Advocating with Diplomacy

Advocating for Gifted Children with Diplomacy

“Advocacy” is defined in several different ways, depending on which source you look it up in. I prefer the definition given by Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition: “active support, especially of a cause”.mom & daughter

As parents, we all want our children to be happy and successful, and when it comes to their education, this can often be a challenge for a wide range of reasons, especially for gifted children.

It may be helpful to enlist the help of a professional to create goals and  strategies for maximizing your gifted child’s school experience; an ally in the journey.  The following ideas  may provide a starting point.

Get to know the key players.

As the school year kicks off,  it may be helpful to get to know the teachers, librarian, computer lab personnel, school secretary, and the principal, or other personnel who play key roles in your child’s school day.  Schedule a time to visit the school, hopefully while students are in class.  As you visit the school, be thinking of how you could use your skills or talents to volunteer.

Be Seen as an ally.

Promote what is best for the entire student population and volunteer in ways that benefit them all. Become familiar with your school’s mission statement and use the language of the mission often. Consider attending school board meetings or serve on the PTA.  Be a consistent, positive presence on campus.

Choose your words carefully.

Some terminology parents use in advocating for their children may be perceived negatively.  For example, “boredom”  is a big NO-NO as it’s sure to cause a defensive response by teachers and administrators.  Instead, enlist your child in a conversation about what they need to be challenged and present these ideas to the teacher. This constructive approach engages the child, and also offers the teacher valuable suggestions.

Find a guide or connect with others.

Try to find someone who has been there before. There are MeetUp groups, online groups, and many school districts have support groups for parents of gifted children. A gifted specialist, or consultant can be especially helpful. It’s easier if you have a kindred spirit in your corner who truly “gets” your journey.


When you come across a resource or person who has been helpful, tell them “thanks.” Acknowledge them very specifically and let them know that you appreciate the efforts made on your child’s behalf.

Do your research.

Knowledge is power. Become familiar with your state’s gifted policies, as well as those of your school district.  Do your research and be prepared to work diplomatically within your child’s school setting.

Suggested Resources



Raising Champions, by Dr. Michael Sayler

Guiding the Gifted Child, by Dr. James Webb

Stand Up for Your Gifted Child, by Joan Smutny

Parenting Gifted Kids, by Dr. James Delisle

Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented offers this list of

15 Do’s and Don’ts of Advocacy.

DO:  prepare yourself for an appointment; be clear and specific about the purpose of your meeting, introduce yourself and/or your group, and leave materials relevant to the issue.

DO:  be punctual, and be willing to wait for a person who runs behind schedule.

DO:  keep letters and visits short and to the point.

DO:  be accurate and authentic with supporting facts – document resources.

DO:  be pleasant and polite.

DO:  be aware that issues have two sides—yours and that of the opposition. Be the first to acknowledge an opposing viewpoint.

DO:  support officials with positive visibility on behalf of the special needs of gifted children.

DO:  ask for a response to keep communication going.

DO:  follow-up with a thank-you note, phone call, e-mail, an appointment, a letter, vote, etc.

DON’T:  be disappointed if you don’t accomplish your purpose on the first visit; change  is a slow process and involves a relationship built over time.

DON’T:  make your issue complicated.  This person likely must deal with several important matters simultaneously and will be more attentive if you keep your points short and simple.

DON’T:  ever be belligerent or threatening. Consider opposing viewpoints, even if you DON’T share them. Conflict closes communication.

DON’T:  be late for an appointment. Lack of respect for other people’s time is rude.

DON’T:  forget other staff members in your thank-you cards. Staff members often know as much or more about an issue than a legislator or administrator AND can get to him/her easier and more often than you can.

DON’T quit! Persistence and perseverance eventually pay off. (Adapted from an article by Gina Ginsberg Riggs, copyright 1984.)

Einstein’s Secret!

The brain is wider than the sky

For, put them side by side

The one the other will contain

With ease, and you beside. – Emily Dickinson


When we hear the words, gifted, genius, or brainy, we often think of Einstein. In fact, “Einstein” has become an adjective as much as it is a noun. Why is this? Did he have a super human brain? Was it different than most in some way? Can genius be measured?

