Your Gifted Child And School — Ten Suggestions For Parents

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC
photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

Eight-year-old Bobby wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Could he be gifted? Hm?

There were many other signs: Enormous enthusiasm for learning, especially history, science, and language; emotional intensity, difficulty maintaining friendships with children his age, trouble with motivation in school, writing insightful poetry and detailed stories, stacks of books he longed to read, advanced verbal ability, over-thinking tests so that he misunderstood simple problems and scored poorly on exams, great interest in mathematics but not arithmetic, high sensitivity and empathy, frustration with the slowness of handwriting, distressed by the repetition in school, extremely active and curious mind, quirky sense of humor.

I’ve known many gifted children with similar characteristics. Like Bobby, they’re often misunderstood. Their sensitivity and big emotions are mistaken for immaturity. Mediocre test scores are interpreted as average ability or laziness. Loneliness is seen as lack of empathy. Intense curiosity looks like arrogance.

School personnel didn’t recognize Bobby’s rainforest mind. Is this scenario familiar?

If so, here’s what you can do:

— Explain to your child what it means to have a rainforest mind.

— Ask your child to create an imaginary container for his emotions to use when it’s not safe to express them in public. (Bobby used a coconut reinforced with diamonds that was “as big as a truck.”) One resource for helping with anxiety, depression and intensities is Charlotte Reznick‘s work.

— Find a specialist in gifted education who can test your child if the school needs proof of giftedness so that your child’s anxiety and creativity will be taken into consideration as her test results are interpreted.

— Request persistently and repeatedly that your child be matched with the more sensitive, creative and flexible teachers who, ideally, have training in gifted education. Did I mention, be persistent? Convince administrators that this is an easy solution, because it is. Understand the pressures that educators are under and provide support where you can. Bring bribes caffeinated beverages to overworked teachers. Let difficult administrators know that you have superpowers and you’re not afraid to use them. Remind yourself that when you speak out for your child, other gifted kids will benefit.

— Teach your child social skills, if needed, through role playing. Rainforest-y kids can be bossy and impatient because they don’t realize that other children don’t think as fast or don’t have the same interests. (Explain this to them.) Invite children over for play dates and provide guidance, if needed.

— Share this post with educators. It offers simple teaching techniques that work in the classroom along with inexpensive practical resources for teachers.

— Problem solve as a family. Brainstorm ideas. Your children will come up with creative solutions to assorted problems and they’ll appreciate your trust in them. Remember that healthy limits and consistency are important, especially if your child is testing boundaries. Take time to nourish yourself.

— If you have a rainforest mind and had difficulty in school, find ways to process your feelings through journaling, coaching or counseling. This post might help.

— Read about what other parents are doing and, if needed, look into homeschooling. Join a parenting support group in your town or on Facebook. Attend a SENG or NAGC conference.

— Work to change the system. Join innovative educators like Jade Rivera, the educators at NuMinds and organizations like

All of our children, in fact, the entire planet, will benefit if our gifted kids are provided with a stimulating, compassionate and meaningful schooling experience.

I’m sure Richard Feynman would agree.


To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your schooling experiences or about how your kids are doing in school. What frustrations did you have? Was there a teacher who made a difference for you? How? Thank you for sharing. My blog is so much richer because of your comments. See you in 2017! Let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover in future posts.

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Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

16 responses to “Your Gifted Child And School — Ten Suggestions For Parents”

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  1. Lui, arrogant, ADHD, onderpresteren. Ah, ik begrijp het. Hoogbegaafd. – Learn From the Heart

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  2. Gifted, Sensitive, Curious Children In School — What Can Parents And Teachers Do? | Your Rainforest Mind

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  3. Emily Avatar

    My 12 year old just took the ACT and scored a 26. She’s in advanced classes at a public school, but what can I do to get the word out to other schools to see what opportunities are out there for her?

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Emily. I’m not sure what you’re asking here. “get the word out to other schools” means ??? Are you wondering if there’s a better school that would meet her needs? There are parent groups on Facebook that might help. Have you been to Hoagiesgifted? or giftedhomeschoolers? You can pose questions on FB that these parents could answer!

  4. Kristi Jones Avatar
    Kristi Jones

    Great post! Homeschooling isn’t an option for us so we’ll keep advocating for our child.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Yes, Kristi. Keep advocating! I hope my posts give you some ideas and support!

  5. Gabi Montoya-Eyerman Avatar
    Gabi Montoya-Eyerman

    In the rural area we live in there is only one teacher per grade. Homeschooling is what we are doing for now. Great ideas though, especially about talking to the child who is now getting frustrated with the slowness of the homeschooling! How do I let them skip ahead when she says, “I already know this!” but I am not sure if she really knows it. There are few teachers who really know how to deal with gifted students. The main concern and funding is for the students who are at a remedial level. I am so glad you are out there to help.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thanks, Gabi. I hope the links to homeschooling parents will help you. I so wish our schools were adequately funded for everyone! Our world would be a kinder place if we took better care of our kids at home and at school. Thanks for your comment, Gabi. I always appreciate hearing from you.

  6. Gail Post, Ph.D. Avatar
    Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Great list of supportive and helpful ideas for overwhelmed parents and their children.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Gail.

  7. Tiffany Avatar

    We just pulled our son out of school to homeschool. Even though he had amazing teachers, schools just aren’t set up to accommodate young kids working multiple grades ahead of their age mates. So far, he seems so much happier!

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Sometimes that’s the only answer, Tiffany. Sad to say. The more gifted the child, the less the school seems to be able to accommodate them. I’m glad you have that option and that he’s happy now.

    2. Tara Avatar

      We’re doing the same! It’s been so heartbreaking to see the struggles our DS5 has in school and the inability or unwillingness for the school to look outside the box. I’m a little freaked out but also excited by this new season!

      1. Paula Prober Avatar
        Paula Prober

        The links in the post will take you to some good advice from homeschooling parents. Thanks for sharing, Tara. You can do it!

  8. Emily VR Avatar
    Emily VR

    Thank you for your wonderful support and advice!! I am bookmarking for future reference and reassurance… thank you! 🙂

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      I’m always happy to have you visit, Emily!

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