besotted art projects) and kids who had difficulty learning in the classroom were both considered discipline problems.

    In other words compliance and conformity was the real objective.

    I don’t see a lot of evidence this has changed, but I’m very happy that teachers were not allowed to hit my kids they way they routinely hit me with sticks, rulers, pointers and their bare hands, usually because I was “being smart.”

    • I think learning disabilities and giftedness often go hand-in-hand. Because people are unable to learn things one way (say they have no ability to visualize – I know an Ivy League physics phd student like that), they may learn a topic through some different means, and so, have a unique perspective on it.

      I think the way we think about learning disabilities is flawed. Most people tend to think “learning disability = stupid” (the principal they cited in the article had that comment about certain students being future rapists). People with learning disabilities are often quite smart, but perform well below their potential because they are not assessed. I think gifted students are very likely to fall into this camp – they may get average (or below average) grades because they are very smart, but say, have poor penmanship.

      Our approach should be to look at each student and ask what needs to be done so they can reach their full potential, rather than the current triage ordering which seems to focus mostly on preventing students from becoming rapists and murderers (to paraphrase the principal). Is raising say, a poor student to the level of being a below average student more important than raising an average student to the level of being a good student?

      I say both are equally important. A vibrant economy requires innovators who tend to come from that upper strata. The fruits of their eventual labor benefit those at the bottom.

  7. Honestly, this article is seriously weak. There is no deep insight into how incredibly inept the various Boards of Education are, or the inequity and ill treatment they dispense to this marginalized group of children. It’s too bad these kids can’t run fast, kick a ball far or jump high-there would be so much more opportunity for them at school.
    Since the 1980’s there has been a refusal to accelerate (skip) and an attempt to integrate these kids with mainstream. This pervasive philosophy in our educators is akin to forcing a mainstream “normal” 11 year olds to use crayons and sit in circle time reciting their ABC’s (many Gifted are operating 5-6 grades above their age group).
    Not all of these kids will become Einstein, that’s for sure. Einstein is Einstein inspite of his education not because of it. As a society we need all children to become the best person they can be.
    We are failing our brightest because we have allowed educators to place value on process and curriculum and not on learning.
    The article could have bared more teeth.

  8. In Ontario parents do not have any real options re what school to place their children. We have a social sardine can which crams everyone into one space. Rogue boards have an unlimited authority to impose the most ridiculous pedagogical constraints upon it’s community or worse still, to micromanage their schools into incompetence. Toronto has schools infested with violent behavor, and on and on.

    Successful educational jurisdictions, such as Quebec, Alberta, New Zealand, Norway,etc have charter schools, which offer a small opportunity to have your child educated in an environment more need specific. Obama recognizes the need to double funding for charter schools. But in Ontario, the turkey province, the kids, the parents, and the teachers are being took. Yes, Ontario we have a problem which requires unleashing the brain power of your children. Yet, like a turkey, you’re running about in the rain with your mouth wide open while facing the heavens. Stupid is as stupid does.

    • We need to get more involved in our Municipal elections. What are the educational views of those running for trustee. Trustees make policy at school boards. Nothing will change unless we start questioning our trustees and expecting them to be advocates for our children instead of making policies that cater to Administration. The Ontario Ministry of Education allows accelerations, it’s the schools who don’t allow it because of polices make by trustees. In the next Municipal election, instead voting for the person at the top of the list of those running for trustee or the name you recognize, investigate the views.

  9. I cannot afford private education and i strongly believe education should be free world wide. However, i spoke with my feet and withdrew my child to home tutor until i found a private school for gifted and intelligent children. He is finally happy to go to school and now enjoys learning and socializing with other like minds.

    The cost: Daily 3 hours driving to and from the school and the cost of this education has put a great strain on our family income. This is priceless when i consider the damage Ontario public school’s was doing to my child’s mind, self-esteem and abilities.

    However, it would be a great help if i didn’t have to pay tax towards my local schools. Firstly this would help towards to cost of the private education.
    Secondly if more parents of gifted children were to opt out of public school and the local school boards would be forced to use the tax dollars to for the greater good of all student attending. Therefore, special needs both ends of the spectrum would gain greater consideration.

    • I have a child with special needs at the other end of the spectrum as gifted children and have always found it ironic that here in Alberta they are included in the same ‘financing’ category (mild, moderate and gifted) while those with severe intellectual disability and as noted ‘behavior’ have their own special categories. It’s almost as if the extremely intelligent and those who are intellectually delayed but can function at some level are seen as expendable. Believe me, the resources given to this category of funding is pretty much abysmal across the board, the biggest difference made by individual teachers. While our kids may have ‘special’ classrooms the education they’re receiving, again individual exceptional classrooms exempted, is nothing special.

      After years of pushing the system, and especially here in Edmonton Public where the famed Strembitsky’s school based budgeting system has meant a total disconnect between the intent of the policies of Alberta Education and how that is interpreted, with much hand wringing but no action at the board level, I’m thinking a private special education system (they receive much more funding here than a charter would) might serve the needs of special students much better.

      • It’s true. The one-size-fits-all approach of the public education system serves only one group of students: the average. Everybody on the fringes is served very poorly.

  10. So where’s the actual data on the likelihood of gifted children encountering problems if they don’t get special attention, and the severity of these risks? I’ll bet they don’t reveal that big a problem. Just as important, where’s the data on how much all of this is parents wish fulfillment, rather than actual need.

    I’m going to add a cut and paste from the website “Stuff White People Like”, on gifted children. It’s satire, but I think it hits closer to the mark than this article.