In the book, The Future of the Mind, by Michio Kaku, the author tells the surprising story of how Einstein’s brain went missing right after his death in 1955  when Dr. Thomas Harvey took it during an autopsy.  He wanted to preserve Einstein’s brain to study, but unfortunately, the doctor was not a brain specialist and was never quite sure what to do with this treasure. It was eventually returned to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in 2010.

In the end, it was found that Einstein’s brain was fairly normal from all outward appearances; not huge, or in any other obviously visible way different.  Did Einstein have an incredible IQ?  He never took an IQ test, so  who knows what his IQ was? His famous quote makes perfect sense: “I have no special talents… I am only passionately curious.”

Einstein’s secret was in how he used his mind.  Einstein was a great thinker. His laboratory was his brain where he conducted “thought experiments” and simulations, sometimes pondering a theory for ten years! Also, because he was somewhat of a rebel, he often questioned the theories of other famous scientists, thus breaking ground on new theories and scientific thought. Einstein conducted mental simulations in detail for long periods of time. (I have trouble sticking with a difficult Sudoku!)

Clearly Einstein began with a high level of intelligence. But, what truly guided his amazing success was his determination and persistence. Grit, according  to Wikipedia, is “… a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or endstate coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.”

In the very successful book, Growth Mindset, by Dr. Carol Dweck, she states, “…Effort is what makes you smart or talented.”  In a growth mindset, we embrace our mistakes as learning opportunities and grow from the experience, or “failing forward”. Einstein is also quoted as saying, “No matter what difficulties you have with mathematics, mine were greater.” Yet, he did unheard of work in mathematics!

Parenting a gifted child can be as complex as it is rewarding. I caution parents to maintain a growth mindset, not only for their own growth and success in parenting, but also to establish this mindset as a powerful role model for your bright child.

If you are interested in learning more about how to integrate a growth mindset into your family, please contact me for a complementary 15 minute discovery

Be Resourceful This Summer!

When my 2 gifted sons were in elementary school (nearly 2 decades ago!) technology was not omnipresent like it is now. I had to resort to hands on challenges in the summer to keep those boys busy.

Luckily, one of our neighbors ran an electronics repair shop from her garage and would often give us items that could not be fixed. I laid a tarp out on the floor with several egg cartons for sorting, and an assortment of screwdrivers, as well as safety glasses for the boys to “get busy” and disassemble the components.

Not only did the disassembly of these units build manual dexterity, patience, and classification skills as they sorted parts that seemed to be related into the egg cartons, it answered many of their “how does it work” questions and spurred new “what if” questions. Granted, I was a little concerned when one of the boys grew impatient with screwdrivers to take things apart and wanted to resort to more brutish approaches, like a hammer. But, I monitored without hovering and let them have fun with the process of “reverse engineering” on their terms.

Luckily, another neighbor was an electronic test engineer who readily discussed the latest finds with the boys! I was so surprised at how much they absorbed from these opportunities.  Their interest was very keen as they examined the small colored bands on tiny electrical components and tried to decipher  volts, watts, power, or function (way over my head) based on these color codes.

Later, as a Director for Camp Invention, I observed campers get excited taking random gadgets apart and trying to reconstruct a new contraption from the parts! An old toaster might keep them busy most of the week!

The point is that you don’t have to be in a camp, or have an electrical test engineer next door to have a meaningful experience for your kiddos.  With the internet and other resources, your children can research their finds on the computer. Just be sure to enforce safety rules and make sure there are no chemicals or dangerous glass parts in the item to be “upcycled”.  Cheap and easy suggestion. Hope it helps.

Now that both guys are now successfully employed as Mechanical and Systems Engineers, I have to wonder which came first: the curiosity or the opportunity?

What tips do you have for challenging your children at home this summer, and how can you promote S.T.E.A.M. at home?


Summer Sites to Explore!

beach chairsVacations provide a much needed time to “exhale” from a busy school year and recharge.

Part of vacations is the fine art of packing just enough to be ready for anticipated adventures, like swim fins/snorkle and a versatile black dinner dress. Then comes the choice of books to bring along. I choose a contemporary novel for my book club, but lost it somewhere in my travels. Three of the other four books in my suitcase dealt with gifted education and I completed two of them.

