Six Steps Toward Better Parenting of Gifted Children

By Audra Nelson, Parent

Audra with her kids

Author Audra Nelson and family

As a parent of three bright, high-energy kids, I spend most of my days feeling tired. Grateful and happy, but tired. There are simply not enough hours in the day. For this reason, I have a love/hate relationship with parenting advice. The advice often sounds great, but just thinking about how to implement it can wear me out.

The Center for Talent Development’s recent Opportunities for the Future Conference was chock-full of fantastic parenting advice. Strangely, though, I left feeling energized. Maybe because it’s summer, and the days truly are longer. Or maybe because the advice seemed too important NOT to implement. Either way, I’m excited to act on the following six ideas shared by keynote speakers Drs. Del Siegle and D. Betsy McCoach.

1. Talk about how talent develops. Don’t let giftedness be the elephant in the room with your kids. Too often, gifted students believe every challenging task is a test of their giftedness, and they live in fear that people will find out they aren’t as smart as everyone thinks they are. Remind children that they have a role to play. It’s not about being gifted; it’s about using your gifts and developing your talent, achieving and learning more each day.

2. Teach kids that mistakes make us smarter. Too often, children buy into the belief that smart kids do well without working hard. We need kids to realize that working hard makes you smart! As you stretch yourself and overcome challenges, you create new pathways in your brain. Every mistake leads you closer to success. As parents, we can help kids build their brains by providing them with enrichment opportunities such as those offered by CTD’s Saturday Enrichment Program or Gifted LearningLinks.

3. Avoid -EST words. As adults, we know it’s rarely, if ever, true that we are the best, brightest, fastest or any other -est. At some point, our kids will learn this lesson, too. If they grow up thinking they are the -EST, the reality will come as a shocker. As parents, we can help build kids’ confidence and give them a realistic view of the world by avoiding “-est” words and exposing them to other kids of equal or greater ability. The earlier that students “swim in a bigger pool of talent,” the easier it is for them to develop a mindset centered on learning and growth rather than a performance mindset in which ability is a fixed entity.

4. Give specific, developmental compliments. John Hattie did a meta-analysis of the education research to find out what makes the most impact on a child’s education, and this was it: individual feedback. The next time my daughter asks if I like her drawing, I’m going to stop and really look at it. And instead of saying, “That’s the best portrait you’ve ever drawn,” I will take note of something specific. Maybe I will say, “I really like the realistic colors you’ve chosen,” or “You spent a long time working on that. You must be learning to pay attention to detail.” I will make the time to respond to her in a way that will influence her learning, not just allow me to get back to my agenda.


All family members find topics of interest at the Opportunities for the Future Conference.

5. Document and recognize growth. Showing kids how much they’ve learned year to year gives them a visual of growth and an understanding that growth is not fixed, but malleable. When my son moans and groans about handwriting practice, I can encourage him by showing him the improvement he made from preschool to kindergarten.

6. Advocate, advocate, advocate for gifted education. Research suggests that in a typical 180-day public school year, gifted kids spend nearly 75 days on unnecessary repetition, approximately 80 days on content previously mastered and only 25 days on new material. The research on gifted students’ growth over the course of a year is equally dismal. Gifted kids seem to be learning more during the summer, away from school, than they are learning during the academic year in school. In a system that evaluates teachers on achievement, rather than individual growth, teachers have every incentive to pull up low-achievers and, sadly, to let high achievers be. Gifted education needs parent advocates. Let’s get started today!    

If you attended the conference this past weekend, what were your takeaways? If you didn’t, what do you think of the ideas above?

CTD sponsors the Opportunities for the Future conference every year. The event offers a wide variety of sessions and workshops for gifted students and their parents.

Ask Paula — Summer 2013

OK.Paula“Ask Paula” is your opportunity to seek advice and find answers about parenting and education.  Here, our gifted expert and CTD Director, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, offers her insights.

Q: How can parents and educators ensure that they are not overwhelming or over-accelerating students?

