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January 13, 1974 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1974-01-13

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Sunday, January 13, 1974

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Five

Iudy aur 3 94TEMCIA AL

... .. ..

MMMMM9

On bringing up
gifted children

EDITOR'S NOTE: Greg Welman,
the fifteen year old son of the au-
thor, is a sophomore at the Univer-
sity. He has already advanced to
graduate level math courses. Ms.
Welman is a graduating senior In
journalisn.
By MARY ANN WELLMAN
A jANY OF THIS nation's most
most gifted youngsters are
being igiored by an educational
system that is designed for the
average student. The federal and
state government's role in pro-
viding services to the gifted is
all but non-existent.
Faced with these facts what
can the parent of a gifted child
do to see that the youngster is
not deprived of a quality educa-
tion?
The first thing the parent had
better do, in the interest of self
preservation, is to face the fact
that a long and difficult fight i
in the offing.
Iy making the decision to
stand by your youngster and
fight the system you will be the
target of much hostility. You wi
be called a troublemaker and
accused of pushing your child.
And, if you are an average
parent unfamiliar with the prob-
lems of the gifted, you will spend
sleepless nights agonizing over
your decision.
TROUBLE starts with the
schools, because gifted chil-
dren are largely self taught. By
the time my son, Greg, started
kindergartenwhe could read,
print and was well acquanted
with numbers. He was bored with
school and couldn't wait t get
home to do his own "work"
which, of' course, put him even
further ahead of thetschool pro-
gram.
At that point in time Greg was
not identiifed as gifted, but was
merely thought of as odd and
uncooperative. His third grade
teacher was so annoyed with
Greg's habit of drawing pictures
of amoeba and cell structures
that she sent him to the prin-
cipal with a note saying that he
was "interested in the wrong
things, not n o r m a 1 classroom
work." I think this was the first
time I heard the word "normal"
used in reference to my son, but
as time went on I heard it again
and again: the same plea from
educators to "make him nor-
mal."
Fortunately t h e elementary
school principal suspected some-
thing other than inattentiveness
and recommended Greg be test-
ed. This was done by the school
psychologist a n d the results
showed that Greg was intelli-
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gently very superior, academicAl-
ly competent and socially out of
place. On the basis of this test-
ing Greg was moved to the fifth
grade.
And I, naively, breathed a sigh
of relief. I really thought that
was the end of the problem. In
fact, it was only the beginning.
IT TOOK GREG about two
weeks to figure out the fifth
grade. Things got worse in the
sixth. He was bored out of his
mind and hated to go to school.
At home his activity increased
and it was very clearrthat, as
usual, his learning and real
"work" was taking place out-
side of the classroom. School was
a place he had to go to and put
in X number of hours. Try ex-
plaining that to a kid who is
smarter than most adults around
him.
There w e r e problems with
teachers who thought that en-
richment means moretof the
same and loaded Greg with dull
routine assignments. Then there
was the teacher who gave Greg
the job of helping a slow learner.
That was great for the teacher:
it got two problems out of the
classroom.
So back we went to the school
psychologist and this time Greg
was given a battery of tests
WISC, WRAT, Bender-Ges alt).
He quite literally blew the top
off the tests. The recommenda-
tion from the psychologist was to
move Greg. immediately into
high school and seriously con-
sider early entrance to college.
This recommendation cause.I
so much confusion and animosity
among school officials that° it
was six months before any move
was made.
People tend to feel very threat-
ened by a gifted youngster. There
is a strong movement of anti-
intellectualism in this country,
and it is almost un-American to
be bright. Much worse for a
parent to try to arrange enrich-
ment or acceleration "o accom-
modate a bright child.
While the battle was going on
between principals, supe-inend-
ents and teachers over the pro-
posed move there was one per-
son who responded t> Greg's
problem in a compassionate way
and saved my diminisning Iaith
in teachers. This was Greg's
junior high English teacher who
brought in his own college books
and allowed Greg to more

PERSP
through them at his own speel.
One tiny candle.
,NE OF THE biggest prob-
lems regarding the m o v e
seemed to be the fact that a big
acceleration like this had never
been done before in our school
system. The school officials were
very concerned about the out-
come. In fact the concern was
so great and expressed by so
many that I became quite upset
and thought that maybe they
were right, maybe the pressures
of high school would be too great
for my little elevent year old son.
I took my troubles to our phy-
sician who recommended that I
discuss the situation with a psy-
chologist who specializes in coun-
seling children.
The psychologist's f i n d i n g s
were most encouraging. After
lengthy conversations with my
husband and I and several visits
with Greg, we were told that
there were no problems other
than the fact that Greg's needs
were not being met academical-
ly. We were further encouraged
by the doctor to go ahead with
acceleration plans.
The following fall, Greg, at
age eleven, was a sophomore in
high school and also enrolled in
the local community college for
advanced courses not available
in the high school.
FROM THAT point on things
got better. Greg still gobbled
up a whole semester's work in
about three weeks but it was
m o r e interesting w o r k, and
spending afternoons in collegee
was a big plus.
No special arrangements were
made for Greg, he attended the
same classes as everyone else.
The only thing we felt neces-
sary to change in his schedule
was physical education. It just
didn't make sense to put a little
boy in gym class with kids who
were physically men.
We decided that Greg would
complete high school, which
meant he would be ready for full
time college at age fourteen.

ECTIVE
.; o-%Mm.: k ":

PSYCH.

483 Section

006

Greg Wellman
Now the question was which
school?
After contacting several uni-
versities we found the field nar-
rowing. Many would not accept
the responsibility of a fourteen
year old on campus. Also, we
were reluctant to have Greg
living away from home at such
an early age.
The University of Michigan
solved the problem. Not only is it
one of the finest schools in the
country, but it's easily within
driving distance of our home and
providing shuttle service is a
well established part of my life.
NOW A SOPHOMORE at Mich-
igan, Greg is happy and well
adjusted.sOttherthan being in
the honors program his routine
is much the same as any other
student. I can breathe t w a t
sigh of relief now with confi-
dence. But what about o t h e r
gifted kids?
The needs of the gifted can be
simply stated. First, a change in
attitude on the part 'of educat-
ors. Second, programs for the
gifted in elementary and second-
arv schools. Third, greater em-
phasisplacedhupongstudies of
the gifted in our colleges of edu-
cation which would prepare fu-
ture teachers to cope with gift-
ed children in the classroom.
Simply stated, but not easily met.
But meet them we must - it is
vital to everyone.

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