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September 2011



Recent Posts


Albert Einstein


Reforming Gifted and Talented Programs
by: Terrence Falk | Friday 9/23/2011


Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marie Curie, and a host of other famous individuals had two things in common: they were extremely gifted and probably had some special educational needs.  Asperger’s syndrome, autism, hyperactivity, and dyslexia are common conditions for gifted individuals.


Gifted children often get low grades and have poor behavior in school. Their special needs get in the way of learning. Even without special needs, gifted students are often bored with school work so don’t stay on task. Their minds often race ahead of their ability to act. Think of a race car engine in a VW Beetle body, and you begin to understand the challenges many gifted and talented children face.


Many gifted and talented education experts believe that such gifted students have a higher percentage with exceptional educational needs than the general population. Whole organizations and websites are now devoted to “twice exceptional” or “2e” children.


Unfortunately, those are not the students that are often placed into gifted and talented programs. Instead, these programs are filled with “well-schooled” children who get high grades, do all their homework, and follow instructions of their teachers. Their parents push them along, support them with tutors, piano and dance lessons. These children may be bright and hardworking, but they do not meet the classic definition of gifted and talented.


Like many school systems, some Milwaukee gifted and talented programs have few if any 2e students. Instead 2e students are systematically eliminated from programs in favor of well-schooled children. Many gifted children are overlooked when school systems rely on teacher identification to find gifted children. 2e children may mask both their giftedness and their special needs by having their gifts compensating for their needs thus appearing to be fairly normal.


Severely physically handicapped children with gifts and talents may be especially hard to identify. Our most brilliant physicist, Steven Hawkins, can only communicate through eye movement directed to a special keyboard. He was fortunate that his paralysis slowly developed allowing him to completeh is university studies and have his genius recognized before he was immobilized.


Helen Keller was deaf and blind from birth. Her caregiver, Anne Sullivan, found a way to communicate with Helen and opened her gifts to the rest of the world. How many Steven Hawkins and Helen Kellers are out there that we will never know who will never make the contributions these two made to our society?


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