Research has shown that acceleration, when used in schools, is typically done conservatively rather than “generously”, so over-accelerating is not usually a problem. However, the decision to accelerate a child is complex, involves many factors, and must be implemented carefully and thoughtfully. Above-grade level testing— e.g. 3rd through 6th graders taking the EXPLORE test (typically designed for 8th graders) and 7th through 9th graders taking the ACT or SAT (typically designed for 11th and 12th graders)– through CTD’s NUMATS program, is an excellent way to identify students whose reasoning abilities in math, science or reading are significantly above grade level and are, therefore, good candidates for subject or grade-level acceleration.

The key to successful acceleration is planning and managing expectations. Prior to acceleration, assessment of the child’s previous knowledge and skill level in the subjects he or she will be accelerated in is critical. For example, if a 6th grade child is being accelerated into algebra, a comprehensive test of pre-algebra and algebra can identify both gaps and areas of proficiency. It is important that both teachers, especially the receiving teacher, and parents, expect knowledge and skill gaps rather than perfect knowledge of the courses to be skipped, and work out a plan to address them. The plan might include some self-study over the summer or perhaps working with a teacher during the school year or using a flexible distance education program to fill in gaps (such as CTD’s Gifted Learning Links). If a student is being accelerated in language arts, the receiving teacher might suggest some specific literature or books for summer reading.

Another part of the plan for successful acceleration should be a timeline to evaluate the student’s adjustment and success in the new placement, using agreed upon criteria to measure these. Questions to ponder in devising a plan might include how long of an adjustment period to give; how often parents, students and educators should meet to assess progress and share perspectives on the placement; what the expected levels of academic performance, social integration with older students and independent study should be; and what is an alternative plan should the accelerated placement not work out.

Another component to successful acceleration is managing expectations of the teacher (e.g. that the student may not get everything correct and may have skill gaps, need time to adjust, be immature in some areas compared to the older students); of parents (e.g. it may be a rough start and the students may have an emotional reaction to an increased level of challenge and new social context); and of students(e.g. may feel under-prepared and lonely at first, may have to do some catch up initially). If full grade acceleration is being considered, one tool schools can use to determine if students are good candidates is the Iowa Acceleration Scale. It addresses many of the issues I have described, and helps educators and parents make informed decisions.

Not all gifted students are accelerated or choose acceleration as an option in school, but many do take on outside of school learning activities, extra-curricular activities, and additional courses to satisfy their interests and desire to learn. These are important activities for many children, giving them opportunities to connect with like-minded peers and receive instruction from enthusiastic and exceptional teachers. These activities engender motivation and build competencies and expertise. It is important to consider how much is “too much”, though. Growth in knowledge and learning, whether it is in a particular subject or in “non cognitive” areas such as organizational skills, result from the proper level of challenge and the right mix of challenge and support. Too much challenge creates anxiety and too little results in boredom and complacency.

What is “too much” is very individual and parents need to monitor and listen to their child for signs of distress, worry and anxiety that are excessive or do not dissipate over time. Parents and teachers also need to increase support for a student who has taken on a challenging course load or accelerates by actively listening to concerns and offering solutions, which might include adjustments to other aspects of a student’s schedule, assisting with communications with teachers and administrators, helping a student adjust expectations for achievement and friendships, and helping a student acquire study and organizational skills and effective coping strategies.

Time management is a critical skill to acquire and parents can guide children in thinking about what activities or courses matter most to them, require a greater investment of time and energy, or are critical to a future course of study. It is important that parents actively engage with their child in decision making regarding his or her choices for courses in school and outside of school programs and activities with the goal of helping them make the best choices and become independent critical thinkers and decision makers.

Do you have your own question for Paula? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Facebook, and watch this space next quarter for Paula’s replies!