    • Here it is:

      White people love “gifted” children, do you know why? Because an astounding 100% of their kids are gifted! Isn’t that amazing?

      I’m pretty sure the last non-gifted white child was born in 1962 in Reseda, CA. Since then, it’s been a pretty sweet run.

      The way it works is that white kids that are actually smart are quickly identified as “gifted” and take special classes and eventually end up in college and then law school or med school.

      But wait, aren’t there white people who aren’t doctors or lawyers, or even all that smart?

      Well, here is another one of those awesome white person win-win situations.

      Because if a white kid gets crappy grades and can’t seem to ever do anything right in school, they are still gifted! How you ask? They are just TOO smart for school. They are too creative, too advanced to care about the trivial minutiae of the day to day operations of school.

      Eventually they will show their creativity in their elaborate constructions of bongs and intimate knowledge different kinds of mushrooms and hash.

      This is important if you ever find yourself needing to gain white person acceptance. If you see their kid playing peacefully, you say “oh, he/she seems very focused, are they in a gifted program?” at which point the parent will say “yes.” Or if the kid is lighting a dog on fire while screaming at their mother, you say “my he/she is a creative one. Is he/she gifted?” To which the parent will reply “oh, yes, he’s too creative and smart for school. We just don’t know what to do.” Either situation will put a white person in a better mood and make them like you more.

      But NEVER under any circumstance imply that their child is less than a genius. The idea that something could come from them and be less than greatness is too much for them to bear.

      • I dunno Mike, white kids are a minority in the gifted classes I’ve seen. Placement is based on standardized tests. This special treatment for white kids hypothesis of yours seems rather far-fetched.

  11. Hi Mike,

    Try doing an internet search on ‘gifted kids at risk’. There are many respected sources that have done actual research on the issue. There are REAL risks. Not just from being unchallenged, but from being ostracised, or being outcasts, or from not developing proper study skills because they never had to work to learn the basics.

    And – are the kids in the article white at all? I don’t think race was mentioned (or is relevant either for that matter).

    You know what I want my kids to learn? I want them to learn HOW to learn – that means being introduced to things they have not already learned on their own.

    • Most of the writing is suspiciously short of the kind of data I’d be looking for – documented statistical evidence that being gifted is the cause of serious long lasting problems for a significant number of gifted persons.

      If being good at something is giving you problems, chances are you’ve got bigger problems than being good at something.

      • I can agree with some of that. Seeing as how only around 2% of the population is gifted, and my guess is that most of them are just fine emotionally, socially, academically, etc. there might not be reliable statistics even if statistics were kept. Add to that the fact that not all gifted kids are identified and you can’t really have stats that mean anything anyway.

        I do think you are misunderstanding the basic idea of ‘gifted’ however. Gifted is more *learning differently* and less *being good at something*. I do have three gifted kids (yup – must be middle-class). One *needs* gifted classes. One is doing great with weekly congregation with bright and gifted peers. One is only in kindy – and I reserve the right to decipher how things are going at a later date. The teacher is making an effort though, which means a lot.

        Story is off the main page now – nice talking to you.

    • And the white stuff is because its cut and pasted from the website “stuff white people like”. It’s a satire blog that uses ‘white’ as a stand in for middle-class hipster.

  12. Mike, which Board do you work for?
    20% of High School dropouts are gifted-Not 20% of High Schoolers are gifted. You could start there.
    People who live through the anguish and difficulties (and joys) of parenting the Intellectually gifted are probably not much interested in your white satire. Perhaps posting on MAXIM magazines site would be more your speed.

    • That by itself is marginally interesting but nowhere near conclusive, or even barely indicative.

  13. In the end, the best solution is often to home educate a child who needs to be brought along faster than the average. Public schooling is by nature a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

    • That’s so unfair. Why not ask parents with slow kids to stay home and home school them!? My parents had jobs, they couldn’t ditch them to stay home with me and my sister (we were both deemed gifted).

      Honestly, if you wouldn’t ask that of a parent with a learning disabled child, don’t ask it of a parent who happens to have a gifted child.

  14. First, social democratic governments whose mandate in part is to offer public education which by definition means Education for All, is a principle promoted by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Taxpayers would be appalled to know that many of our brightest and high potential students are left to languish on their own. When the boredom sets in, the behavioral challenges begin; for these young people, it can often be too late for an additional $16,000 a year to make a significant difference in their futures: the result is a poor economic and social investment. We should know better!

    Second, not every family in Canada can afford another option. Yes, gifted children are born in families of every race, religion, and ethnicity, and by extension to parents of all economic and social standing. I cannot quote the statistics of the last Census, but rare are those families who can afford options such as home-schooling, private school, extra-curricular activities, etc.

    Third, it is time that formal research be conducted on what percentage of the prison population (inmates) would be identified as gifted. This could provide Macleans magazine with a real story comparing political, economic and social costs. [ref. social alienation and drop-out rate in above article]

    Last, I myself was identified as a child and because no one explained what those tests were, I grew up not only feeling like a *freak* but desperately trying to hide it, trying to fit in at all costs. My father is no doubt profoundly gifted; and my son was identified in elementary school. Not one of us asked to *be* this way; we suffer privately and in silence.

