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Group seeks to connect parents of gifted children

Christina Croll knew her oldest son was out of the ordinary three years ago when he told her that a puddle of spilled milk was shaped like the nation of Bosnia.

Her son, now 7, had memorized the names, capitals and shapes of all the countries on the map.

Sure that their son was thinking at a level much higher than average, they had him take an IQ test in kindergarten. His results were well above average.

“That’s the beginning of the journey,” Croll said.

Croll found that raising a gifted child came with challenges and founded “Loudoun Parents of Gifted Students” to help bring together parents of gifted children with educators for advice and guidance.

Their first meeting, held Thursday night at the Loudoun Country Day School, was attended by more than 40 parents, most of whom had children attending Loudoun private schools.

Gifted children often feel out of step with their peers, Dr. Patrice Garver said, because they learn quicker and often have different interests, which can lead to social isolation.

“Gifted children are curious and interested in learning,” Garver said. “When they don’t receive it [advanced instruction], that’s when they become unmotivated.”

The night focused primarily on the topic of IQ and other developmental tests and their impact on parenting decisions.

Garver, a private practice psychologist who administers IQ and developmental tests to children, emphasized that a child should be comfortable in their testing environment.

How focused or nervous a child appears during the test is as important as his or her actual performance, Garver told parents.

“There are behavioral indicators in the testing experience that we sometimes want to share with parents,” Garver said. “It does sometimes describe how a child deals with challenge.”

Garver’s presentation was followed by a panel of school administrators from private and public schools throughout the county, who told parents that their goal should be to find a school their child is excited about academically.

Randy Hollister, headmaster of the Loudoun County Day School, said parents should remember their gifted child’s social needs are as important as their academic ones.

“They need attention,” Hollister told parents. “We’re talking about an entire human being here.”

Sundeep Goswami, who has a child attending junior kindergarten at the Loudoun Country Day School, agreed with the premise that a child needed to feel interested by their school.

“It’s important that the kid feel school is fun,” Goswami said after the meeting.

Parents were engaged throughout the meeting and many spent time talking to other parents who had children of similar ages after the panel ended.

Susan Boyd, the director of middle school education at the Loudoun School for the Gifted in Ashburn, was happy the group had been created.

“It’s an amazing response for all the work Chris has done,” Boyd said. “Parents need to know they have options.”

The next meeting will be held Nov. 28 at the Loudoun School for the Gifted. Croll and other organizers have yet to a set a time.

A post-meeting survey by the group found that 95 percent of parents were very likely to attend the next meeting and 5 percent were likely to attend. The group’s Facebook page can be found here.


Giving gifted children their chance

Parents of a gifted student may have unique hurdles to overcome when supporting their gifted child in school.

The school clown or star athlete enjoys a better reception in the classroom than does the designated “brain” or “egghead.” It is true that the best atmosphere for gifted students is in programs where they can be with children of similar capabilities.

Gifted students often have advanced abilities in the areas of in-depth and logical thinking skills, written and oral communications skills and/or visual or performing arts.

Students attending these programs benefit from specifically planned educational instruction that challenges them to attain substantive academic goals. Well-established, state-of-the-art programs for gifted students provide the appropriate resources and instruction to prepare students for success in new technology environments.

Parents need to closely monitor their child and contact teachers of the gifted who can evaluate a frustrated and confused student. The child may have exceptional ability, but may not have been able, for various reasons, to tap into that ability. Gifted teachers can act as guardian angels, assessing young students to determine if they are eligible for admission into the gifted programs.

Children of advanced intellect may need as much special attention from their parents as children with learning disabilities. We should not assume a gifted child will automatically become an outstanding student.

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