Rainy Day Activity: Pour Out the Candles

By David Chan


With the holidays approaching, you and your loved ones may find yourselves sharing a holiday meal by candlelight. Instead of extinguishing these candles with your breath, why not use some chemistry to whip up a quick demonstration that is bound to impress and educate?

Density is a physical property of matter that can be quantitatively expressed as the amount of mass per unit of volume. Different substances can have different densities and with gases, a more dense gas can act as if it is “heavier” than other gases. This can be viewed with a demonstration using carbon dioxide or CO2.  In this activity, we will first create some carbon dioxide then we will show that the gas is more dense than other gases found in air (a mixture of several gases) and this property can be used to “pour” CO2 onto a burning candle.

This activity is appropriate for ages 6+ but all students should be supervised since gases will be produced and an open flame will be used.

Materials Needed:

  • Candle
  • Matches
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • 2-3 large containers (Ex. 1 Liter beakers, Mason Jars, 2-Liter bottle-tops cut off)

Instructions for Doing the Activity:

1. Pour about 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1/4 cup of vinegar into one container.


2. Either light the candle(s) or make sure existing candles are still lit.


3. After the bubbling has stopped, pick up the container with the liquid mixture and carefully pour the gas over the candle(s). Try to just pour the invisible gas and not the liquid!

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1.  How were you able to “pour” an invisible gas?

2.  What does the candle need to continue burning?

3.  How does adding carbon dioxide affect this?

4.  Why is carbon dioxide commonly found in fire extinguishers?

Modifications for Younger or Older Students:

Younger students can try lowering a candle (carefully, or have an adult do this) into the container instead of pouring the gas onto the candle.

Older students may wish to extend the activity by trying to pour the CO2 into a separate container first before pouring the gas onto the candle. Additional modifications include having students can set up a ramp or a similar apparatus to pour the gas over a distance down onto the candle.

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Additional Resources and Links:


Density Animated Demo:

Same concept, using dry ice (solid CO2) instead of baking soda/vinegar:

David Chan teaches the online Honors and Advanced Placement® Chemistry course for Center for Talent Development’s Gifted LearningLinks program. He taught math and science for 10 years before becoming the Technology Integration Specialist at Evanston Township High School in Illinois He is also a technology consultant, a Google Certified Teacher and an Apps for Education Certified Trainer. He presents regularly at local, regional and national conferences on a variety of topics ranging from Google Apps to Screencasting.

Visit the Gifted LearningLinks website to find information on Honors and AP online courses for gifted students.

Flipped Classrooms: Maximizing Class Time

by Randee Blair, Associate Director, Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University

A recent hot topic in education has been the flipped classroom debate. With the growth of online options, learning has expanded outside of the school classroom, and this trend only seems to be growing.

What’s flipped is that instead of doing homework, students watch online instructional movies, videos, lectures and visit websites at home, with the opportunity to revisit challenging sections and formulate questions. The teacher then has more time to facilitate discussion, based on these questions and is then able to help students with activities and assigned problems reinforcing the concepts during class time.

Why are flipped classrooms gaining popularity? In a flipped classroom, “Class time is spent focusing on [students’] needs, not on the teacher’s schedule,” says science teacher Brian E. Bennett on SmartBlog on Education. “Students are encouraged to make decisions, question, succeed and fail in a supportive, dynamic learning environment. Choice is rampant in flipped learning, and students are given an opportunity to defend their choices as a partner in learning rather than a subordinate.”

Flipped classrooms allow for flexibility and have become a way for teachers to differentiate their instruction in order to meet individual student needs. Education consultant Jonathan Bergmann is a pioneer of the flipped classroom concept. Bergmann said in an April interview: “The benefits are huge. Kids learn to become independent learners. They figure out how to learn for themselves.”

Others are not yet convinced. A blog entry titled “Flipping’ Classrooms: Does It Make Sense?” quotes teacher John Hrevnack: “[a] concern I have is that the lecture is portrayed as the teacher speaking and the students listening.  This is not the way that most teachers ‘lecture.’  Most teachers use an Interactive Lecture.” Hrevnack describes the “Interactive Lecture” as one in which the teacher prepares questions to spark students’ interest during the lecture and getting them to think critically. Live or personalized online programs may assuage these concerns and offer the advantage of interacting with peers from far off and diverse communities.