  15. The Special Ed system in Canadian schools serves the vested interests of of the adult ‘professionals; employed by the Education system – schools, boards and Ministry. But any child labelled in the Special ed system in Canada will be deprived of the education they need. The perverse incentives of putting a price on a child’s head if they can be diagnosed by a school psychologist with anything that can be claimed for dollars from the government means than many thousands of children have been deliberately mis-diagnosed with fake disorders. In Ontario the psychologists went as far as to invent a new definition of learning disability (2 Standard deviations between IQ and achievement) which would TARGET ONLY VERY BRIGHT children. The Ontario definition for LD is in direct conflict with that in the US (which was banned by the US Department of Education as actively harmful). That is why so many gifted children have been labelled as LD in Canada. The worst labelling of gifted children as LD was done in Toronto by the TDSB. They have just released a report showing that children fail according to their race, but it omits to conclude that these children have been targeted by Ontario’s Intensive Support Amount (ISA 2 and 3), which was worth $12,000 to $27,000 per child per year from 1997-2006. The program and the 54,000 children have been grand-fathered in government funds worth over C$1 Billion a year. At the same time children with real disabilities (autism, intellectual disabilities) can’t access any resources in the school system in Ontario because there is supposedly no money!
    Diagnosis for Dollars: Children are profit centers for school boards, psychologists, psychiatrists etc. The more labels and imaginary mental disorders children can be diagnosed with the more profit potential they have for school boards, psychologists, drug companies. Imagine a world without the hundreds of new subjective mental disorders in the psychiatric diagnostic manual the DSMIV: billions of dollars profit would be lost for school boards and drug companies; thousands of psychologists and psychiatrists would be out of a job BUT millions of children and families would be allowed to live happily ever after!
    Can Macleans report the real story – or is it too scandalous?
    Check out the latest research in the US reported by PBS – the psychiatrists that promoted bipolar disorder in children were paid millions by the drug companies. PBS also did an amazing doc on completely healthy normal children who were turned into permanently disabled teens through the side effects of psychiatric drugs.

    • As a parent of a 10 year old who has both a very superior intellect and a learning disability I would like to tell you that both “labels” are very real.
      As a parent who has to advocate for special services for both of my child’s exceptionalities, I don’t think parents of children who are exceptionally abled should be pitted against parents of children who are learning disabled when it comes to demanding better for our children from the educational system. Both sides only want their children to be able to reach their maximum potential without barriers and discrimination from a system that is supposed to educate them.
      We wouldn’t tie the shoes of an exceptional runner because all the otheres can’t run as fast…..we’d let him run, we’d celebrate his achievements, award him, give him scholarships!
      My child can learn things at a much faster pace than others. He didn’t ask to be that way, it is just how he is.
      We know his potential, as well as his limitations. We do what we can for him. We are limited in that we are not his intellectual equals, not even close, so why shouldn’t we ask that our schools acommodate him. We are Canadian taxpayers too.
      I do feel that we should have the right to every bit as much support for his ability as his diability from our educational system.

    • Maybe the answer is to have children assessed by psychologist employed by the Ministry of Education instead of by the school boards.

  16. Just a thought-it is not long ago that lefties had their hand tied behind them to make them like the others (right handed). Are we doing the same to our brightest minds?

  17. Just a thought-it is not long ago that lefties had their hand tied behind them to make them like the others (right handed). Are we doing the same to our brightest minds?
    F.Gump – you have hit the nail on the head – except today In Canada it’s not only left-handed kids, but boys, recent immigrant kids, single-parent kids, black kids – in fact any kid the teacher doesn’t want to teach (or doesn’t know how to teach or even just doesn’t want to teach). The Royal Commission on the Love of Learning over a decade ago had a good name for LD – it was teaching deficit disorder. In other words it is not the children or their parents who are at fault for not teaching their children to read BEFORE their first day at school – but the teachers many of whom have no idea how to teach kids to read! This is 90% of learning disability / dyslexia and you’re right in thinking many left-handed children are labelled, along with other minorities and vulnerable children.
    The EQAO results for Ontario were reported in many papers today and the education Minister Kathleen Wynne wants to know why boys are not achieving. Minister Wynne knows the answer is that boys are easily targeted for labelling as LD or ADHD under the Intensive Support Amount, which still brings in over $1 billion a year to school boards. How can boys ever catch up to girls when they are so easily labelled under the imaginary psychiatric disorders of LD or ADHD – because boys lag girls in development at younger ages and tend to fidget in class more than girls!
    The definition of Learning disability was discredited decades ago – a discrepancy between IQ and achievement is mostly due to poor teaching and the rest is a statistical anomaly ie it is not possible for very bright children to EVER achieve to the level of their tested IQ. Therefore in Canda and especially Ontario they will be labelled as gifted LD. Too bad a label of gifted is worth zero dollars to the school boards in Ministry grants – but gifted LD was worth up to $27,000 per child per year under the ISA system for over a decade from 1997-2006. There is a lost generation of bright children in Canada and its ranks come mainly from recent immigrants. There is a name for this kind of eradication by race in other parts of the world – but it is simply known as Special Ed in Canada,