I marvel at the opportunities to stay current in the field of gifted education and to have my enthusiasm rekindled (no pun intended). I am attaching a list of resources that I hope prove useful for your summer reading and investigations, and thank Melanie Hayes for sharing this information with me.


Websites: – The definitive website for homeschooling gifted kids. Filled with information on all aspects of parenting and teaching gifted children. Has great links to learning materials and resources and special links for kids. Comprehensive research papers and Q&A section. – Wonderful informative website. Great online parent community to share information and ask questions. Also has great links to learning materials, resources, research, and Q&A. – Wealth of information regarding free online curriculum. Terrific homeschooling resource. Has great virtual field trip websites.

Organizations: – Our Gifted Online Conferences: A Gathering Place for All Gifted (like Facebook)– Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (great information on meeting gifted children’s emotional needs) – Davidson Institute for Talent Development (lots of information for profoundly gifted children and families) – National Association for Gifted Children (comprehensive support of gifted children) – Families of the Talented and Gifted (resources for families)


Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses Of Gifted Children And Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, And Other Disorders by James T. Webb, Edward R. Amend, Nadia E. Webb, Jean Goerss, Paul Beljan, F. Richard Olenchak, and Sharon Lind

Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds by Jan and Bob Davidson, with Laura Vanderkam

Exceptionally Gifted Children by Miracia Gross

Definitions and Conceptions of Giftedness by Robert J. Sternberg and Sally M. Reis

Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual Spatial Learner by Linda Kreger Silverman

The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder, Revised Edition by Carol Kranowitz and Lucy Jane Miller

Creativity and Giftedness by Donald J. Treffinger and Sally M. Reis

Artistically and Musically Talented Students by Enid Zimmerman and Sally M. Reis

A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine

Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults by Susan Daniels and Michael M. Piechowski

Creativity and Giftedness by Donald J. Treffinger and Sally M. Reis

Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know? by Maureen Neihart, Sally M. Reis, Nancy M. Robinson, and Sidney M. Moon

Grouping and Acceleration Practices in Gifted Education by Linda E. Brody and Sally M. Reis

Culturally Diverse and Underserved Populations of Gifted Students by Alexinia Y. Baldwin and Sally M. Reis

Twice-Exceptional and Special Populations of Gifted Students by Susan Baum and Sally M. Reis


Plan for a Joyful Summer

With just a little over 2 weeks left in this school year, what goals or new directions might you want to pursue this summer that would create more joy for you and your family? I’d be very happy to schedule a complimentary Discovery Session with you soon!
Are you dealing with:
* Social emotional issues of a complex gifted child and looking for solutions?
* Your child had a difficult academic year, and you’re looking for ways to make next year better?
* Are you questioning whether your child should remain in the same school setting, or look into something different, but aren’t sure how to go about it?
* Has your gifted child begun to exhibit defiant behaviors that you’re finding difficult to deal with?
* Does your gifted child struggle with sibling and/or peer relationships and you want to help them?
* Are you trying to match you child’s interests and passions with the right camp experience this summer, but just aren’t sure how to evaluate a good fit?
* Are you feeling isolated in your parenting experience and find that you are often second-guessing, or questioning your parenting decisions?
I can help you gain clarity, set goals, and create a plan to deal with any of these issues.


Praise Effort, Not Ability

Praise Their Effort, Not Their Ability 

Sometimes when children are praised for “being smart”, it may actually cause them to withdraw from any further challenges out of perceived fear of not being successful, and loosing their label of “smart”.  However, when children are praised for their effort, they are more likely to chose additional, more difficult challenges.woman w thumbs up

When a child’s natural ability is over emphasized, it may backfire in creating a mindset of, “I’m smart, so I shouldn’t have to put in much effort.”  This might explain the high school student who relies on their high test scores, but seldom turns in homework.

Praise has suddenly become a highly scrutinized  word. Giving praise is similar to giving treats or stickers as rewards which were once universally used to reinforce desired behaviors. But, this practice is now perceived as a gimmick that holds no lasting effects once the rewards are removed. In an effort to reinforce children’s positive self-esteem, praise and recognition have became a big part of most educational and home settings, however, this trend is now being questioned.

