Gifted and Talented Children
Educational responses to children with special needs are based not on the "label" that has been given (for example, a child having been diagnosed as hearing impaired, intellectually disabled, or academically gifted) but on the fact that the child differs, in some way that will affect their learning, and that this difference will require a different educational response from the school.
There are different levels of hearing impairment, and the response that a teacher might make to a child with a moderate hearing loss would be of limited effectiveness if it were offered to a child with a severe hearing impairment. Similarly, there are different levels of intellectual or academic giftedness, which require different levels and types of response.
Children of IQ 120 appear in the population at a ratio of one in ten. Gagné's model (2000) would recognize them as gifted, and they are likely to find school rather slow and unchallenging if the teacher does not modify the curriculum, which is designed at the level and pace of their average ability age-peers. They need a curriculum that is faster paced, more academically rigorous and of greater depth (VanTassel-Baska 1998). However, they are likely to find other students in the inclusion classroom who are of approximately the same ability level, and, as long as the curriculum is differentiated to offer them sufficient academic challenge, the inclusion classroom will serve as an appropriate placement.
However, children of IQ 135 appear at a ratio of only 1 in 100 and children of IQ 140 at 1 in 200. If these students are retained in the inclusion classroom, they may pass through several years of elementary school without meeting or working with another child of similar ability. Apart from the intellectual boredom and frustration they may experience if the teacher does not give them material that will interest and challenge them, these children may experience loneliness and even social rejection because their abilities, interests, and ways of thinking are so different from those of their agepeers (Silverman 1993).
A substantial body of research recommends that many gifted students benefit, both academically and socially, from being grouped with children of similar abilities (Rogers 1991; Kulik and Kulik 1997; Gross 1997). This grouping may be full time in a special class for gifted students, or for part of each day when students are grouped by ability in a specific subject, or even for a few hours each week when gifted students are pulled out of their regular classes for enrichment workshops. Contrary to what teachers sometimes fear, ability grouping rarely makes gifted children conceited; actually, conceit is discouraged, rather than fostered, by the experience of working with other students as able, or more able, then oneself.
Acceleration—advancing gifted students to work with students older than themselves—also has substantial research support, showing that, where the acceleration program is well-designed and monitored, accelerated students experience both academic success and social acceptance by their new classmates (Gross 1993; Passow 1996). In the considerable majority of cases the advancement is by a single year, either through allowing students to enter primary, elementary, middle, or high school one year early, or by allowing them to advance a grade within a school building. Students may also be allowed to go to an upper grade for a single subject in which they excel, while remaining with age-peers for the majority of the school day.
Intellectually gifted students are usually advanced for their age in their emotional development as well as their intellectual development (Gross 1993). However, it is essential to ensure that a child who is being considered for acceleration is intellectually, academically, socially, and emotionally ready to work with older students on a more demanding curriculum. Above-level assessment should be used to establish that the student has mastered all, or the majority of, the curriculum of the grade he or she will "skip." It is important that the students themselves should be eager to accelerate and that the teachers with whom they will work have a positive attitude towards the process, allowing them to be accepted as full members of the class they are entering (Feldhusen, Proctor, and Black 1986).
The primary principle of educating gifted and talented children is that schools must acknowledge that these children differ from their age-peers in their learning needs and therefore the provisions the school makes in response should also be different to the provisions made for children of average ability.
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MIRACA U. M. GROSS
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