Advocacy Groups for Parents of Gifted Learners
I'm at Edufest this week, presenting and learning at my favorite gifted education conference. The energy and camaraderie here is remarkable, and this year I am particularly enjoying witnessing the "a-ha" moments lighting up the faces of the newbies (those new to gifted education and/or Edufest). It's that same joy we teachers have in the classroom as we witness our students' eyes opening, as we realize they've made the connection, as we re-gain energy from their enthusiastic discoveries.
Interspersed with all of the teachers here are many parents, too. Some are quiet at first, having had frustrating experiences trying to communicate their child's unique learning needs to teachers who just don't get it. Some fight back tears in sessions as they realize the teachers here DO get it and understand. Some connect with one another over shared joys and miseries, and they relish having found a kindred spirit who is dealing with similar parenting issues. Their parent peers back home tend to think they're over-involved helicopter parents with no concerns of any actual serious or noteworthy concern. But the other parents they meet here at Edufest have lived the same challenges. Parents of gifted kids crave connecting with others who actually understand and get it - who know that they're not pushing their bright little kids, they're actually hanging on by their fingernails trying to keep up.
Connecting with other parents of gifted youth serves a vital role for moms and dads in the same boat. Additionally, these connections indirectly impact and benefit the kids. I noticed this first-hand when I ran my first SMPG (SENG Model Parent Group). Strategies, support, and knowledge the parents received from the sessions quickly trickled down to their kids in my classrooms.
Benefits for parents of connecting with other parents of gifted children include discovering they aren't alone, receiving support and encouragement in their advocacy efforts, and gaining knowledge about giftedness, gifted youth, and particular topics/issues relevant to their situation (such as information on twice exceptional, heightened sensitivities, social/emotional needs, and alternative academic options). They report that Edufest is eye-opening and they feel a weight lift off their shoulders while being here.
When their parents learn more about giftedness and connect with other parents in advocacy efforts, the kids benefit by having a parent who is more understanding, by having an adult advocate who is more informed and connected, and by having an adult in their lives who is more savvy to their quirks, behaviors, and needs as well as strategies for managing them.
I know many of you out there are parents of gifted youth, often feeling alone in your own struggle to understand your child(ren) and to help the schools best reach your highly unusual child(ren). A great opportunity presents itself tonight, a free webinar via NAGC that you can watch, i.e. "attend," online at 7:00 p.m. EST. Information about it, and a description, can be found at this link, and you can register here. If you can't attend "live," check NAGC's Live Learning Library for access to it after the fact. In particular, note their "Complementary Featured Sessions" section where you can access a rotating series of sessions for free. (They currently have a handful there geared specifically to parents!)
Another way to get yourself connected, informed, and involved is this free ebook, a joint publication from NAGC and Prufrock Press, about "Starting and Sustaining a Parent Group to Support Gifted Children."
More great information and resources for parents is accessible via the "Parents" tab at the Hoagies Gifted Education Page.
What strategies have you employed to become more connected, informed, and involved as a parent of and advocate for gifted children?