“Flipped learning is not a one-size-fits-all approach nor is it appropriate in every situation,” concludes Bennett. Given that e-learning is not going away, how can schools use it to their students’ greatest advantage? “Let’s begin to focus on the philosophical decisions teachers and schools need to make to move education forward in a connected world,” he suggests. “For me, flipping the learning process was the best way to make that shift, and that’s simply what it is — a tool to push teaching and learning forward. I am continually learning and improving on what has worked in the past to become a better teacher.”

Gifted LearningLinks is CTD’s online course program. At this time most courses are taken independently by students. However, more schools are starting to take advantage of the program as a way to differentiate for academically gifted students.

What do you think about flipped classrooms?

Randee Blair is Associate Director at the Center for Talent Development with direct responibsility for online Gifted LearningLinks and the Saturday Enrichment Progam.  She spent 30 years in the Illinois public school system as a teacher and curriculum coordinator for math and gifted education.  She is an esteemed speaker who presents at conferences across the country and author of several professional development books for teachers.

Food for Thought: What’s Important About Education?

Entry for the 2011 Summer Program T-shirt Contest

A recent article quoted a six year old’s reflections on his experience in a mixed ability classroom:

“They feed me peanuts all day. I like peanuts and I get full, but what I really want is one big juicy hamburger.”

The article discusses the need for differentiation in mixed-ability classrooms. “Despite research suggesting that gifted children perform better academically when instructed together with similar ability peers, support for these programs is at an all-time low,” the article warns. How can parents and educators ensure that gifted students aren’t left with peanuts? Options recommended in the article, appropriately titled New options emerge to enrich gifted students’ education, include computer-based supplemental activities, professional development opportunities for teachers, and additional challenges provided by parents to help serve gifted students.

But what is the essence of that big juicy hamburger? What elements of education are the most important to foster within today’s youth?

This month, ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) presented their reflections on this topic in a newsletter article titled “What Is The Purpose of Education?” In it, they addressed how education is an evolutionary phenomenon in that throughout time, education has shifted based on societal needs and changes. Yet leaders in education agree that the value of good teaching and the essence of education haven’t changed. James Harvey, a senior fellow at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, gets to the meat of the matter: “The most significant skill [young people] can develop in the 21st century is the same skill that served them well in prior centuries: a mind equipped to think, the most important work skill of them all.”

Share your methods for motivating and challenging your gifted student(s)!

Looking for supplemental opportunities for fall? Registration for fall courses with CTD’s Gifted LearningLinks and Saturday Enrichment Program is now open.

Rainy Day Writing

by Dana Turner Thomson

After over 30 years of teaching – primarily gifted students in both pullout enrichment programs and in daily gifted language arts classes — Carol Lee thought she might be ready to retire.  But, as she told me last week, “I knew, when I retired from the classroom, that there was no way I could stop teaching.”  And so it was that she began teaching the Online Writers’ Workshop (OWW) for CTD’s online Gifted LearningLinks program.

Ms. Lee

At first, she was a little uncertain about the online format.

“Knowing my students well and enjoying their company had been very important to me in the classroom.  I was worried that I could not experience that when teaching online, but I could not have been more wrong,”

“The process of writing, and of course the content of what is written, reveal much about the writer, but the online venue itself also offers multiple avenues for truly connecting with and supporting my young writers.  Online chat discussions, for example, bring the entire group close together based on trust, because each student has to risk receiving feedback about their own creation – the story – and likewise comment on the stories of each of the other students.  I’m also able to have discussions with each student and post individualized comments about their writing in their Work Area on the Discussions Board.  And students and parents email me with questions and comments, so we share conversations that way as well,”

