Parenting a child who is gifted can be wonderful but it can also be quite complex.

It is common for parents to be confused about many of the issues they are facing which aren’t often found in typical parenting books. Parents may find little support among others who don’t share or understand your concerns: “Your child is gifted! What could you possibly have to complain about?”

Likewise, the world of gifted education can be confusing, too.

Parents, including ourselves, have frequently asked the following questions.

We hope you find the answers you are looking for–if not, please feel free to contact the GATE Parent Association in our ‘Contact Us’ section. If we do not know the answer ourselves, we will do our best to direct you to the best person to help you.

Please note: the answers to these questions have been developed by parents who are not professionals in the field of giftedness, but ones who have developed a vast knowledge through their own experiences and inquiries. The answers are based on experience, professional advice (Ex: teachers, Registered Psychologists, counsellors) and from published literature that focuses on education/giftedness.

What Is a differentiated curriculum?

A differentiated curriculum should not be confused with “enrichment”.  Differentiated means decidedly different – or markedly different so that only gifted children would benefit from the curriculum.  More of the same work or aiding other students is not differentiated curriculum.

The principles of a differentiated curriculum include the areas of curriculum content, process, product and environment. These areas guide curriculum focus.

Content
  • The Alberta Learning Program of Studies and pertinent fundamental skills,
  • Broaden the scope of curriculum and focus on major and substantive issues, themes and problems,
  • Facilitate students’ understanding of concepts, generalizations, principles, and theories which structure particular areas of study,
  • Endeavour to provide a wide and diverse selection of topics that are pursued independently by students,
  • Offer tiered assignments, multiple pathways,
  • Accelerate and/or compact  curriculum as necessary.
Process
  • Encourage student generated learning approaches and topics,
  • Encourage students to develop independent or self-directed study and research skills,
  • Teach and encourage the use of complex, abstract and higher-level thinking skills
  • Create open-ended tasks in order for students to respond in the breadth and depth suitable to their skill and interest level,
  • Offer flexible groupings based on academic interest.
Product

As students create their learning products or outcomes, teachers:

  • expect them to use a variety of new techniques, materials and forms to show their learning,
  • encourage them to challenge existing ideas and possibly produce “new ideas”.
  • facilitate the development of differences, strengths, and abilities in others,
Environment
  • differentiate the physical and social setting where learning takes place
  • offer a variety of work locations, flexible time frames, exploration of outside learning experiences
  • cluster or congregate gifted students, access online or distance learning opportunities, access higher grade or college/university courses

More information on Differentiated Curriculum can be found in  IPP Chapter 11 PDF  and in Chapter 4 of “The Journey: A Handbook for parents of children who are gifted and talented”

Are there any programs available for gifted children outside regular school hours?

Currently, there are no formal after school programs or ‘clubs’ for gifted children in Calgary, but you may wish to consider ‘non-academic’ activities that interest them…gifted children may need more challenge, but they also like to have fun!

A creative child may find music or art programs fun and challenging, whereas some may have difficulty with repetitious practice or the fine-motor skills needed. Calgary has many options available for music, dance, theatre, culinary programs and applied art for children.

Calgary’s Public Library has numerous programs of interest for children and youth.

Calgary has many summer camp options that may interest creative kids and those who enjoy science (‘CSI’ type of investigations), computers & gaming (App development, computer coding, etc), business (How to run your own business) and animal science (mini-veterinarian). Take a look at camps offered via Calgary Parks & Recreation, University of Calgary (mini-PhD), Mount Royal University, and SAIT for a wide variety of options.

For older youth, you may wish to pursue finding a ‘mentor’–someone who is willing to offer advice, support or additional activities in a particular field of interest.

How do I know if my child is gifted?

There are helpful tools or lists available that indicate some of the common characteristics or behaviours associated with giftedness. Likewise, some lists (as seen on this site) help to differentiate between “Gifted Learner versus Bright Learner”.

However, it is important to know that giftedness may manifest in different ways between children—some children may demonstrate many of the common characteristics, while some children may only show a few. A professional assessment is the best way to confirm if a child is indeed gifted.

I think my child may be gifted—what should I do?

If you see some traits or characteristics that suggest your child may be gifted, talk to your child’s teacher—let them know about your observations and ask what the teacher observes in the classroom. If the teacher agrees that your child might be gifted, you may wish to discuss further testing to help confirm this.

See “How is giftedness assessed in children?”

I think my child is gifted, but my child’s teacher does not agree—what should I do?

It is not uncommon for parents and teachers to have differing opinions on whether or not a child is gifted. Teachers do not often receive any formal training about giftedness in teacher’s college; this understanding and experience is usually gained via experience teaching other gifted children, or by pursuing additional knowledge/training.

As a parent, by nature, you have a much longer and in-depth experience with your child, so you may be seeing characteristics and behaviours that your child’s teacher does not.

