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Book Review: A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children

A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children
James T. Webb, Janet L. Gore, Edward R. Amend, Arlene R. DeVries
Great Potential Press, 2007

Parents often wish their children came with an owner’s manual. If there is anything that comes close to being an owner’s manual for parents of gifted children, this book is it.

The authors comprise a who’s who of experts on gifted children. James T. Webb, the lead author, is perhaps the best-known writer and speaker on gifted issues in the United States. His more recent book, Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults (also written with a team of experts), outlines the specific psychological pitfalls gifted children face. The other three authors, Janet L. Gore, Edward R. Amend, and Arlene R. DeVries, add both depth and breadth to Webb’s solid credentials. Together, the authors have worked with gifted children in almost all capacities.

The book serves first as a very good primer for a parent who is facing questions about raising a gifted child. The first two chapters define giftedness and explore common characteristics of gifted children. In doing so, they answer two questions that often accompany a parent’s first forays into the gifted literature: First, is my child gifted?, and second, how is my child different from other children?

The authors point out that the diagnosis itself can cause problems for gifted kids and their parents. From dismissive comments by other parents such as “all children are gifted,” to misunderstandings from educators like “bright children don’t need any special help,” gifted children and their parents face a lot of opposition as soon as their children are identified.

The second goal of the book is to teach parenting and educational approaches that work as an approach to all children, but are even more important when working with the needs and intensities of gifted children. Chapters on communication, motivation, and discipline outline an approach that takes into account both the child’s age-appropriate emotional needs as well as respecting the child’s unusual ability to process and understand information.

The parenting sections of the book expand into gifted-specific problems: How do the parents of gifted children help them in relationships with their peers? How does having a gifted child affect the relationships of siblings? How can a family’s values support a gifted child? And most importantly, how can a marriage survive the complexities of parenting a gifted child?

A Parent’s Guide only touches upon aspects of aspects of raising a gifted child with twice-exceptionalities such as learning disabilities, mood disorders, and ADD/ADHD. Parents who suspect that their gifted child may suffer from concurrent problems will do well to read Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults after getting an introduction to the issues in this book.

Finally, the book devotes chapters to the educational needs of gifted children, as well as working with other professionals. The educational section gives a blueprint for looking at schools — what to expect in traditional schools, private schools, gifted programs, and gifted schools. There is a short section on homeschooling, a popular choice for parents of gifted children. More useful is the information offered about teacher training for gifted issues (most teachers receive no training), gifted programs in schools (which may or may not serve a gifted child’s needs), how to work with the school administration, and how to advocate for your gifted child.

A Parent’s Guide is a great starting point for educating yourself about the needs of your gifted child and the possible pitfalls you may face as you raise and educate him or her. However, more important than the actual information in the book are the pointers to how to learn more about giftedness, schools, and your child’s emotional health and educational success. If you’re just starting down the road to helping your gifted child, especially a younger child, this book offers a straightforward “owner’s manual” that will guide you through the challenges you and your child will face.

Posted in Books, Education, Parenting, Psychology.

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