Kids are so intuitive.  Some children actually perceive praise as a sign of an adult’s lack of confidence in their abilities, and so they feel that adults give them an artificial boost in the form of praise.  Children, or any learner, might actually gain more from constructive and careful criticism than  praise.

Bright kids make mistakes; we all do, but mistakes serve us better when they are thought of as “learning opportunities”. If a child is afraid to fail, they simply will shy away from taking any risks and facing the possibility of not being perfect. Parents may need to shift their attention in guiding their gifted child by noticing the effort and perseverance more often and holding back on praise and rewards for a “job well done”.

Think about your child’s first steps, as they teetered on unsteady feet, took a few steps, then fell onto their bottoms. These first attempts were celebrated and encouraged, giving the toddler motivation to continue trying this new skill. We don’t wait until they are running to acknowledge their progress and effort.

Thoughtful, open-ended questioning may also foster a self-reflective growth mindset in children. This kind of thoughtful questioning goes a long way in helping children become more independent, or autonomous, and is the goal in all learning, whether it is at home or school, or in any environment.  We want children to take personal responsibility for their own learning and to find the joy and authentic self-confidence that comes with being in charge of their own growth and progress.

If you must praise your child, intermittent reinforcement seems to be an excellent key to help learners work towards praise, rewards, or reinforcement. This kind of reinforcement allows children to experience a challenge or frustration once in a while and realize that the sky hasn’t fallen in.

I’m currently attempting to learn how to golf. Some shots or holes are great and I jump for joy, other times my game causes me to wish no one was watching!  But, if every single shot, or every game was easy, there wouldn’t be much challenge, growth, or fun in it.

Those inconsistent victories keep me coming back to try to do better each time.  More importantly, as I stick to it and don’t toss my golf bag into a pond, my scores are improving…slowly. Persistence is it’s own reward!

How does this resonate with you? Can you think of a time that someone “praised” you as opposed to sincerely noticing your efforts? How does this feel different?

Spring into a Growth Mindset

growth plant

What is “Growth Mindset”?

Do you praise your child frequently? Are you concerned about your child’s self-esteem? Every parent I know would likely answer “YES!” to both of these questions.  However, some of what we thought we were doing right as parents and teachers, may in fact be all wrong!

There’s a relatively new theory about how we can help our children gain self-confidence, become more motivated to learn and grow, to be more reflective, and to maximize their potential and thrive!

The popular book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential in Parenting, Business, School, Relationships by Dr. Carol Dweck(published 2006) is based on decades of research on achievement and success and has lead to a theory that may be summarized very briefly by saying that intelligence, talent, or aptitude do not necessarily determine success, rather hard work, persistence, being open to growth and learning new skills, and a general love of learning are better indicators of success.

Fixed or Growth Mindset?

Fixed  Mindset is based on the assumption that basic qualities, talents, and intelligence are fixed, therefore not much effort is put into developing these qualities.

Growth Mindset is the belief, that ones basic abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication.  Intelligence and skills serve as a starting point on which to grow. This mindset fosters a love of learning, resilience, perseverance; all qualities for success!   Motivation and effort are key!

Mindset and Giftedness

How this impacts parents of gifted children warrants a closer look. Many parents have experienced a highly able child who doesn’t apply themselves to the level we know they are capable. Gifted children often see tasks as uninteresting, irrelevant, or so easy it doesn’t deserve their best effort, therefore a minimal effort is put into the task, resulting in a less than stellar end product or outcome.

Another scenario that may not be uncommon among gifted children occurs when everything has always been “easy” for them, so when they are faced with a truly honest challenge, they aren’t prepared to persevere. The possibility of a failure is so uncomfortable, they would rather not even attempt a task than risk not being able to do well on it.

Even as adults,  actively focusing on a growth mindset will be beneficial. Our brains can continue to grow when new pathways are activated. This is good news for gifted children, their parents, and even aging baby boomers.  It seems that the goal most teachers embrace early in their career, to promote life-long learning in their students, has never gone out of style. As my Great Uncle Jack Cartwright told me when he was in his late 90′s, “Kid, you’re never too old to learn something new. Keep learning everyday!”

In what ways to continue to foster your own personal growth? How do you encourage your child to have a growth mindset?


