A SMALL group of volunteers dedicated to providing opportunities to gifted children in the community is holding a conference in September to help build awareness and address common misunderstandings.
The Tasmanian Association for the Gifted (TAG) is a volunteer organisation that operates out of Hobart and also has volunteers in Launceston and Burnie.
TAG president Lynne Maher said gifted children were not necessarily those who were doing brilliantly, but were those capable of being in the top 10 per cent of their age peers in at least one field of academic endeavour.
“They have the potential to achieve well, but they don’t achieve well unless they’re provided with the right circumstances,” she said
“There’s a whole lot of catalysts, both environmental and by chance – there’s the family environment and the school environment, so one of the things that will be addressed at the conference is the aspect of low socioeconomic environments and its impact on giftedness.”
Mrs Maher said there was a common misunderstanding in the community about gifted children.
“Gifted students are often not recognised in the classroom, they’re not catered for, and this can lead to different educational outcomes,” she said.
“Kids on the lower end of the ability scale get much support in schools, but kids on the top end of the scale are often not recognised as having needs, and the needs are not addressed, resulting in all sorts of negative impact on their mental health and behaviour.”
TAG aims to address these needs by building knowledge and skills in working with gifted children among both parents and educators.
“We want the public to get more understanding that gifted students do have special needs just as much as those who are usually classified as special education students,” Mrs Maher said.
“It’s not elitist to provide opportunities to gifted children to achieve their potential – it’s actually the right of every student to have an education that achieves their potential.
“It may even be that young gifted children fit better with older children, and that’s where the thought of the acceleration of gifted students by moving up a year might work better for them academically and socially.”
Along with holding conferences, TAG runs evening informational sessions and LEGO Robotics to engage gifted children to work together.
“What we can hope for is to start to change the attitudes and approaches to gifted students in schools – even things like schools valuing gifted students’ academic achievement in the same way they value sporting achievement,” Mrs Maher said.
Mrs Maher said most of the committee had gifted children who were at school or who had moved past school age.
“Our information sessions are not just about giving information, but they’re also about networking so the people who are working with, or parenting gifted children have the ability to get together and have conversations about the joys and frustrations,” she said.
“We would love to make a difference systematically, but while we’re working on that we can make a difference one child at a time, so we talk with individual parents who contact us for advice and counselling.”
The conference ‘Growing Gifted. Nuture. Flourish. Soar.’ will be held at Elizabeth College from 6-8 September.
It will feature a number of national and local speakers, as well as keynote speaker Dr Donald Ambrose from Rider University in America.
For more information, phone 0467 528 048.
Caption: From left, Tasmanian Association for the Gifted president Lynne Maher and committee member Hermione Powell-Davies.