I received an undergraduate degree with a major in Psychology with Human Service Emphasis and a double minor in Sociology and Child and Family Studies. I continued on to receive my Masters of Science in Educational Psychology and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in School Psychology. I became a provisionally licensed school psychologist in WI, a nationally certified school psychologist, and a licensed specialist in school psychology in TX. I no longer have my WI provisional license. I am still maintaining my NCSP and my LSSP but I am no longer practicing due to the need to home school. I have to obtain 20 CEU’s per year for my LSSP and 75 CEU’s per 3 years for my NCSP–I still do these. Sadly, none of my education prepared me for my highly gifted plus son nor the battles for gifted education. I learned this on my own through lots of reading (about 12 different books), lots of online resources (some of which are listed on my “Online Gifted Resources!!” page), and seeking gifted training that gifted teachers receive.
After sitting in a professional training yesterday with fellow LSSP’s (school psychologist in TX) and diagnosticians (a TX position in which they only give IQ and achievement tests, not full psychological or behavioral evaluations), I was appalled at the ignorance on giftedness. There were about 150 diagnosticians and LSSP’s and only 3 people who knew anything about giftedness. Those 3 included myself, the presenter, and one professor from the local school psychology training university. It was disappointing hearing the misinformation, myths, and basic denial of the need for gifted educational services. At least 10 individuals claimed “gifted will be fine” and they don’t need help. I know TX is one of the worst states for gifted education. I also know that my own training didn’t cover gifted education as much as it should. At least I learned that there were in fact kids that were gifted, they needed special programming, and they needed extended norms when testing them. I can’t say the cohort of professionals I was with yesterday even was aware of that. Thus, I’m creating a list of things I wish I was taught in my school psychology graduate program. I wish all school psychology and educational diagnostician programs did a better job of educating their field on giftedness.
Things I wish I learned in graduate school and would tell future school psychologists:
- Giftedness does exist and is extremely misunderstood. You will run into other educators who know nothing about giftedness or who will continue to propel myths. You must know what giftedness really is. You need to know about the myths, and how to dispel them. Giftedness is a spectrum or continuum. The odds of running into the upper ends are small, but you should know that they do exist and will need a completely different educational program than any typical student. Do not be afraid of acceleration. There are tools out there to help in the decision procession. Do not be afraid of online programs.
- There are more talent searches and online gifted programs through universities than you may realize. You don’t need to know about every single one of them, but you should have a list of resources to share with students, their families, and gifted personnel. They may not be free, but parents should be presented with such options to consider. Some of the programs even have financial aid. And some of the programs start in Kindergarten while some of the talent searches start in 2nd grade.
- Giftedness can be combined with a disability (learning disability, emotional disability, Autism spectrum, etc.) and it is called twice exceptional (2E). Do not refuse a child special education services for their disability just because they are gifted. Do not refuse a child gifted services just because they have a disability. Not every child with Aspergers is gifted. Not every child who is gifted is Aspergers. A gifted child can also have a learning disability. You need to look at and consider individual variations to form each gifted child’s educational plan because they are not all the same
- Giftedness requires unique educational planning. The difference from average in a gifted student is the same number of points as a student with cognitive deficits. Gifted start at 130 (some states go as low as 120), cognitive deficits start at 70. Just like students with cognitive deficits require unique educational planning, so do those on the other end. And, the higher away from average the scores get, the greater the need for even more individualized programs. The problem is that in some states gifted is not granted the same special education protection that students with cognitive deficits are. However, remember, regardless of legal protection gifted students need and require gifted education. Gifted programs are not elitist. Gifted programs are really a form of special education services. People do not call special education elitist. Gifted education should not be viewed that way either.
- Gifted students will not be just fine without any special services or support. There are lots of articles, books, and research on this issue. Gifted students who are left alone without any services or support are at a greater risk for being victims of bullying, underachievement, social isolation, mental health issues, behavioral issues, and dropping out. We need to stop neglecting the gifted and we need to stop thinking that they will be fine without any support. Gifted need help.
- Be prepared to truly understand differentiation. Many schools claim they do it but they really aren’t or they put massive restrictions on it. Some districts actually have policies that do not allow for differentiation of more than one grade level. Other districts actually have policies that force gifted students to do the exact same work as their peers along with their differentiated work. These examples are not what differentiation is suppose to be and only hurt the gifted student. You need to know about single subject acceleration and alternative ways to get higher grade level material to lower grade level gifted students. If a child is doing higher level work, they should not have double work by forcing them to do the same work as their age peers. The higher level should be replacing the grade level work. Let gifted students read higher books and take AR quizzes on them. The AR system can handle higher level books, so don’t restrict the student to only their grade level or one grade above. True differentiation is needed instead of holding the gifted back.
- Gifted programs are not the same as AP. Some districts only serve gifted students by giving them AP classes. This is not truly serving gifted students. And, this is also neglecting elementary gifted students who do not get anything until high school or pre-AP in middle school.
- Giftedness can be identified early. Only a few states have actual pre-K gifted identification. Most states don’t do any gifted identification until 3rd or 4th grade. This is too late. There are lots of signs of early giftedness. Know the levels of giftedness and the extremely fast rate at which they achieve developmental milestones. Providing services right away would be more beneficial to the gifted student. Special education services and identification starts at age 3 in the public schools. Gifted services and identification should be treated the same way.
- Be prepared to be a gifted advocate as well as a special needs advocate. Gifted are not fine being left on their own. Gifted need advocates just like special education. Our job as school psychologists is to advocate for all students.