    • I had my child assessed privately.
      The school had no idea that he had a high iq or struggled with learning, they saw him as average….he didn’t stand out to them.
      Outside of school he was able to shine. People were constantly amazed by his intelligence.
      But when school came into the picture, at home, I saw my brilliant child become depressed and withdrawn. He was spending 3-5 hours a night (mostly in tears) trying to write 2 minutes worth of homework. It wasn’t a matter of not trying hard enough(no one worked as hard) or not knowing how to do it (he was painfully aware) or not knowing what was expected of him….he just could not do it. For a child as bright as my child not being able to keep up with the other students on something so basic became a debillitating mental block. The diagnosis as well as the recommendations put forth for his LD would allow him to come back on a level playing field with his classmates.
      I do not live in Ontario and have no idea whether or not my child’s school recieves funding for LD’s but I do know that my son’s LD is real and measurable.
      I agree that putting a financial sum on a LD is equivalent to doctors recieving kick backs from drug reps…it makes you question how often a diagnosis is being made and the legitimacy of the diagnosis…but that does not mean that the condition/disease is not real. LD’s are real.
      My son’s school has no gifted program, our province has no gifted programming. Although special services for exceptionally abled learners isstated as part of the ISP, but there are no actual programs for them.
      I think cluster grouping works, but that is not available either (except for in chosen extra cirricular activities where again, I see my son shine)
      I do fear that society will lose out if we do not ensure that these bright minds are not allowed to languish, treading water and learning nothing new in our school system.
      They are the innovators, the risk takers, they are our future. Money definately needs to be put into programming for them (not taken away) and our teachers need to enter schools with the tools necessary to identify, educate and motivate these children early.
      As it stand right now I do think that there is no place in school for gifted kids.

      • Dear P Walsh – you need to educate yourself for your child’s sake. There is no such thing as a learning disability – it is not even in the psychiatric bible the DSM IV. Please read Learning Disability: The Imaginary Disease (Paperback) by Thomas G. Finlan (Author). Some of this excellent book was available online and it was written long before LD was discredited by the leading US academics in the field as harmful and effectively abolished by the US Department of Education (in about 2003). The ‘symptoms’ you describe in your child are the direct result of being labelled – it is the well documented phenomenon of the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. In non-scientific jargon it is similar to the tale of the elephant who has been reared tethered to a pole, when the rope is removed the elephant never wanders from the pole. There is absolutely no medical or scientific basis for learning disability; it was simply invented for the convenience of teachers and for the profit of the psychologists etc.

        • I am trying my best to educate myself. I am learning many things the hard way. My child was not labelled BEFORE the symptoms appeared….we had him assessed AFTER he developed symptoms based on the fact that he was having such a hard time with what should have been so very easy to a child with his obvious intellectual strengths. So I do not feel self-fulfilling prophecy comes into play here.

          • Concerned parent, there most definitely are such things as learning disabilities. The issue is (by the way I am no expert) that learning disabilities are generally fairly specific. We need to stop thinking in terms of learning disabled vs. gifted – you don’t need to buy into specific intelligences theory to conclude that people can be excellent at some things (eg. visual-spatial reasoning) and horrible at others (say, verbal tasks).

            A friend of mine, for instance, is incapable of visualizing things. I may not have a “learning disability” but I definitely process the spoken word more slowly than most people. Both of us have done well by finding strategies to get around our shortcomings (I insert prefaces to everything I say, but am secretly figuring out what the other person said). Of course it is difficult when teachers teach things in very specific ways.

            P Walsh, I definitely emphathize with your son’s situation. In grade 3 I was put on the “dumb table” (the ordering of the tables in class was fairly obvious), and tested for a learning disability because I was disengaged from school. Based on the test it was recommended I go to gifted classes, and there I went (in spite of the specific objection of my grade 3 teacher, who still thought I was dumb as a rock).

  18. Several years ago, the John Templeton Foundation sponsored a report that supported acceleration for gifted children. The report is called A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, and it discusses many types of acceleration besides grade skipping. You can download it for free at http://www.nationdeceived.org, so you can judge it for yourself.

  19. Both of my kids have been privately assessed — and both have IQs that place them as far in the “gifted” end of the spectrum as someone who is severly mentally handicapped would be on the other end of it. Trust me, it is a mixed blessing. It is very isolating to the entire family to have kids like this and they have many issues and quirks to their personalities that are not easy to live with.

    I looked at putting my eldest child in public school but, at Kindergarten age, I had a child who could read encyclopedias and do multiplication. The school would have put him in grade one where the kids (a year further ahead of where my child was at the time) were doing single digit adding and sounding out letters. It would have been a recipe for disaster!

    They would not consider acceleration, and the only gifted assessments begin in grade 4. I cannot understand why the schools don’t do gifted assessments earlier. As any parent of a gifted child knows, it is very clear by toddlerhood that your child is different. By the time you get to the 4th grade, a child who has been forced to sit through years of mind-numbing “education” will likely have tuned out, had their innate love of learning permanently squelched, been labled as a trouble-maker and/or medicated into compliance.

    I refused to put my kids through this, and have given up a professional career to homeschool them. Sometimes, if you want a job done right, you simply have to do it yourself.

    To all those who can’t homeschool their gifted kids for whatever reason, or don’t have adequate gifted programming elsewhere, my heart goes out to you. It’s time people stopped thinking of gifted education as “elitist” and started putting some effort toward making the most of these brains!

    • LisaDSB : I would like to commend you on your courage.
      I think that we, as parents, have to speak loud and then louder again to dispel the mis-eduacation out there about our gifted children …as well as the mis-education OF our gifted children.
      As JFK said “A child miseducated is a child lost” and that is really what is happening in the school system with some of our brightest and most capable minds!

  20. I was in the gifted program from grade 2 until grade 8, followed by enriched classes all through high school, and it made all the difference in the world. The thought that another gifted student might have to persevere through ordinary classes for years is saddening as being with people several levels below you is frustrating and quite boring, something many people will never truly understand. It sounds conceited, but it’s the equivalent of spending 8h a day with someone who doesn’t get things that you consider simple concepts, and having nothing else you’re allowed to do but sit there until everyone in the class gets what you figured out in 5 minutes. I am a product of the gifted program in Etobicoke, On. and hope that every child that qualifies in the future has the same opportunity to learn and grow as I did.

