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Gifted/High-Ability Learners

What do parents of gifted/high-ability learners need to know in order to understand their child’s capacities, behaviors, and feelings?

Here’s information, along with 8 guidelines.

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” — Socrates


High-level ability is not stable—it’s dependent upon motivation, effort, and opportunities to learn, and it develops step by step in an environment of appropriate support and challenge. However, life is unpredictable, and children’s interactions with the world are always in flux. Moreover, there are different ways of being smart across academic and non-academic domains. Therefore, parents must be both vigilant and flexibly responsive with respect to their children’s development, and also with respect to their own thinking, attitudes, and actions.

Meanwhile, research findings continue to inform and refine understandings of giftedness in many areas. These include educational practice, variability of brain development, sociability, emotional literacy, creative expression, dual exceptionality, intelligence-building, and more.


Although no two children are alike, and there is no one “blueprint” for successful parenting, there are some foundational considerations that can enhance educational opportunities and home and school connections, and also broaden understanding about gifted/high-level development—leading to positive outcomes for more children and teens.

Here are 8 guidelines for parents, extracted and adapted from the chapter, “U is for Understanding” within my new book ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids.

· Understanding– find out all you can about giftedness, including its conceptual base, its implications, its joys, and its complexities.

· Uncover– carefully sift through reputable sources of information about gifted learners and approaches to gifted education. Thoughtfully consider the material, and the various and sometimes conflicting perspectives. Be mindful of what’s best for your own child’s well-being, and the family dynamic.

· Uniqueness – giftedness is an individual differences phenomenon. There’s an abundance of support services and resources that can help parents address children’s unique gifts and talents. (See below for some suggestions.)

· Uncertainty – children can experience bouts of uncertainty about themselves, about their place in the ever-changing world, and about what they can and cannot achieve. As a result, they may be unhappy, insecure, or unsure how or even if to advance. Offer reassurance and respond attentively to their questions and concerns.

· Underachievement – not all smart kids extend themselves or achieve what they’re capable of achieving. There are many possible reasons for that, such as …

Dr. Joanne Foster

Dr. Joanne Foster, an acclaimed author and educator, has dedicated over 35 years to gifted education and child development. With expertise in psychology and special education, her work empowers parents and educators, fostering creativity and high-level learning in children and teens. Dr. Foster has written countless articles, and several books—the most recent being Ignite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kids.

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