“The most important part of teaching for me is to connect with each student – everything else that we do depends upon the quality of that connection.  The ways that I keep that connection real are different from what I did in the classroom, but they have the same effect,”

“I am honored to hear from students about how exciting and worthwhile it was to have this experience of being with a group of students of varying ages and a teacher who really care about THEIR writing and want to discuss it with them, and to hear what they think about the writing of others.  And quite a few take the class more than once, which is a special treat for me, because I am able to watch their growth over semesters and even years. One of my students, an 8-year-old, wrote a delightful book over the course of two OWW sessions, and her family self-published it and it is selling quite successfully at,”

Ms. Lee has shared below one of the brainstorming techniques she does with students in her OWW courses.  I’m very excited to try it with my extremely verbal and imaginative 6-year-old.  She’s not word processing yet, so I am going to adapt Ms. Lee’s activity for her by using story dictation — anyone want to place bets on whether my typing skills can keep up with her ideas?! (By the way, if you want to read more about story dictation, read Ann Gadzikowski’s fantastic post on early readers.)

P.S. Don’t waste any time worrying about about Ms. Lee’s spoiled retirement plans. Teaching for CTD’s online Gifted LearningLinks program allows her to keep in constant contact with her students despite frequent travels across the nation.


by Ms. Lee

Begin with storms from your brain about your story. You get to choose everything about the story you will write, from beginning to end.

But first, do not sit down and write your story! Nope–try this instead: Into a word processing document, type every story detail your mind can hold.

You do not have to use complete sentences or paragraphs; just type in your ideas as you have them.

Separate each new idea from the next with a white space by hitting “Enter” twice,  so that it is easy to follow when you start writing.

If you are stuck, try brainstorming by answering:


In OWW, once the brainstorm is finished, we just rearrange the ideas into the order that they appear in the story. Voila! An instant outline!

Now you are ready to sit down and write!

Dana Turner Thomson: is CTD’s Research Director. Dana has also served as assistant editor of Gifted Child Quarterly and as editorial assistant for the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education. When not surrounded by CTD students, she receives inspiration from her two young children and their boundless curiosity about the world.

Letting Kids Rule Their School?

Every child needs structure, such as bedtime reinforcement and a vegetable-eating policy. When it comes to learning, however, sometimes too much adult intervention can be stifling. This Op-Ed piece from the New York Times points to a case study in which a small group of high school students took charge of their own curriculum and it yielded advantageous results.

Do you feel that your child would benefit from a less “structured” setting and would enjoy creating and working through his/her own curriculum? Mentorships are one option. Online learning can be another. Consider CTD’s Gifted LearningLinks program, which features an Independent Study opportunity. This format allows a curious gifted child to explore an in-depth project at his/her own pace with guided instruction.

What do you think about the “plan your own school” approach? Would you enroll your child in a similar program?

“Ask Paula” Answered, March, 2011

We had an overwhelming response to this month’s call for questions. Thanks, everyone, and enjoy Paula’s replies below!

Q: Do you have any tips on handwriting issues with highly gifted boys?-Shannon Trostle Rowe

Q: We are interested in tips on motivation for 2e children who dislike writing and school in this standardized test/curriculum environment. How do you adjust curriculum for visual spatial gifted learners? -Saint Johns County Gifted Network

Q: I would love to hear more about 2e, specifically dyslexia in gifted students and how to support them when the public schools won’t because they are not failing.-“Jean n’ Charlie”

Q: Any help on keeping gifted ADHD kids on task?-Valerie Hau

A: The first four questions really ask about issues related to specific learning problems or learning styles with gifted children, including children who are both gifted and learning disabled. While not an expert on this topic, I can offer some additional informational resources and people to contact who have more knowledge about these areas.

