Choosing child care, preschools and schools for gifted and talented children

You and your gifted child probably already know how she learns best.

If you have a choice about where your child goes to child care, preschool and school, you can try to choose somewhere that can support your child’s abilities and learning needs. As part of your selection process, you can share information that has been used to identify your child as gifted, and talk with teachers about what they can do for your child.

Different place or same place as siblings?
If you have gifted and typically developing children, where they all go to child care, preschool and school is a big practical consideration.

If your children have very different learning needs, you might choose to send them to different centres, preschools and schools. This situation can give all your children the opportunities they need to learn and develop. Another advantage of your children going to different schools is that typically developing children can learn without any expectations from teachers who’ve taught their gifted siblings.

You might send your children to the same school if the school can meet all their needs or if there are limited choices in the area where you live. This can be good for your family, because it means you can focus on building relationships with only one school. Keeping track of and going to school events might be easier as well.

Check out our articles on choosing a school and practical steps to school selection. They have general tips on how to choose a school that suits your children’s characteristics, personalities, strengths, needs and interests.

Preparing gifted and talented children for child care, preschool and school

Your gifted child might be excited or curious about starting child care, preschool or school. And because of his advanced abilities, he might also be more aware of the changes than other children his age. He might have strong feelings about the changes too.

Here are practical tips to get your child ready for transitions to child care, preschool and school:

  • Visit the child care centre, preschool or school with your child to see how learning happens.
  • Go to orientation days. They give you and your child a chance to get more comfortable with the new place and to meet teachers and other children.
  • If your child has questions about the learning program, encourage her to ask the teachers.
  • Talk with your child about how the teachers work with children and the different things your child will do to learn.
  • Ask teachers about support for your child as he settles in. For example, your child might need help to make friends.

Challenges at school for gifted and talented children

Gifted and talented children can face particular challenges when they go to child care, preschool and school, including being younger than peers, learning differently and underachieving.

The first step in sorting out these challenges is talking with your child’s teacher. You can also talk with other school staff, like the school counsellor, the principal or the student welfare coordinator.

Being younger than peers
To meet their learning needs, gifted children sometimes start school early or skip grades at school. This means that they’re younger than other children in their class.

This can work well if your gifted child gets along well with older children, as many gifted children do. But if your gifted child’s social and emotional development isn’t as advanced as her other abilities, she might need a bit more support.

Learning differently
Even when you’ve chosen preschools and schools carefully, you might sometimes find that the way your child likes to learn is different from the way learning usually happens in his child care, preschool or school class.

For example, your child might learn best by following her own interests at home. When she starts child care, preschool or school, her teacher will guide her learning. If your child has strong feelings about this change, she might need some support from you and from school.

Underachieving at school
If gifted children don’t get the right learning opportunities, they might not be able to use their abilities to get good school results. And if this happens, they might lose confidence, find it hard to make friends or seem a bit ‘lost’.

Also, a child might underachieve at school if he has an undiagnosed learning disability – for example, dyslexia. With support for the learning disability from teachers and parents, a child who is underachieving can start to do well at school again.

Your state or territory association for gifted and talented children can be a great source of information and advice as you explore these challenges.

Communicating with teachers

You and your child’s teachers are partners in your child’s learning – you share the same goal of wanting your child to learn and feel successful.

If you have a good relationship with your child’s child care centre, preschool or school, it:

  • helps teachers learn more about your child’s abilities
  • helps you ensure that your child’s learning needs are being met
  • makes it easier to raise problems if they come up.

When to communicate with your child’s teachers
The simple answer is – whenever there’s a change, either with your child or at child care, preschool or school. This might be when your child has a new teacher, or when she moves to a different room or year level.

It’s also good to let teachers know if your child is happy with his learning. For example, ‘Ravi came home so excited yesterday. He told me all about the planets’. Or if he isn’t happy, ask his teachers if they know why.

How to communicate with your child’s teacher
Here are ideas for communicating positively with your child’s teachers:

  • Make an appointment to talk with your child’s teachers about your child’s learning needs.
  • Share information about your child’s learning needs with his teachers. This can include examples of your child’s work, notes about his learning, or an IQ test and learning needs report.
  • Ask your child’s teachers what they’ve noticed about your child’s learning needs and interests.
  • If you need to talk with teachers about problems, it helps to come ready with positive and practical suggestions or solutions.
  • If a problem continues and your child is unhappy, you can ask to meet with the centre or preschool director or the school principal.
If you can’t sort out school challenges and problems by communicating with school staff, you might need to think about moving schools. Some states and territories have opportunity classes, selective high schools, extension classes and other gifted and talented programs and support. These options might suit your child better.