Parents With Purpose
Yes, it’s true that in Ireland we have no gifted and talented programmes in our schools or even a national advocacy organisation. Our teachers receive little or no training in gifted education during their basic training. No, we don’t have the likes of James Webb, SENG or the NAGC. Yes, when you go looking for information and resources on all things gifted, you generally end up with something produced in the USA, or maybe Australia or the UK.
We have a choice. We can whinge and moan and wait for things to change, or we can get up off our arses and make that change happen. Please don’t say that you don’t have the time, the skills, the personality…or whatever excuse you fancy.
In February 2008, a speaker at the CTYI conference, “Understanding Gifted Education”, at DCU had to abandon her lecture and just answer questions from parents. One parent, Margaret Keane, came away with the message that parents were hungry for information but had nowhere to turn. She could have joined the whinging, but she decided to set up a website instead. Now, granted, she did have the training and skill to do that. However, through many hours of hard work and dedication, she has seen her site grow to become a fantastic resource to which parents and teachers can turn for information regarding gifted children: www.Giftedkids.ie
Dazzled and I met through the discussion forum on the Giftedkids.ie website where we were moderators. In May of 2009, we decided that if we wanted a support group in our area, then we would just have to start one ourselves. We picked a date and a venue, announced it on the Giftedkids.ie forum and we had 6 people at our first meeting.
That summer, in response to the invitation from the Government’s Innovation Taskforce we wrote a submission highlighting the need for provision for gifted students in our education system. However, with the demise of the Irish Association for Gifted Children, we found we had no platform from which to deliver it. In the end, we submitted it on behalf of our support group, but we swore we would never find ourselves in that position again. So, we turned out support group into a Gifted Advocacy and Support group: GAS. Now, we can make submissions and representations on behalf of parents in the South Dublin/Wicklow area. Our group has grown steadily over the past year and we now have a cohesive core group who are working on advocacy projects together.
One year ago, neither if us had more than very basic computer skills. We could manage emails and web searching, but that was about it. Now we are regulars on Twitter, we administer a google group and a google website for GAS and we have this blog and a facebook page. Most recently, we made our first foray into public speaking at the Irish Teaching and Learning Festival in Dublin.
There are other individuals out there doing their bit. One example is Leslie Graves. Like us, she is a mother of gifted children with a passion to make a difference. Over the years, she has developed a wealth of knowledge which she passes on through public speaking and now also a blog. On behalf of the IAGC, before it was dissolved, she contributed to the NCCA draft guidelines for gifted education and was elected to the WCGTC.
Some of us, through determination to understand the issues, have certificates or diplomas gained through distance learning programmes, but none of us has a teaching degree or can claim to be a professional or registered teacher. What we do have is years of experience raising gifted children within the Irish education system. We all have extensive knowledge gleaned from reading, studying and attending conferences. The parents of most gifted children could claim the same. If more of us step up to the plate, together we can really make a difference.
We would love to see other support groups such as ours spring up around the country. Imagine the impact if we had a GAS network. With the age of social networking, geography is no longer a barrier. The united voice of many will always be more powerful than the individual, so it is important that we all support and encourage each other. We each have different skills and strengths and may take different paths but we must always guard against falling into the trap of becoming focused on ourselves and losing sight of the goal. Our sole agenda must be to support our children and we can only do that by working together as a unified force for advocacy.