First, for a general background on twice exceptionality, I would suggest that you read the position paper on “Twice Exceptionality” on the website of the National Association for Gifted Children. When you get to the home page of NAGC, look on the left and under “Information and Resources” go to “NAGC Position Papers”. This is a six page paper that gives a good explanation of what twice exceptionality is and the types of learning disabilities that can co-exist with giftedness, how twice exceptionality is assessed and diagnosed, social-emotional concerns for 2e children, etc. At the end of that article, you will find some references that might be helpful to you.

Second, a book that I have and use on twice exceptional learners is one by Deirdre Lovecky, who is a clinical child psychologist and directs the Gifted Resource Center of New England. She has authored a book entitled, “Different Minds. Gifted Children with ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, and other Learning Deficits”. She has lots of vignettes about children in this book that are very helpful.

Third, a newsletter on the topic of twice exceptionality that I find very helpful is the “2e Twice-Exceptional Newsletter”. It is published by Glen Ellyn Media and written by Linda Neumann and Mark Bade, professional writers and parents with personal experience in 2e issues. The newsletter contains article by psychologists and other experts on all sorts of learning issues and strategies for working with 2e children at school and at home. You can find more information at

Fourth, the Beilin and Blank Center for Gifted Education at the University of Iowa is beginning a National Center for Twice Exceptionality. While this is in the beginning stages, there are some resources on their website.

There are a couple of websites that offer a variety of articles, personal stories and vignettes, and resources on many of the topics in this month’s questions. Another website that offer a variety of articles and resources on many of the topics in this month’s questions is (links to articles, programs, etc.). You can search the site using keywords such as “handwriting,” “ADHD” and “visual spatial.” Here you will find a database of articles on gifted issues and there are several on learning styles and special educational needs.

Lastly, visual spatial learners are defined as children who think in pictures rather than in words (in contrast to what are called auditory, sequential learners). In reality, most people process and use information in a variety of ways, depending upon the type of information. Visual spatial learner refers to a preference to process information in visual form over other means. It may be a advantageous to have a strength for thinking in pictures in some fields or to be able to easily switch between modes of processing depending on the requirement of the situation. The best resource about visual spatial, gifted learners is a book by Linda Silverman, entitled “Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner” (Denver, DeLeon Publishing, 2002). Linda is a psychologist and runs the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Co. Her website,, has a lot of information bout visual-spatial learners, their characteristics, etc.

Q: How about after school activities? My son has dropped out of all the normal ones, soccer, baseball, cub scouts, even Lego camp… I bet he would enjoy a science program, or “how to write code” camp, but at age 6 there’s not much available for him. He does much better when he’s actively engaged, but finding things to hold his interest has been a challenge. -Rebecca Rumin Romaine

A: It is difficult to keep any 6 year old engaged and interested. However, it sounds as if you have provided a number of different after-school activities to your son and have observed his interest and engagement. And, you are correct, finding something after school that is science focused will be difficult. You have several options. First, CTD does offer an online family program for children in Kindergarten through grade 2. This is through our Gifted LearningLinks program. Classes are thematically based, e.g. “Backyard Explorers” and run for 9 weeks. Teachers develop activities related to the theme that parents can carry out with their child at home. There are core activities and supplemental activities for each weekly lesson. The  course instructor is available to parents online to help them with the activities, answer questions, receive comments, etc. There is a discussion board where parents can exchange and share information about the activities or post a picture of their child’s work or any products developed. The purpose of the program is to help parents provide enrichment at home to their gifted child. CTD also offers enrichment courses that students can take starting in the third grade, also through the Gifted LearningLinks program ( and courses on Saturdays at four sites throughout the Chicago area (

There are some searchable indexes of programs for gifted students online that include summer, weekend, or after-school programs. CTD has one on their website as does the National Association for Gifted Children , as does the Talent Identification Program at Duke University.

Another option would be to find someone who could work one-on-one with your child after school or on the weekends, providing enrichment in areas he is interested in.
Check out what local museums, community organizations, and community or local colleges have to offer in the way of enrichment classes in science. Many of them offer programs for children, although more often in the summer than the school year.
You might want to investigate homeschooling groups in your community as they sometimes organize group classes for students that you might be able to gain access to.
Consider approaching your child’s school and offering to run an after-school science enrichment program. I will bet there are other families looking for similar opportunities for their child.