If your child’s teacher does not agree that your child may be gifted, you still have the right to request additional testing to determine this. You may also wish to discuss this with your school principal.

What is ‘being coded’? What is ‘Code 80’?

When a child has been diagnosed with having special learning needs, Alberta Education provides programming support and resources to assist the school in delivering appropriate programming. Special education codes differentiate what the child’s special learning need is and thus, the appropriate resources for support.

‘Code 80’ applies to a child who is formally identified as ‘Gifted’.

When a child has received a special education code, an Individualized Program Plan (IPP) is prepared in order to address their special learning needs.

What is ‘dual-coding’?

Children may have more than one special learning need and therefore, have more than one special code. Giftedness can also coincide with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and more.

What is an "IPP"?

When a child is coded with a special learning need, an “Individualized Program Plan (IPP)” is developed.

The IPP is used to outline a child’s special learning needs, create understanding of what those needs are, focus teacher/school resources on addressing special needs, outline educational goals/strategies, and help communication between the parent and the school.  If special accommodations are required in the classroom to help address a student’s special needs, they should be outlined in the IPP.

The IPP is reviewed regularly to assess if a child’s special learning needs are being met.

How is giftedness assessed in children?

Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, 2nd Edition (WIAT-II)

This test can usually be performed in your child’s school by a qualified teacher, and it is often the first assessment tool used to determine giftedness.

It is applied to an individual child and it assesses academic abilities in 4 key areas, further broken down into sub-tests: Reading (Word Reading, Comprehension, etc), Math (Operations, Reasoning), Written Language (Spelling, Expression) and Oral Language (Comprehension, Expression). The WIAT-II gives an assessment of a child’s abilities compared to their typical peers—if a child has exceptional results in a number of subject areas, further testing may be advised to confirm giftedness.

 

Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th Edition (WISC-IV)

The WISC-IV is an individually applied intelligence test for children ages 7-16, and it is administered by a Registered Psychologist.  It is a comprehensive assessment of a child’s cognitive abilities, providing an IQ score, as well as measures of Verbal Comprehension, Processing Speed, Memory and Reasoning. Using the test results and direct observation of a child, the psychologist is able to provide a qualified assessment of giftedness.

The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSIC) may be used to assess intelligence in children younger than 7yrs of age. Gifted assessments performed at a young age can be ‘unstable’, and accuracy is increased when children are closer to school age.

 

Canadian Cognitive Abilities Test (C-CAT)

The C-CAT is a group-administered test which measures a child’s learned reasoning abilities in 3 key areas most linked to academic success in school: Verbal, Quantitative and Nonverbal. When the CCAT is administered with the ‘Iowa Tests’, the CCAT may provide predicted achievement scores. To assess a child for giftedness, the CCAT is usually applied at 2-3 grade levels above the child’s current placement. While CCAT scores in the above average range may reflect WISC IQ scores indicating giftedness (ex: 130), it is important to know that CCAT results are NOT IQ scores.

Group testing is more cost-effective and available for school districts to perform on larger groups of students, but the group test is more likely to under-diagnose giftedness, thus, it is not considered as accurate as the WISC-IV.

Can any Registered Psychologist perform gifted assessments?

It is certainly possible for any Registered Psychologist to assess an individual for intelligence. However, in order to assess for giftedness in children, it is most ideal to have assessment performed by a professional who has experience in this area.

We have received anecdotal reports from some parents that some inexperienced Registered Psychologists have  incorrectly diagnosed a gifted child’s behavioral issues with Attention Deficit Disorder, etc.

I learned that the waiting list to see a school psychologist is quite long—are there other options?

Many families choose to have gifted assessments done privately in order to avoid the wait to see a school-based psychologist. There are many child psychologists in Calgary who can perform gifted assessments.

Is there a way to lower the costs associated with private gifted assessments?

The University of Calgary Applied Psychological & Education Services (UCAPES) provides high quality psychological services for families, with PhD and graduate students performing services under the direction of senior staff—their fees may be affordable for most families.

Many supplemental health insurance plans provide some reimbursement for psychological services provided by Registered Psychologists—contact your provider to find out if you or your dependants are eligible for coverage.

Why is the GATE Program a ‘Special Needs’ program, versus alternative or ‘program of choice’?

Students who are gifted are not automatically successful and high-achieving in typical community classrooms. The GATE Program is specifically designed to address the unique needs of gifted learners, including those whose giftedness may coincide with learning disabilities.

There are also many complexities that can occur with giftedness, such as social-emotional extremes. These needs are often best addressed in a classroom environment that has the tools and resources available.

Are gifted programs ‘elitist’?

Gifted programs are not intended to ‘coddle’ or give preferential treatment to gifted learners, but they are designed to address the complex needs of the gifted learner.

It can be considered more ‘elitist’ to leave a high-achieving gifted learner in a typical classroom, where they are always the smartest in the class, with no need to develop strong work or study habits. In a sense, gifted programs ‘level the playing field’, which encourages effort and develops a healthy sense of one’s sense of self-importance.

