California Association for the Gifted

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


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Every day, the California Association for the Gifted (CAG) receives questions from parents. Many relate to a gifted child’s abilities, emotional development, or how to secure the best possible education. CAG’s Representatives have prepared this FAQ to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions and provide some valuable resources.

How do I know if my child is gifted?

  • Compared to their age peers, gifted children usually learn at a faster pace, use a large vocabulary, ask many questions, and need activities that are complex and challenging. They may also be highly sensitive, creative, and intense. These are only some of the characteristics of a gifted child.

What is a Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program?

  • In California, public school districts may apply for educational funds to assist in providing appropriate learning opportunities for those students identified as gifted and talented. A basic gifted program will include: testing to identify gifted students; grouping students within a class or for all or part of the school day by ability; providing curriculum that is challenging and allows continuous progress; developing social and emotional skills; training for teachers and administrators in the education of gifted learners; providing counseling and support for gifted students who are at-risk; and involving parents in the planning and evaluation of GATE programs.

A written plan defining how the district will meet the needs of gifted children as articulated in the state GATE standards must be submitted to the California Department of Education (CDE) for approval for one to three years. To obtain a copy of the GATE Law, and/or a copy of the standards, visit www.CAGifted.org or go to http://www.cde.ca.gov.

How can I make sure that my child receives an appropriate education?

  • It is important that parents/guardians act as their child’s advocates. Learn as much as you can about gifted education and the needs of gifted children. Familiarize yourself with the terms and definitions used in the various educational programs offered at your school or in your district. Inform the school about your child’s special needs and then volunteer to help make sure those needs are met. Participate in your school’s and/or district’s GATE advisory committee or site council as a way to learn about and contribute to gifted education in your district. Become a CAG member and attend regional events. In addition, look for opportunities for your child to pursue special interests through community programs, summer classes or enrollment at the local community colleges.

How do I know if my school or district offers gifted programming?

  • Call the district office and ask if there is a GATE program. If one exists, request a copy of the state-approved plan as well as your school’s site plan. If the district has not yet applied for GATE funds, offer to participate in developing a plan. Attend CAG events to learn more about how you can advocate for gifted programming.

Can a gifted child have learning disabilities too?

  • Some gifted children have learning disabilities such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, and visual or auditory processing difficulties. It is sometimes difficult to identify the special needs of these children because they often use their high abilities to mask or adapt to their learning disabilities.

Why is raising a gifted child so challenging?

  • Gifted children often exhibit unique social and emotional needs that may include a strong sense of justice, extreme idealism, moral intensity, perfectionism, hypersensitivity, and unreasonably high expectations for themselves and others. They can be emotionally hypersensitive, such as to criticism, and/or physically hypersensitive, such as to touch and smell. Some may appear to be perpetual motion machines or show wide swings in mood and maturity. Their vast emotional range can make them appear contradictory — aggressive and timid, mature and immature, arrogant and compassionate — depending on the situation. They may push the limits of rules at home and school, challenge their parents and teachers with constant questioning, and engage in risky behavior. The discrepancies between their physical, emotional, and intellectual development make parenting and teaching gifted children especially challenging. You may benefit from joining a support group for parents of gifted children as a way to meet others who share your concerns, such as CAG.

How and when do we start planning for our child’s future?

  • Begin now by developing an atmosphere of positive expectations, and help your child identify interests, talents, strengths, and weaknesses. Together with your child, investigate possible careers that could provide personal growth and satisfaction and explore options for the future. Look into mentoring or job-shadowing opportunities. Request literature and visit college campuses when on vacation. Participate in summer programs and other activities sponsored by universities. If possible, begin a savings or investment plan to finance higher education or other experiences to support your child’s goals.

Where can I get more information?

  • In addition to exploring the resources on this FAQ page, attend related events in your region. The annual CAG conference is an excellent place to gather information and other resources you need. Check our website for suggestions of books and articles on gifted children. For additional assistance, contact your CAG Regional Representative. Names and contact information are found on the CAG website.