Advice, resources for Hawaii parents with gifted children

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Parents who believe they have a gifted child should seek help from school officials, conduct plenty of online research and get deeply involved in their child's education inside and outside of the classroom, according to a local expert and the parents of a gifted Oahu boy whose family moved to the East Coast to go to a special school for gifted students.

"Work with the principal to see what can be done at the school that your student attends," said Anna Viggiano, the educational specialist in charge of gifted and talented programs for the state of Hawaii Department of Education.

Most public schools have a period during which you can nominate your child to be designated gifted, she said.  Parents can nominate their children for screening and testing by school officials who will evaluate the students to see if they are eligible for special classes.

"As a parent, you can't depend totally on the school," Viggiano said.  The DOE does not have the money for any statewide initiatives for gifted students, she said. The state gives each public school $914 per gifted student, money that every principal decides how to use.

Viggiano said parents should ask, "What can I do on my parent time to make my child love learning and feel happy?"

"There's a lot that Hawaii offers," Viggiano said. "Supplement their education by taking to them to the Bishop Museum," the zoo, the aquarium, and other locations that offer learning experiences, she said

She also recommended finding a mentor for a gifted child in an area in which they excel. "If they are interested in writing, have them work with a journalist or an author," Viggiano said.

Viggiano said parents should research the issue at The National Association for Gifted Children's web site. The NAGC is an organization of parents, teachers, educators and other professional who work to address the unique needs of youth with gifted abilities and talents. Parents can join the organization and subscribe to its magazine.

The DOE's gifted and talented program web site is available here. It features the state's most recent gifted and talented report with a breakdown of how many gifted students are at each school. The web site also includes the DOE's program guide for gifted and talented, last updated in December 2007, which provides implementation guidelines for public school.

Michelle and Robin Bond, parents of 5-year-old Robbie, profiled on Hawaii News Now Thursday, recommended paying close attention to your child's education and researching resources for gifted children on the Internet.

"As a parent, be involved as much as possible.  Take the time to invest in your child's education. Then you'll know more about your child and what their needs are," Michelle Bond said. "Embrace their individuality, their interests and curiosity."

The Bonds said they spent about $300 hiring a psychologist to perform a test on Robbie for potentially gifted preschoolers.  The test showed Robbie performed better than 99 percent of his peers, according to the Honolulu psychologist who tested him.  There are just two psychologists in Hawaii who perform such tests on children, Michelle Bond said.  The Bonds spent more money to have their son tested by another psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in gifted students.

At first, Robin Bond said, "I thought it was a waste of funds.  We're spending all this money to get someone's opinion of our son that we already know.  We already knew he was bright."

But Robin Bond said he and his wife eventually realized their son needed to attend a school with other extremely gifted students.

"You want gifted kids to be with other gifted kids.  And the need for that is so that they don't feel out of place or goofy because they're so smart," he said. The Bonds have enrolled their son in a special school in Durham, North Carolina for gifted children and they sold their Kalama Valley home to move there.

One of their first stops online was Hoagies' Gifted Education web page, which offers simple explanations and links to more information about testing your child to see if he or she is gifted, finding programs and schools for the gifted across the country, as well as locating research, books and articles about gifted education.

Robbie Bond enrolled in an online self-paced math class this past summer through The Johns Hopkins Center For Talented Youth, which offers online classes for K through 12 students. The distance learning program "offers challenging courses throughout the year," according to the Center For Talented Youth's web site.

Internet course titles for kindergarten through 6th grade offerings include: web design, Arabic, Chinese, inventions in engineering, problem solving in algebra, mastering the fundamentals of music and writing for an audience.  Course materials may include online courseware, CD-ROMs, texts, workbooks, and even chemistry kits for doing hands-on experiments, according to CTY's web site.

Johns Hopkins residential summer programs are also available for 7th through 12 graders at more than a dozen locations across the country, including Seattle, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz on the West Coast. Students are eligible for scholarships and financial aid for both the summer and the online courses.

The Summer Institute for the Gifted offers programs for gifted and talented students aged 4 to 18 during the summer and school year.  Three-week residential summer sessions for kids 9 thru 17 are held at some of the most prestigious universities in the country, such as Yale University, Princeton University and the University of Chicago.  On the West Coast, residential summer programs are offered at UCLA in Los Angeles and University of California Berkeley in San Francisco, at a cost of nearly $5,000. Financial aid is available.

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