Could your child be gifted?

Annelise (5) and William Scharpf (8) use a complex building toy in their Dunedin home. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Annelise (5) and William Scharpf (8) use a complex building toy in their Dunedin home. Photo by Linda Robertson.
What do naughtiness, dinosaurs and gifted children have in common?

Gifted and talented children and their special needs are in the spotlight today with the start of national Gifted Awareness Week.

George Street Normal School principal Rod Galloway says the presence of academically gifted children, who have exceptional abilities and qualities, can sometimes be masked by "a bit of naughtiness" or signs of boredom, if they are not being sufficiently stimulated by their surroundings.

"These children have strengths that sometimes are hidden."

Schools are required to identify academically gifted children and respond to their needs.

But advocates for gifted children say resources for them in the education system are too limited.

Mr Galloway emphasises the need to read the behavioural clues, to identify children's individual strengths and foster them by providing an environment where they are "stimulated and given the opportunity to grow in their giftedness".

Mr Galloway is a member of a steering committee helping develop a Dunedin Gifted Kids Centre, which will begin running early next year, to meet some of the special needs of gifted children.

A parents' representative on the committee, Susan Scharpf, says intensity of interest can be another sign of a gifted child.

"If they love dinosaurs, boy, do they love dinosaurs!"Parents found engaging with them "very rewarding" and "very challenging" and it could also be very tiring, Mrs Scharpf said.

"They ask questions nonstop."

Parents who want more information or help with their gifted children can contact Sarah Hjertquist, the secretary of the Otago Association for the Gifted and Talented (OAGAT), at sarahindunedin@gmail.com via the internet.

Creatability@OSM is a club linked with the OAGAT for gifted and talented children aged about 4 to 12, and their parents.

It organises activities at the Otago Settlers Museum on alternate Saturdays.

Gifted children are a diverse group, coming from all social and economic backgrounds.

A key problem for many parents was "affording resources for their kids", including specialised tutors, music lessons, advanced text books and art supplies.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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