What schooling or program options are available for children who are gifted in Calgary?

In the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), the first programming option considered for Special Needs students is their community school.  Additional considerations may be alternative programs that offer differing degrees of challenge, such as second language-immersion, science-based, etc. If a gifted learner’s needs cannot be met in these settings, Special Education programming for the gifted may be appropriate.

The CBE GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Program is a Special Education program for gifted learners, from grade 4-12. Students must be identified as gifted by way of individual assessment from a Registered Psychologist (using WISC-IV), with criteria including minimum IQ score of 130.

Westmount Charter School offers programming for students who are gifted and/or high-achieving in grades K-12.

Calgary Separate School District (CSSD) offers a gifted program for students who are gifted, from grades 7-9.

What are ‘congregated’ school settings?

Congregated school settings are those in which students of similar mind, interest or abilities are grouped together to learn. In congregated settings, students are more likely to find peers who share similar interests and activities.

In congregated classrooms, the pace and depth of study can be tailored more appropriately for a classroom of gifted learners, as opposed to classrooms that house a variety of abilities. In a typical classroom,  a gifted learner may easily become bored and restless waiting for their fellow students to understand subject material that they mastered easily. In a congregated classroom, a gifted learner is more likely to find that their fellow classmates are mastering subject material at the same pace which allows the teacher to advance lessons more quickly or delve into topics more deeply.

Does my child need special gifted programming if they’re doing well in their community school?

Special gifted programs are designed to meet the needs of gifted learners whose needs are not being met in their community school. If a child’s school is able to tailor programming to meet the needs of a gifted learner, by offering appropriate enrichment and challenge, a family may opt to remain in their community school.

However, if a child’s community school is not able to provide adequate challenge and accommodation, a family may wish to pursue Special Education programming for the gifted before issues of boredom or misbehavior occur.

How is the curriculum different in a special gifted program?

Gifted programs follow Alberta Education curriculum, but subject is studied at greater depth, intensity, and in a greater variety of learning styles, as per the abilities of the children in the program.

How are children challenged in a special gifted program?

Using the concepts of Pace, Process, Product, Passion and Peers, gifted learners are provided an educational environment that is more suited to their learning needs.

See Dr Michael Pyryt’s “Enrichment Matrix” for more details.

Who is the GATE Program for?

The GATE Program is intended for students, identified as “Gifted” via individual achievement and intelligence testing, whose unique learning needs are not being met in the typical school classroom.

Who is the GATE Program NOT for?

The GATE Program is a Special Needs program and it is not designed for students who are ‘bright learners’, looking for additional challenge. Intellectual giftedness is not a trait that is developed in special educational programs.

There are also students who are coded both ‘Gifted’ AND ‘Learning Disability’. The GATE Program may be suitable for many of these students, however, the student’s gifted needs must be more dominant than their learning disability needs.

Is the GATE Program different between elementary school, junior or senior high school?

Yes.

In the elementary setting, classroom work focuses on enrichment of the curriculum and development of more higher order and complex thinking skills.

In the junior high program, students are offered the option to pursue acceleration of subjects in addition to enrichment. For example, a junior high student may choose to accelerate through Math and Science in order to complete grade 10 programming before the end of their grade 9 year.

In high school, students may choose GATE programming for all of their core subjects or they may choose to divide their classes between Pre-Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) programming. The decision as to what programming is most suitable for a gifted learner in high school should always consider what is in the best interests of the student.

My child seems to express strong sensitivities or emotions, whether it be happiness, sadness, anger, etc---Why is this? How can I help them both socially and emotionally?

It is not uncommon for children who are gifted to also display intense sensitivities and emotions. To some parents, it would seem that their child gets sad sadder, mad madder, and happy–happier. Sometimes, this can be a joy, but sometimes, we can find ourselves overwhelmed and wondering what to do.

There are times when expressing intense emotions can seem negative, such as if a child burst into tears over a seemingly small incident…and the tears continue for hours afterward. Sometimes, these extreme outbursts can affect relationships with other friends or play-mates, and they can also earn the ridicule of other parents. If we tell our children that they ‘should not feel so sad’, or that they should ‘just get over it’, we will find ourselves and our children frustrated, and it is unlikely to help the situation at hand.

As parents, we should ensure we recognize that there are are also many times when intense emotions can be very positive, such as when expressing love, joy or happiness. People who are gifted often bring these intensities into their relationships, whether they are childhood friendships or as an adult–with a life-long partner. Strong intensities can often mean a greater ability to feel empathy for others, which can lead to great care and compassion in relationships with others.

Intensities in emotion are often life-long for the gifted. Instead of telling them to ‘get over it’, we can help our children learn to express their emotions in more acceptable ways. Even if we don’t understand, we can provide patience.

 

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