    • Nice to hear a “good news” story. Thanks for sharing.

  21. I also have a profoundly gifted child who is in the top 99.9th percentile. I am grateful that he is in a contained gifted class, given the existing alternatives in our school board. But after 5 years of a contained class believe me when I say it is not the panacea that it is made out to be.

    My son has suffered – often along with class mates as being in the “nerd” or “geek” class – made fun of and bullied – and not just bye the other students, but often by the adults in the school. He has had teachers and administrators make comments lke “you’re not so special, just wait until you get out into the real world” etc.. Teachers have turned the other way when he has been picked on in the school playground at recess. I could go on and on. His experiences in the gifted contained class have varied in accordance with the support of the school administration. When a prinicpal wants the gifted class in his/her school and supports it, we have a better year. When the administrator doesn’t want or believe in gifted education it has been a disaster. Similarly when the teacher wants to be in the class with these students they do much better, but that is also hit and miss.

    All this and my son is often still bored in his class. Why? All this money is spent to bus him to a different school for his gifted contained class where he learns the same ciriculum as everyone else in his grade – but he does get to do his own independent research project every semester. When I contacted Peel Board about acceleration I was laughingly told by our school supperintendent that acceleration is not emotionally good for gifted children. It sets them apart and makes them appear different. Here’s a news flash they are different – they know it and so does everyone else. My son has trouble relating to people his own age but gets along well with older kids or younger kids. But we wouldn’t want to “emotionally scar” him by moving him to a grade level where he might be challenged and where he might be able to make friends and where the cost would be minimal. Instead he is left to the hit and miss of his gifted contained class.

    And by the way to the person who commented on how it is also the parents’ responsibility to shoulder some of this burden – gifted kids don’t just end up in the homes of people with high incomes. We’re lucky that we’ve been able to afford two rounds of private testing (one more to go in grade 12 for university) at $2,000 each, not to mention gifted summer camp at $1600 for two weeks, not to mention Kumon at $100 per month because the school system never taught our son basic mathematics, not to mention membership costs to things like the ROM and Science Centre to keep him interested, etc., etc., etc.

    I often say the label “gifted” is so inappropriate…

  22. If your child has IEP (ie Special ed) on their report card the grades are completely meaningless. Most kids in Special Ed are LD (Learning Disabled) and were mis-diagnosed and labelled in Ontario’s Diagnosis for Dollars scandal. The definition used for LD to claim a billion dollars a year from the government was a definition of LD that had been discredited by the US government and its leading academics in the field.
    The reason is that the Ontario definition of Learning Disability massively over-identifies very bright children ie close to ‘gifted’, This just means that this children are about 2-3 years or grade levels in advance of their peers. The research for home-schooled children shows that on average they are also 2-3 years in advance of their peers. This is not because they are ‘gifted’ – but as the research has well established just being taught at their own pace and are motivated to learn as they can focus on what interest them ie an individually tailored program. The research shows that the average 2-3 years that home-schoolers are in advance of both public and private school children is regardless of the education level of the parents.

    In Ontario we no longer have to guess which bright children were labelled by Ontario’s diagnosis for dollars Special Ed C$billion ISA scandal as the Toronto District school board just published EQAO test results by race. It is immigrant minorities that have been targeted and most of their brightest children diagnosed as LD or LD/gifted by the bogus ISA definition (2- standard deviations of IQ in one area versus an academic score in one unrelated subject). Total nonsense of course – but it did bring in Billions of dollars in extra funding and school boards evaded most of the ex Premier Mike Harris education cuts by mis-diagnosing immigrant children especially in Toronto.

    In addition billions of dollars were claimed under the behavioural profiles for ISA (Intensive Support Amount) that made unruly children worth up to $27,000 per year. This had the perverse incentive of rewarding schools for bad behaviour; is it any wonder that the schools in Toronto are now so violent?

    All this is well documented on the internet.
    The US and UK have recognised their mistakes in labelling kids LD and ADHD etc and have put in extensive reforms to stop the irreparable damage to children.
    When will Ontario and Canada follow the rest of the world?

    • Concerned Parent, are you trying to say that many bright children are misidentified as LD so they can get funded? That would mean that boards were giving IQ tests to look for such a thing. Not happening in my experience. IEP vs Report Card? In the 8 years experience I have with IEPs for gifted children – there has never once been an alteration in grade expectations for my gifted kids, nor for the gifted kids of any other parent I know.

      The whole discussion about ISA funding is not generally a part of the knowledge base of the everyday parent. There was a freeze of sorts on psychoeducational testing about 7 years ago regarding the whole ISA mess and I can agree that boards who were over identifiying LD or behaviour were massively rewarded for it. And then – those false figures were used as a base for future funding, if I remember correctly.

      Gifted receives next to no funding, therefore there was no reward to identify gifted and gifted psychoeducational testing was practically non-existent.

      Speaking again from a Peel perspective, Peel used to have a gifted program that was envied and studied by experts from other countries because it was so well run. (Same program that spawned the Peel Summer Academy). Now the program is as marginalized as the kids are. There is very little support, infrequent professional development opportunities and no defineable program. The joke of the so called ‘3 year Gifted Review’ which started in 2005 and was sceduled to be presented in spring 2008, has yet to be revealed. Maybe the review exposes more in support of actual gifted education than the Peel Board is willing to implement? Kids and parents were surveyed – I filled it out and so did my son – I asked for a copy of the review when it was completed.

