Welcome to a collection of thoughts, questions and interesting links relating to giftedness ..............
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Hogwarts in the (Perth) HIlls

I spent last weekend at Hogwarts. Well, maybe not THE Hogwarts, but the kids at the first gifted family camp in WA seemed pretty sure that was where we were and there was no mistaking the Harry Potter theme especially on the Saturday evening.

More than 40 children ranging in age from 6 to 12, along with about 20 mums,  dads and a Grandma spent the weekend at Camp Woody in the hills, enjoying the chance to meet new friends and mix with like minds. Many families travelled from country areas for their kids to have the chance to attend.

During the weekend potions were dreamed up and tested, anatomy was studied, healing balm made (not strong enough unfortunately to soothe my tired feet, but certainly marvellously for scratches and bites), magical creatures were designed, owls, marauders maps and whomping willows were created, teams completed a wide range of tasks for the Challenge Cup and there was still plenty of free time to spend with new friends.

It was amazing to see how quickly the House teams came together as a group, how students who are more usually reserved relaxed their guard and got right into things and how much energy 40 gifted children can generate when they are passionately involved in things.

The camp however was not just for the kids. The parents also had plenty of time to share their stories with each other, to share what worked for them and the ways they manage the challenges of life in a gifted family and to be able to talk about topics that interested other gifted adults. Many of the parents embraced the theme of the camp, dressing up for the Saturday night and even becoming part of the concert. Many commented on the difference in their child in a setting with like minds.

I did not hear anyone claim to be bored all weekend. In fact one boy lamented the fact he hadn’t had time to complete one activity in a workshop because he had been too involved in another and asked to come back in his own in free time the next morning so he could do it then. In fact the only complaint was that we ran out of time for the planning Quidditch game on the final afternoon. That really was a shame because I was also looking forward to seeing how it could be done.

Despite many tired bodies by the end of the camp (not just the kids) their minds seemed energised. I heard from several parents over the next few days how, contrary to expectations, their kids did not sleep on the way home. Rather they recounted events, wrote spells, made plans, continued drawing maps and talked about new friends.

The comment of the weekend would have to be “Why can’t these kids be my class all the time?”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lessons we can learn

30 years ago parents of children with disabilities had a difficult job advocating for their child. Parent’s needs were not often considered and few children had the opportunity to attend schools. A great deal of time and effort went in to bringing about change.

The following points are drawn from a poster presentation at the ARACY conference in September 2009 about children with disabilities as a special needs group.

They apply almost as readily to gifted children whose needs also often fall outside the norm.
  • Early identification and early intervention have been shown to lead to best outcomes. 
  • Service providers work in partnership with parents and families (and later schools) to provide them with the skills and knowledge to support and optimise their child’s development and their ability to participate in community life. 
  • Parents often move through a number of stages including shock, confusion, anger and disbelief before they accept the diagnosis.*
  • At various times the parent will be an advocate, information seeker, spokesperson and public educator for their child.
  • Parents with a disabled child are in frantic need of formal and informal support and need thoughtful professionals who respect their feelings
  • Such a child impacts on parental wellbeing and functioning 
  • Services should be child focussed and family centred.
  • Professionals should acknowledge and respect parent’s expertise and knowledge and help families recognise their children strengths
  • Professionals must respect families desire to be in control and give families the information they need to make informed decisions. 
  • There is a further need to promote positive and collaborative partnerships, for mentoring to be available and for improved partnerships with educational institutions to increase efficacy. 
 (* for many parents of gifted children there is also an element of grieving for their own lost opportunities as they reflect on their own path through school).

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Balanced Diet Approach

A balanced diet takes into account the essential food groups and how much is needed of each. The aim is provide the body with the right ingredients so that it can grow strong and healthy.

The world of finance follows a similar balanced approach with a healthy mix of investments for best success.

What if parents deliberately planned a ‘balanced diet’ of a range of learning opportunities for their child?

What would your essentials be? How would you balance your child’s need to develop for social and academic skills, their emotional development and their artistic or creative growth?

In which areas might the school support your child’s growth?

Which areas might be addressed at home?

Which might be best addressed through extra curricular activities (perhaps music or art lessons, or specialised sports?

It can be a useful exercise to spend some time working out what your child’s current needs are and what your conception of a healthy learning framework might look like (at this point in time). Then you can work out the areas in which the school might contribute. It is important though to remember that no school, regardless of how ‘good’ they are or how willing, can meet all the needs of the child. Getting the best outcomes needs a partnership. It is true that it can take ‘a village to raise a child’.

When you have completed the process you will have a framework for discussions with the school about the role they might plan in balancing the diet. And a road map, for the time being, of what you will take responsibility for and what extra curricular activities you might organise.

This process of reflection and review on the balance of the ‘diet’ is one that it is worth completing regularly. The plan might only have the right balance for this year (or even part of a year) but monitoring it can bring the same benefits as keeping an eye on your child’s diet.

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