Thursday, June 23, 2011

Irish Gifted Parenting Support

In the marathon that is the school year, Frazzled and I hit the infamous “wall” at about the Easter holiday mark. We limped to the finish line this week with the end of the state exams and congratulated ourselves at having arrived at this stage. Now that we no longer have school runs to do, lunches to make, gear to wash and homework to check we have found renewed energy and purpose at last!

As summer kicks off we are hoping that other parents of gifted teens and children in Ireland will consider getting together for support in their local areas and come up with some common strategies for helping their children thrive in our education system next year. We have a great group within GAS who share experiences, ideas and resources at meetings and get-togethers. Notwithstanding the vast information available on the internet about gifted issues, the value of meeting each other face-to-face is immeasurable. For many parents a support group is the first time they have been able to speak to others openly about the issues which face their gifted child. They may have read widely online or ordered armfuls of books about the subject. They may have studied giftedness from all angles, but meeting others gives them something that no amount of research and thought can...a voice.

This voice is not just theirs, it is that of their children and teens too. To give voice to these learners is essential, and parents doing this together can be a powerful thing indeed. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to our children’s education and the gifted population is as diverse as any other. However, there are common themes in the stories parents bring to support groups and it is these which when articulated together can make a cohesive voice. Support groups allow parents to share their experiences free from the judgement of family, friends or fellow parents. It allows them to blow off steam about school issues, raise concerns about underachievement or share a proud moment in their child’s life. It affords them opportunity to ask others how they might approach a situation, all in an accepting environment and usually with a good cup of coffee thrown in!

With our new Minister and our unfortunate new austerity, we are on the verge of some big changes in Ireland. The NCCA has already had a public consultation on a new Junior Cycle and has published a report on that stage of the process. They will present their final recommendations to the Minister shortly. (Our GAS group submission to the consultation process can be found here) He will not let it gather dust and will move quickly to put his own stamp on it. He has already indicated that changes to the Junior Cycle will be brought into effect for incoming First Year students in 2012. That’s next year! The Leaving Certificate review is not far behind. Our children use this system for entry to third level so it is vital that we are aware of changes on the way. The NCCA invites all interested parties to contribute to the process, that includes parents as well as teachers and educators.

And this is where support groups such as GAS can play a vital role. Together, parents of gifted learners can pinpoint ways that our children may be considered when policy is being examined. A network of support groups all coming to the process from a similar angle would help put the needs of gifted learners into the picture for our legislators and policy makers. Minister Quinn is going to bring about change. The Junior Certificate as is was introduced in 1992, the Leaving Certificate even longer ago. Can we afford to wait twenty years for another chance? If changes are to come don’t we want our children’s very different learning needs to be considered? I hope that despite the dark shadow of the IMF looming over us, enough parents will see the potential for positive change that will benefit our children and consider getting a local support group together to share, talk and even voice their ideas for the new Ireland that is surely ahead of us all. Think about it over the summer, get in touch with us and let’s see if we can gather momentum together as our children head back to class in September!

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