      Where is it?

    • Are you saying that all children are of equal intelligence?
      Just because a board abused a funding grant by purposly mis-diagnosing children doesn’t mean that there aren’t children out there with special education needs. Many children are privately assessed and diagnosed as LD, gifted or gifted/LD.
      These is no funding for a diagnosis of ADHD in Ontario.

  23. As a gifted child that was never truly challenged, reaching university was a wonderful experience and opened up my eyes to how enjoyable education can truly be when challenged.

    I think it is shameful that public education takes a one-size fits-all approach. Only average students benefit from this. Students with abilities that differ from the average are not well-served.

    Why is it that the “average” students get an education taylored to their abilities and the rest of the students must settle with less? How is this equality in the slightest?

  24. I heard of gifted children special classes before having a kid of my own from various friends. Some might believe these programs are meant to help gifted kids to advance at a higher pace due to their higher skills. Well, after having such a kid (highest mark – 99% in all three tests performed on pre-school kids) I found this is not true. There are several issues regarding bright kids. One is that being bored of what they are doing in school (things they already know or repeating numerous times something they catch from the first time) within a short period of time they become under-achievers. Due to their different interests than most other kids, they are soon rejected by the other kids and then bullied. Unfortunately kids are bright since they are born not from 4th grade and until then they are completely unprotected. My kid in JK started having a hard time because his teacher insisted to do with him the same curriculum as the other kids. The fact he was already reading and writing and was performing additions, subtractions and multiplications had no importance and was asked to write numbers from 1 to 10. Fortunately he soon got a new teacher who told us that he is completely bored and they started giving him tests and books from SK and Grade 1 level. They also told us to enroll him at PACE academy, if we can, because in public school he will have real problems. The same advice we got from a specialist in bright kids after she briefly consulted our son. Moreover, she even told us all difficulties our son will encounter in a public school. We had him tested for PACE and as I said he got the maximum scores in all 3 tests. However, due to logistics issues we enrolled him into a public school. In four months we had been called 3 times by his teacher. Beside the fact his teacher did not even notice his giftedness she was trying to tell us he is the slowest in the class. I clearly saw in her eyes she really hated our son and according to her own words she was trying to crush his stubbornness most of the time. This was due mainly because our son was correcting her during classes and because he developed silliness as the only answer to high frustration he was enduring. Moreover, his teacher did such a way to be rejected by the other kids too (in order not to influence them) and even more than that isolated him in the class. Of course, things are a lot more complicated than this but it would be hard to present them all. Obviously we could have gone to the Principal, but I had to remember what I was told that will happen and we decided to enroll him in PACE right away especially after he spent one day in that school, and for the first time I saw him really excited after one day of school.
    In conclusion, what some may see as a luxury treatment for gifted children they should rather see it as a necessary protection for them in order not to waste an important intelectual capital.

    • OMG Adrian! Our experiences are nearly identical. We had the same troubles with our SK teacher this year, and the more I advocated for gifted programming the more the teacher and school seemed to dig in their heels against it. In our case however, we were at a Private Christian School. The staff had absolutely no understanding what-so-ever of how to address the needs of a gifted learner. Instead they wanted to label my daughter as being ADD or AD/HD, and suggested I should have her tested by a pediatrician. The other kids picked up on the teacher’s negative attitude towards my daughter and they behaved accordingly towards her with the exception of a very small few. But even still she could not form any bonds of friendships because her vocabulary and interests were so far beyond the norm for the age that her age peers couldn’t relate and the general perception was that she was just weird. I did have my child tested, but by a psychologist… and the tests and her observations proved what I already knew, that my child was not ADD or AD/HD, but was in fact gifted. I ended up withdrawing my child from the school and tried to find another in our area that might better serve her needs, but there were none. Northern Ontario communities are sadly lacking adequate programs for gifted kids. We don’t have PACE or other private schools which are endeavoring to educate bright & gifted children, so Northern Ontario children who are bright or gifted are being robbed of their legal right to be educated and to progress at their own rate. Ask the public and Catholic boards however, and they all boast that their programs are doing an exceptional job of meeting the needs of gifted students. Ask the parents… well they are thankful for what little is offered… and most had to fight hard to get it, but they agree it is far from adequate. And most state that they could not afford private education if it were available. I and others like me who are burned out from fighting a system and getting no where, have no other option but to home school.

      • Obviously we have been told the same thing and his Grade 1 teacher tried twice to tell us to take him to a doctor for ADHD. Not even after we told her we have been before but the result was that he is a bright kid and after we showed her his tests, she still did not seem to understand anything.
        Who doesn’t have AD when facing a boring subject? And what bright kid whose brain is working several times faster than an average kid is not hyperactive? These are not medical conditions, they are just the effect of their giftedness. I was explained even why they are stubborn and how this stubbornness can be changed into determination through adequate education. I know work with gifted children is a lot harder than the one with average kids but the same way is much easier to pick-up stones rather than digging for diamonds. Does it mean we should not dig for diamonds anymore?

