It’s National Parenting Gifted Children Week this week, and SENG is hosting a blog tour. Parenting is hard enough as it is, and when you add the special needs of gifted/asynchronous kids, it’s even harder. We’ve heard such excellent things from our network about how wonderful SENG’s annual conference is for parents and asynchronous kids. The annual conference is over (but there’s always next year!), but we hope the resources on SENG’s site, and in the blogs posting for the blog tour, will be of some help.
Most families with kids who are unusually asynchronous or twice-exceptional (asynchronous/gifted with learning disabilities) don’t have a built-in network of support from the public educational system and related service providers. This is true in California, as well as much of the rest of the country, with isolated exceptions in four states that mandate (limited) services for gifted kids or the handful that specifically state in their laws that acceleration is allowed. Regardless of state mandates, however, society universally views support for asynchronous kids as unnecessary, or worse, elitist. Instead of supporting these children and their families, or at least being sympathetic, society — including extended family and friends of these families — seeks to deny their difference, to deny their need, and to cut them down as though the child’s own abilities or potential somehow threaten them.
But asynchrony is a special need, all by itself. Add any other disabilities like ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or dyslexia, and you have extraordinary special needs. Imagine parenting a kid like this. Then imagine doing it when society doesn’t recognize that the kid needs support, resents the child’s potential, and simultaneously denies their differences.
Families with kids who have needs this extraordinary find themselves willing to do anything to meet their children’s needs. Because society doesn’t provide support, and the Internet does, parents these days usually find support in online forums like The TAG Project, GHF, and similar venues. If they are extraordinarily fortunate, they live in an area with a large concentration of similar families and can find in-person support groups. If they are a family in need, however, accessing the internet, getting computer time at libraries, or even learning about these resources can be impossible. The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund aims to remedy that, but that’s the subject of another post.
So let’s assume you are the parent of an asynchronous child and have taken steps to find community and follow the model so many others like you are using to meet your children’s needs? How do you transform the reactions of your own parents, or your child’s teacher, or anyone else? Here are some suggestions we hope will help.
- Help them understand your child’s unique needs, but also that there is a community of other children like yours out there, and that you are consulting with that community in your efforts to meet your child’s needs.
- Share resources like this post, the Davidson Institute’s online database, Hoagies Gifted website, GHF, NAGC resources, SENG, and others.
- Join one of the online forums mentioned above, and ask other parents for what worked for them.
- Remember that your parents/family/friends/child’s educators are likely trying to do what they think will help. If you help them understand your child’s needs, they’ll be able to be in a better position to support you.
- If you can, have your child assessed by a professional who specializes in gifted and 2e children. The websites listed above have resources to help you find such a professional in your area.
- Even if you can’t afford or find support to have an assessment done, you can use Deborah Ruf’s estimates of levels of giftedness to get a general idea of where your child is.
- Consider sharing A Nation Deceived, or talking to your child’s educators about using the Iowa Acceleration Scale.
- Debunking myths is helpful. Hoagies has a good summary.
- Harm and the Gifted Student offers a valuable perspective on why asynchronous children need to have their educational needs met. And we love the perspective of What a Child Doesn’t Learn (pdf).
- Remember that you, too, probably didn’t understand your child’s needs at first, and had to come to grips with it. Be patient with your own family and friends as you help them understand your child, so that they can become part of your support team. Its’ challenging, but worth it!
Most of all, remember that you are not alone. Take advantage of communities of others like you. They’re out there, and they are willing to help.
We are a startup; we’re seeking seed funding to launch our program, yet we’ve already received requests from families with children whose needs are so acute that they aren’t being met by the school system.
These are families who don’t have the resources to do what wealthier families with extremely asynchronous children do, and either “afterschool” or homeschool their children. Their children are suffering immensely because their educational, social, and emotional needs are not being met. Their families are similarly suffering from the fallout. We wish we were already up and running, so that we could ask these families to apply formally for support, and so we could then provide that support.
So as we prepare to start knocking on doors — big doors! — for seed funding, we’d like to share a series of posts about our approach, starting with our program.
The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund’s program model is based on a support approach proven successful by thousands of families across the United States (and internationally, even more families) over the course of the past twenty-plus years, and indeed for decades before that.
What does it look like? The details may vary somewhat depending on whether a child is in school, or homeschooled. The basic approach is this: Let the child follow his or her interests. The parent(s) serve as facilitators, providing materials, books, videos, classes and workshops, outings, and projects to allow the child to study the topic in question with as much depth as he or she desires, for as long as desired. Typically the child will move on to the next topic when the first one has been exhausted. Some children, particularly the more exceptionally and profoundly asynchronous, may have multiple interests they explore in depth simultaneously.
How can any child cover a full curriculum this way, particularly if learning exclusively in a home setting? The answer is anchored in who these children are. Most will branch out to end up exploring the full range of what typical children would cover in school, out of sheer interest. Most do so on their own schedule; while some maintain their learning multiple, ever-increasing grade-levels ahead across the board, others will reach a point when they realize that to achieve something they want and need – perhaps community college early admission, for example – they have to meet state requirements for high school graduation or equivalency, and will cram the needed learning into a very short time period.
Other kids, especially those with twice exceptionalities like dyslexia or Asperger’s spectrum disorder, may require more parental guidance to support and strengthen their weak areas, while they soar ahead in their strengths. Some may require remediation using approaches that can be adopted by the facilitating parent, but others require additional outside support from occupational therapists and other professionals.
Additionally, children with narrow interests may need parents to weave that interest into everything they do. If the love is horses, for example, that provides the opportunity to do horse math: If you have three horses in the stable, but six stalls, what percentage of stalls are filled? Horse grammar: What part of speech is the word “horse”? What is the etymology of the various horse part names? Horse biology! The physics of horse motion! The possibilities are nearly endless.
For asynchronous kids who are in a school, the degree of after-school and weekend accommodation will depend deeply on the accommodation that is happening during school hours. Is the child accelerated to the level of his or her intellectual age? Is the curriculum compacted to meet his or her need for learning at a faster pace? Does the child have intellectual (not chronological age) peers? If these needs are met, the needs out of school will be less intense.
But an asynchronous child whose needs are not being met in school will have extremely intense needs after school and on weekends. Most families in this situation find they need to devote constant effort to feeding the “lion” that is the child’s ravenous intellect. Because the social and emotional well-being of these children is closely tied up in having their intellectual needs met, families trying to use afterschooling to meet all these needs have a much harder time. It can be done successfully, but most success results from a combination of advocacy to have the child’s needs met in school through acceleration to place the child with intellectual peers, curriculum compaction, and in-school enrichment, in addition to the intensive afterschooling efforts.
The Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund will provide direct aid to families in need to help their asynchronous and twice exceptional children. This will include provision of services like assessments and advocacy through service partners familiar both with the needs of gifted children, and the methods of school districts, schools and educators. It will include the provision of intensive educational resources specifically tailored to each child’s needs. Kids and families may require individual or family counseling from specialists experienced in working with this population. The Fund will help families access free and low-cost online resources, including, when needed, through the provision of computer technology, training, and Internet access. And because community can be the greatest support network for anyone, the Fund will help families connect with existing communities of families with kids like theirs, both online and in person.
Stay tuned for our next blog post on the the reasons why parents meet resistance from their own families, communities and schools in seeking to meet their children’s needs by following this model, and how they can help resolve that challenge.