Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Gift of Advocacy

This past year has been a tumultuous one - both in the world of politics as well as education. Controversial topics in the news, such as calls to eliminate gifted education and the college admissions cheating scandal can paint a skewed portrait of the lived experience of gifted children and their families. All of this highlights the even more pressing need for families to embrace their role as advocates for their gifted, high achieving and twice exceptional children.

Yet, during this season of gift-giving, it may seem a stretch to view advocacy as a gift. Parents never asked to be advocates, and stumble into this role reluctant and unprepared. Is it possible, though to embrace advocacy as an unexpected "gift?"

How is advocacy a gift? 

Advocacy helps your child navigate a culture that often misinterprets, ignores and even mocks giftedness. Advocacy emboldens you to speak out without apology when describing your child's needs or quirks or accomplishments. And every time you educate, enlighten, dispel myths, or demand appropriate services, you are helping the gifted achieve understanding, fit in, and flourish in their academic and social worlds.

The following are Gifted Challenges articles with ideas, support and guidelines for advocacy.

Gifted advocacy is an education

"Advocacy, that unexpected, uninvited guest in the lives of a gifted child's family, is thrust upon them with little warning. Parents of gifted children find that they must educate themselves about giftedness - and that it falls upon them to speak up for their child's needs... Frustrating, demanding, eye-opening, disheartening - and occasionally rewarding - advocacy becomes an endurance challenge. They are in it for the long haul."

Why aren't you advocating for your gifted child? 

"You planned to speak with the teacher, challenge the administration, maybe even go to a school board meeting and complain. But then, you backed down. Nothing happened. The moment passed... What stopped you?"

Gifted advocacy: A call to action

"Gifted advocacy is often under the same scrutiny that gifted children and gifted education endure - sometimes viewed as a non-essential and frivolous venture for hot-housed rich kids... Those who understand and know giftedness recognize the fallacy (and absurdity) of these claims."

Fearless advocacy: A day in the life of a gifted child's parent

"Battling with the schools is not the only place for advocacy; parents find themselves championing the needs of their gifted child wherever they go... Most parents never expected to become spokespersons for gifted children. Yet by default, they become experts, educators and ambassadors, endlessly explaining facts about giftedness to those who don't understand."

What many parents wish the "experts" knew about gifted children

"Unfortunately, many well-meaning, highly trained experts in their respective fields may have little understanding of giftedness. There may be so much you wish they understood about your child... or a day in your life."

Another (and possibly the most important) reason to advocate for gifted kids

"Why advocate for gifted kids when they already enter life with advantages? They grasp information with lightening speed. They coast through school. They typically excel in their chosen careersOK, sure... many are overlooked, miserable in schools that refuse to challenge them, underachieving, bored, hiding their talents. Some are bullied, and at best, struggle with finding a peer group where they belong..."

Power in numbers: How gifted parent advocacy groups can help you and your kids

"This additional parental responsibility - advocating for a gifted child - was unexpected, isolating and unnerving. There was no roadmap, no clear path, and certainly not a lot of support from the school. Then I stumbled upon a parent group that was starting... Frustrated parents, discouraged after years of witnessing the schools' watered-down gifted programming, shared stories, concerns, and eventually, strategic plans for change."

Wishing you and your families all the best in 2020.


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