        • Yes I agree… but unfortunately most school boards seeing some value in those stones think that it is more cost effective to pick up the stones on the surface than to dig for other treasures. They don’t really put the children first, they are only looking at their bottom line… their budget. The budget comes first and they fit the needs of the children in where they can, with the needs of gifted children at the very bottom of their priorities. Schools & school boards seem to have taken a “you can’t help them all” attitude and tend to focus on what will be of most help to the majority population (the average learner). What is sadder is that there is a growing number of the general population who in their ignorance are taking the same biggoted view. If it were not for government legistlation schools and school boards would be leaving gifted and LD learners completely out in the cold. However, even with government legistlation many schools & boards do little or anything (unless a parent has spent much time & money fighting for it) because there is no one enforsing the legistlation! As well, parent councils, whose job was long ago meant to hold teachers and school boards accountable, have over the years been striped of their original mandate and limited to the role of activity and fundraising coordinators.
          I am so thankful for this McClean’s article as it brings the issue to the forefront. We need more articles digging further into this issue, and we need the parents of gifted children to stand up and start advocating for change… not just for their own child, but for all gifted children. Why? Because if you think it is bad now, if no one advocates for improvement, it will only be worse for our grandchildren and great grand children.

    • I realize that your post is old, but I can't even begin to explain how much better I felt when I read it. My son is 10yrs old, has been suspended 3x in the last 2 months. He was reading when he started school but was made to "learn" the alphabet.
      We have been discussing options with the school for the past 6 years, he is now in grade 4, and are getting nowhere.
      All we constantly hear is how much trouble he is causing in the classroom by being a clown, or "oppositional" to authority (school's latest reason for suspending him). I am hoping this will change in September when he is supposed to go to the gifted class at another school. But now the principal is "suggesting" that perhaps that is not the best solution for our son as he cannot seem to behave.
      I just felt that maybe we are not alone when I read your post..thanks !

  25. Adrian & Lorinne,

    My sympathies – such a similar story to my own son’s who is now in grade 8. The first meeting with his kindergarten teacher literally started with the words “Are you taking him to the doctor to see about medication?” We had never had issues or problems in nursery school. He was well adjusted with many friends. He entered public school and the boredom started, followed by the “ADHD like behaviour” and being ostracized by everyone. Our son did get into a gifted contained class in grade 4. My opinion on that, based on his experiences, is that they can make friends within the class, but within the school at large, they are just one big group to be ostracized and bullied and made fun of – and depending on the school administration not just by the students! Like so many others private school is not an option and in our case neither is home schooling – first and foremost I don’t feel qualified. The things my son enjoys learning and doing on his own are too far beyond my own comprehension and I’m certainly not trained as a teacher. I wish I could tell you that it gets better as they get older, but it doesn’t. I will never understand why acceleration is no longer a viable option.

  26. At age 2, he understood what $4.95 meant. At age 3 he was reading signs as we drove, and I thought he was just reading by association (ex) the big M is macdonalds) By grade 2 he said the work was too easy. By grade 3 he felt he should be in grade 5 (our school is multigrade & he was doing the gr 5 math). In grade 5, he came home crying & frustrated because he had to draw little circles & boxes to do the multiplication – he refused because he could do it all in his head, & felt insulted. We finally took action in grade 6 to have him tested.

    Our son now takes courses online from the John Hopkins University CTY program. He loves it! The main issue that we now have is the cost. It costs about $1200.00 per course. We live in a rural community, and our school division does not provide any advanced placement type courses.

    I am wondering if anyone knows of scholarships that might be available for talented students in the public school system?

  27. I would like to see you try teaching a class of 30 children each day and accommodate 20 of them who either have a learning disability, behaviour exceptionalities, intellectual delays, ADHD and comorbid disorders, as well as giftedness.

  28. Oh, and without any assistance, while following a strict curriculum and why not throw in some grade three testing?

    • Teachers — overworked, underpaid, and lacking in support. I sympathise.

  29. Has anyone come across any articles describing what teachers can do to encourage and support gifted students, while still including them in 'mainstream' classrooms? I am training to be a high school teacher, and I would like some solid research on what works and what doesn't.

  30. I'm pretty sure i'm late reading this article and i fear no response, but i hope for the best.
    I have a 2.5yrs old boy that recently just started shocking me.
    he can read 100%..know his alphabet full..constructs words…counts to 50 already (knows the #'s and points them out which is which)
    knows most of his shapes and colours…even recognize voice and attaches the write animal to it.
    and since last week..he started writing the alphabets and #'s.
    the truth is..this kid just came out with all this in recent mth…and i have no idea where i can get some help for further development.
    anyone..? suggestions..?

    • Im also new to this, but i've been suggested to contact the teachers at the local or nearest gifted program and ask them for suggestions on how to continue to stimulate and challenge my son. Also, ( i haven't exhausted the search on this website), but the BC website for gifted children lists some resources/books for children, see if that works.
      lben

    • Look for your local association for bright and or gifted children.
      In Ontario that would be ABC Ontario

  31. I have an 8 year old boy who is gifted. We are homeschooling presently because the school in our town had no space for him. He behaved in an ADHD way at school and he was very unhappy and frustrated there. Now we homeschool him but next year he is going into a gifted class. Someone above mentioned that she thought that gifted classrooms were just a class to be bullied by the rest of the school. That terrifies me as I was so hopeful that we might finally find a solution for our son. Although he is a wonderful boy and a joy to be with for me at home, I wish for him friends and socializing with kids. He has no brothers or sisters and spends too much time with adults. Also he has few friends as he has no access to kids and we can't afford classes as we already pay tutors to work with him daily and on one salary this is all we can afford. Does anyone have anything positive to say about gifted programs in schools? Anyone have a good experience? The money we have spent on books, toys to occupy his mind which is always learning, tutors, assessments and so on, we can not afford private school too. Help! Any advice?