Finally, look into books that contain hands-on science activities that you child could do with you or another adult. While not ideal, this may serve to keep your child interested until you can locate more opportunities.

Homeschooling and the Gifted Child

Here’s what we have been reading this week: The Huffington Post: “Home Schooling Grows in Popularity.”

We’ve got homeschooling on the brain:  CTD is sending a representative to the Midwest Homeschool Conference in Cincinnati March 31-April 2, which includes hundreds of homeschool-related workshops and seminars. Additionally, many CTD students who take advantage of Gifted LearningLinks‘ accredited online courses are among the homeschool population. For some gifted children, homeschooling is the perfect solution for them to grow and learn at their own pace.

Do you homeschool your gifted child? Tell us about your best homeschool resources and your most creative lesson plan!

CTD student in the news: Success without “Tiger Moms”

From the Sunday Chicago Tribune, March 6, 2011:,0,7345883,full.story

Krystle is a former CTD student, where she participated in NUMATS, Gifted Learning Links, and the Saturday Enrichment Program. Her achievements have continued into her high school years, where she has won numerous academic awards in both science and the humanities, as well as participated in several successful community service activities. She is currently a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search. (To read more about Krystle’s project, click here.)

As a parent, how do you feel about the “Tiger Mom” profile? What kinds of parenting methods have been most effective in helping your child to succeed and be happy? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.

Tales From the Road: Illinois Edition

Inspiration. Renewal. They can come from so many sources.  As a Center for Talent Development staff member, last week I attended the Illinois Association of Gifted Children (IAGC) conference.  Like most everyone these days, I tend to get so wrapped up in the demands of my job, that I don’t make enough time to break out of my usual routine. But attending conferences is a good idea – it gives us all a chance to learn from our peers and experts in the field which, in turn helps us improve our ability to do our jobs which, in my case is supporting CTD programs, specifically Gifted LearningLinks, our online offerings.

There were too many sessions and highlights to summarize them all, but here are two that should be of particular interest.

1) If you haven’t had a chance to hear or read the works of Dr. James Delisle, I urge you to do so.  His concern and dedication to gifted students is not only moving but very insightful. Start with his interview at Prufrock Press and try not to miss him at the upcoming CTD Opportunities Conference this summer where he is the keynoter!

2) If you are looking for book suggestions appropriate for gifted students of all ages or for sound techniques on using literature with gifted students, then Susannah Richards is the expert for you!  Her energy alone should be able to inspire any reluctant reader to pick up a book!

In-between sessions, one parent said, “It’s wonderful to know that there are so many well-meaning professionals willing to support gifted education in Illinois.”  With non-existent budgets across the state, it was extremely encouraging to me to see that gifted education continues to drive many professionals.  IAGC even renewed my sense of purpose at Center for Talent Development — to continue advocating for and providing the best resources that we can for gifted students.

Cynthia Cho is the coordinator of CTD’s Gifted LearningLinks program. As coordinator, Cindy supports the course instructors and ensures the smooth running of the program. She has been a classroom teacher in both the lower and middle school grades and is well versed in educational technology.

A CTD Student Profile

by Lindsey Wallem

We’ve blogged about some of the issues gifted students face, but how about hearing  about some of their accomplishments? I recently caught up with one CTD program alum who has done some amazing things in the field of prosthetics…and he’s only ten!

Gifted Learning Links (GLL) student Billy, age 9,  was confronted with a problem. His best friend, Isaiah, was living with only one hand. He told his friend Billy a replacement was on its way, but when it arrived, Billy was dissatisfied.

Billy: “When I saw it, it was only a hook. I wanted him to have a real hand like we do,”

So he did what many gifted children  do: He set out to make a solution himself.

