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Not Gifted? How to Manage Not Making the Cut

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Development & Learning

Your child might have got the word last spring… or maybe it’s coming soon, just before school starts. The word that he didn’t get into the gifted program. He’s devastated (maybe you, too). What does this mean and what do you do now?

Here’s what it doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean that anything has changed. Your child is just as brilliant and funny and talented and charming as he ever was. He’s not any less wonderful than he was before. His future is just as bright and his school year will be just as fine. The qualities that you hoped would be recognized and validated by the label “gifted” are all still there. He’s a terrific kid.

What’s missing is the label. Labels can be nice and maybe that’s all you and he really wanted. A nice label like “gifted” sets one apart and makes a person feel superior. So not having the label can make your child feel suddenly inferior. He will have to put up with being “regular-ed” when his old friends and rivals go off to the gifted classes. This seems like a big deal now, before the school year begins, but its importance will fade if you let it. The “gifted” kids will soon discover that a label is not an unalloyed good. Your child will soon discover that his own school year offers lots of opportunities to shine.

What’s missing also is whatever program elements you and your child were looking forward to. It’s true that gifted programs tend to be more interesting than the standard curriculum. But interest is where you find it: don’t spoil the school year by assuming it will be dull. In addition, this might be the year when you help your child pursue interests outside the classroom. Help her explore a subject through reading, doing Internet searches, and talking with experts. Consider signing her up for a class. Go to lectures together. Gifted people design their own learning. Your secretly-gifted child can do that too.

Here’s something to keep in mind: how your district defines “gifted” might not be capable of recognizing your child’s greatness. She may have talents the district’s formula ignores. Most districts use test scores as the basis for their selection, but your child may not be a strong test-taker. Or she may be very creative. Creativity is scarcely ever part of the gifted-selection process even though creativity is the foundation of great achievement in every single field.

If you and your child were counting on being admitted to the “gifted” club, then being excluded is naturally a blow. You’re both allowed to complain and cry just a little bit. But then it’s time to move on. This may not be the first time a door closed for your child and it certainly won’t be the last. Doors close all the time. But when they do, another door opens.

Be happy to find that door and together walk through.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.