Support for Parents Has Changed!


Parents of gifted children have many sources of support!

Parenting creates daily challenges that may cause us to wonder if we’re “getting it right”.  Babies don’t arrive with a lifetime owner’s manual, so we have to learn as we go. This constant state of wondering, then trying a new strategy, observing the outcome,  and finally “tweeking” the technique, keeps parents on their toes.

Our desire to figure out how to do the best we can to parent  our unique child is  especially challenged when that child has  exceptional needs.  Gifted children present very unique challenges that other parents may not have to consider, and in an effort to refine our parenting skills,  we often look to others for ideas, suggestions, and or support.

I envy contemporary parents in this regard. When my 32 year old son was in elementary school, there were no Meet Up groups, no blog sites, or local parent groups to seek  information or validation from. Without  internet, eSchooling, neuroscience technology, Tweeting, or even emailing, I was left floundering on my own.

Because I was in the process of obtaining a teaching credential when my kids were in early elementary school, I had some advantage because I was submerged in education and had an obsession with child development and fostering a love of learning. I knew my boys were bright, but I had no one to connect with and their teachers seemed impatient and not very understanding about problems like not being able to show their work when converting fractions to lowest terms. (“It slowed me down too much and I couldn’t tell you how I did it, I just did it in my head!”)

Now, every time I attend a gifted education conference,  a parent group for gifted, a local university symposium, or read a good blog, I’m often struck with a feeling of guilt that the important information I continue to learn about gifted children would have been so helpful way back when.

If I only knew then, what I know now!  But I didn’t… and all I can do to feel better about that is to commit to helping other parents with gifted children so that their adventures in parenting are supported by my passion for understanding these interesting and unique children.

What are your current sources of support in parenting your gifted child?   What do you like best about it? What areas of support do you wish you had more of?

You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”  Henry Drummond

Mistakes Can Be a Gift

Mistakes Can Be a Gift

“It is not our mistakes that define Who we are;

it is how we recover From those mistakes.” Bo Bennet

bad choices


1. Avoid being a perfectionist.

• A perfectionist is driven by “ fear of failure.”

• Someone striving for excellence is driven by a “desire for success.”

• Being afraid to make a mistake will create a mental barrier for taking risks.


2. Learn to apologize for hurting someone’s feelings.

• Quickly admit when you are wrong.

• Explore what you can do to prevent the same problem from occurring again.

• A sincere apology can go a long way to restore trust.


3. Don’t dwell on the mistake; move forward and let it go!

• Accept that the mistake was made and can’t be changed.

• Think about what you can learn from the mistake; how to avoid it in the future?


4. Don’t waste time trying to justify mistakes.

• Our natural instinct is to try to justify our actions.

• People are rarely interested in excuses.


5. Understand why the mistake pattern is repeating.

• Did it happen when you were angry? Do you need to work on anger management?

• Did it happen because you were overwhelmed? Would you benefit from learning new  ways to relax?

• Did it happen because of a bad habit? Can you change the habit and avoid making the  same mistake?


6. Discover that mistakes are opportunities to learn.

  • You can gain wisdom and self-confidence from analyzing mistakes.
  • You may discover a new strategy for the future
  • Even though you didn’t get the exact result you wanted, at least you tried.bad choices

Gifted Ain’t Easy!

While this is a post from two years ago, it is a reminder and validation to parents and teachers of the wonders of gifted kiddos!

This school year I am teaching 28 third grade gifted students in a GATE Inclusion class. Many people would assume that my job is a “piece of cake”. What a dream job to work with so many smart and inquisitive youngsters…. or, not! They question EVERYTHING, insist on being heard, need to be right at all costs, and want to do things their way! Kind of like herding cats. At the end of each busy day, I imagine what it must be like to be in a beehive!

In reading The Autobiography of Steve Jobs, it’s interesting to note how difficult he was with his parents, his 3rd grade teacher, his employees, and pretty much everyone. Being “gifted” does not mean that individual is anything less than intense, strong minded, difficult, and incredibly interesting and full of unlimited potential. These same traits that are not easy for others to embrace are the same ones that drive those gifted individuals to aspire to unique and great accomplishments.