He designed and constructed his version of a prosthetic arm using racetrack material, dental floss, glue, magnets, and a glove.

“He puts his arm into the glove to move the fingers. He can slide two fingers around a cup to drink,”

But Billy still wasn’t happy with the prototype hand made of household materials. It fulfilled Isaiah’s need, but the racetrack material was inflexible. Billy, with the help of his mother, Joanie, sought out a mentor, someone who could help Billy perfect his design. They enrolled Billy in the Gifted Learning Links Independent Study Program through CTD at Northwestern University.

Billy was nine (he has since turned ten) when he first began constructing artificial limbs, but Joanie says he had been ruminating on the concept for some time. “Billy was three when he first had the idea,” she says. When he met with his mentors assigned to him through GLL Independent Study in downtown Chicago, he had the opportunity to hold the bionic hand. “Mom, this is what I imagined doing for Isaiah when I was three!” he said.

Billy’s mentors helped him to develop an even better version of his design using a siphon hose, string, screws, and a living hinge. This second edition was a hit.

“My friend really liked it. It makes me feel good that I could help him with my creation,” said Billy. It’s clear that his ingenuity  and thoughtfulness has already taken him far. So what’s next for Billy?

“I’m working on another hand right now,”  he says, but claims but he doesn’t necessarily want to pursue a career in prosthetics, just in case technology has advanced so far by that time that designs like his are rendered useless. “They might have hand transplants by then!”  an answer that illustrates he’s thinking critically about the future. But after a pause, he follows up like any ten-year old with big dreams:  “I want to be a heart surgeon. Or, a baseball player,”

Lindsey Wallem helps to promote CTD’s programming through new media efforts, including Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms on the social web.

Welcome to Center for Talent Development’s blog, Talent Talk.

We’re an accredited learning center and research facility that has been serving gifted students, their families and educators for nearly 30 years. We offer a variety of high-quality, engaging programs including online learning, Saturday and weekend courses and summer programs for gifted students in PreK through grade 12 plus an above-grade-level testing program (Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search) for students in grades 3 through 9, which helps identify gifted students’ strengths and guide their talent development. We’re also a resource center; we hold conferences for families and instructors and conduct research.

Talent Talk Content
We plan to post material on Talent Talk twice a week – news items, stories by our students, and our popular “Ask Paula” feature where you can ask CTD’s director a question. CTD staff members with areas of expertise – from child development to social-emotional support to professional development – will write about what they know best. We’ll also post highlights of various research projects (by CTD and others).

Research: Gifted Students’ Social Lives
In this inaugural post, we’re introducing you to some interesting research we have been conducting. Many parents, educators and students have questions about the social experiences of gifted students. Are they happy? Do they have friends? Do they feel connected? These are important questions to consider, and our research is providing some answers.

We conducted a large-scale, multi-year study to investigate how gifted students perceive the quality of their relationships with others and their level of comfort with various social situations.  The study involved more than 1,500 students who participated in NUMATS, CTD’s above-grade-level testing program, or other CTD programs from 2005-2008 and compared our results to the norms for similar-age students (of all ability levels).

Counter to the stereotyped view of gifted students as “nerds” with poor social skills, we found that, overall, the perceptions of the gifted students in our study regarding their peer relationships and social abilities were above average. Most of the gifted students in our study reported having fewer friends but being happy with both the number of friends they had and the quality of their friendship. The students also felt fairly comfortable in and able to handle most social situations, and they generally did not perceive their giftedness as a factor leading to negative peer pressure. We are still analyzing all of the findings, but we’ll keep you posted on our work.

Your Thoughts
Do your experiences seem to match what we’re finding in our research? What questions do you have about social-emotional issues? What resources have you found most helpful? We’d like to know.

Return to this blog regularly for lively current information and discussions.

Once again, welcome to CTD’s Talent Talk. And, if you have something you’d like to say or a subject you’d like to know more about, just add a comment!

Follow us on Twitter @CTDatNU for updates!