  32. Being a gifted kid, I can easily say that most of us get dragged down by the kids with hyperactivity disorders
    No offense, but they're often extremely loud, and because they're SO loud, all of us get associated with them. personally, I think being gifted is more of a curse than a gift, you have to drag it along with you, and know that you're never going to be normal

  33. I was in the gifted program from grade 1-8 in Renfrew County, Mr. Morton was my teacher. One day a week ( I forget if it was a full day or half a day), I would be with him and maybe half a dozen other kids. We would do advanced math, computer programming, projects, intellectual games, studies, projects, etc. I never thought that I would be starving for that kind of stimulation for the rest of my life.

    Boredom leads to finding stimulation subconsciously. My mind just wouldn't stop trying to find stimulus, leading to excessive stress. I couldn't sleep at night. my mind would race. I just wasn't and am still not intellectually stimulated, I'm really busy, yet bored at the same time.

    Our gifted program ended when we hit high school at grade 9. I got devoured by sports, and veered to physical stimulus, still aced my classes but, didn't know what direction was right, I was good at it all.

    I got bored at university. Too much theory. I need to do stuff! Hands on.

    I've always been afraid of failing…at anything. That would be traumatic.

    I've succeeded at every job I ever had. But have never come close to reaching my potential. Leaving me depressed…I guess.

    I want to go back to school, maybe this year. Architecture, that would be good for me I think. But a huge commitment now that I'm well into my 30's.

    I guess what I'm trying to get at is that gifted children need to be guided to find their own strengths and passions. To help them to not get lost, or scared. I would have done anything to have Mr. Morton's guidance through high school. I'm starved now. Sometimes you just try to live a normal life, but as hard as you try to BE normal, SEEM normal, you just get frustrated.

    I don't know what the answers are. I know these programs are important. I haven't thought about my "giftedness" in years, I've been trying to be normal, and I guess I forgot, and just thought I was just stressed out all the time. This article really hit home and I answered a lot of my own questions about where I am in life.

    Thank you to Bill Morton.

    A gift isn't really a gift unless you unwrap it.

  34. Interesting! My son who is now 6 and in grade 1 has had a few problems himself. Just before he was 3 he started to read a few words on his own. Then by 31/2 was fully reading books on his own. Now he can read and comprehend almost anything you give him. He can also do math in his head, has written small piano pieces, excels above everyone in his piano lessons and is a well adjusted compassionate person. Except he is very hard on himself for perfection! We spoke with the school who has been giving us the run around now for 2 years. it seems they do not want to get involved in helping him with more advanced programs. At every turn we get false promises. We will continue with our fight to get him more challenged in the classroom!

    Thanks for the story!

  35. As a child of the gifted program, I have to say that while I’m sure problem lies within the recognition of giftedness, an equally large portion lies within the conduct of the program itself. Most of my friends, including myself (though for different reasons), abandoned the PRIDE program (a one day a week option) because of difficulty balancing both the 7th and 8th grades with the withdrawal of the program. In high school, i have yet to notice any differences made to the standard education to benefit the gifted students. I would actually enjoy the opportunity to further develop my education.

  36. This is so nit fair ewveryone is equal and should all have the same rights… NOT IMPRESSED

  37. It puzzles me, despite the comments I’ve read that school boards can’t do everything, that they can’t at least recognize that if a student is bored in school they should be provided with higher level work. I don’t understand Canada’s basis for putting all manner of students into the same level classes when some will need help keeping up and others will feel sorely restless over how easy the material is. The solution is not to have teachers adjust to each student’s needs, it’s to have some degree of separation into specialized classes sometimes.

  38. I tested at 134 FSIQ on the Weschler scales in grade two. My mother had taken me out of school in grade 7 due to bullying, boredom and social isolation.

    I returned to public school in grade nine and experienced the exact same treatment from my classmates. I dropped out in grade 10 and have been depressed ever since.

    Gifted people are different and people need to be better trained recognize the telltale signs.

    The people I work with will always tell me to slow down my speech, use less complex vocabulary and stop jumping from topic to topic. Sadly, it’s just the way my brain works, and i refute the notion that i am jumping from topic to topic. I am merely integrating large amounts of information and this also is one of the telltale signs.

    The school system is designed and propagated for the average and below average not the intelligent.

  39. I had spent the last half hour telling my life story and just accidentally had it erased.

    To sum it up:
    Moving to a different school I lost a lot of old friends and became less social.
    The gifted program gives you lots of things to help you succeed.
    All I care about is video games and I know it’s bad but I can’t stop, I am a lost cause.
    Make sure your kids have gifted friends before letting them go to the gifted program.
    Don’t breakup with your Bf/Gf/Husband/Wife or the kids might be the only ones who pay. (My dad motivated me to work and played outside with me, now that he’s gone I stay inside and play video games all day because my mom doesn’t motivate me)

    Long story short, if you put them in the gifted program, make sure you hangout with your kids and help them with work, even if you don’t know it, let them know you still wanna help and see them succeed.

    I recommend the gifted program for many people, some not so much, like me and my best friend, we are both probably going to fail grade 9, together.

    • Adding on to this, my father was gifted and is a very smart man but doesn’t have a very good job. He always told me that college was a waste and to aim for university, but right now I don’t even think I’ll be able to get to my grade 12 diploma.

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  41. It’s good to see the media covering the reality of giftedness and not the stereotype. Not all gifted kids require special accommodations, but for some, the right placement can change their lives.

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