Gifted High-Ability Learners

Gifted High-Ability Learners

Gifted High-Ability Learners

What do parents of gifted/high-ability learners need to know in order to understand their child’s capacities, behaviors, and feelings? Here’s information, along with 8 guidelines.

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” -- Socrates


High-level ability is not stable—it’s dependent upon motivation, effort, and opportunities to learn, and it develops step by step in an environment of appropriate support and challenge. However, life is unpredictable, and children’s interactions with the world are always in flux. Moreover, there are different ways of being smart across academic and non-academic domains. Therefore, parents must be both vigilant and flexibly responsive with respect to their children’s development, and also with respect to their own thinking, attitudes, and actions. 

Meanwhile, research findings continue to inform and refine understandings of giftedness in many areas. These include educational practice, variability of brain development, sociability, emotional literacy, creative expression, dual exceptionality, intelligence-building, and more. 


Although no two children are alike, and there is no one “blueprint” for successful parenting, there are some foundational considerations that can enhance educational opportunities and home and school connections, and also broaden understanding about gifted/high-level development—leading to positive outcomes for more children and teens. 

Here are 8 guidelines for parents, extracted and adapted from the chapter, “is for Understanding” within my new book ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids.

·    Understanding– find out all you can about giftedness, including its conceptual base, its implications, its joys, and its complexities. 

·    Uncover– carefully sift through reputable sources of information about gifted learners and approaches to gifted education. Thoughtfully consider the material, and the various and sometimes conflicting perspectives. Be mindful of what’s best for your own child’s well-being, and the family dynamic.

·    Uniqueness – giftedness is an individual differences phenomenon. There’s an abundance of support services and resources that can help parents address children’s unique gifts and talents. (See below for some suggestions.) 

·    Uncertainty – children can experience bouts of uncertainty about themselves, about their place in the ever-changing world, and about what they can and cannot achieve. As a result, they may be unhappy, insecure, or unsure how or even if to advance. Offer reassurance and respond attentively to their questions and concerns.

·    Underachievement – not all smart kids extend themselves or achieve what they’re capable of achieving. There are many possible reasons for that, such as poor work habits, inappropriate instruction, stress, under- or overly-challenging programming, disabilities, procrastination, pressure at home or elsewhere, and other circumstances that can affect productivity and enjoyment of learning. The best ways to address underachievement will depend on the specific reasons for it.

·    Untrained teachers – advocate for more teacher preparation, training, and professional development programs that will enable educators to be increasingly competent and targeted in their work with gifted learners.

·    Unusual circumstances – recognize that each learning environment, set of circumstances, social milieu, transition, educational decision, span of growing up years, and opportunity for authentic self-discovery has its very own stamp of distinction—to be reflected upon, and addressed accordingly. 

·    Unequivocal – acknowledge and stand up for the irrefutable right for appropriate, meaningful educational experiences for ALL children.


“Let’s raise kids to be smart—and resilient, compassionate, curious, joyful, flexible, productive, kind... And to embrace their strengths and use them wisely and in ways that will benefit others.”   ~ ABCs of Raising Smarter Kidsp. 60

            The eight bulleted U-points listed above are just a small sampling of what parents can focus upon as they seek to better understand their child and provide the necessary supports and guidance. There are many more evidence-based recommendations, practical strategies, and targeted resources that parents can consider for nurturing children’s optimal growth. Astute parents read, listen, observe, connect meaningfully with others, reflect, and avoid assumptions. They understand that children experience challenges, choices, and changes; that many roads lead toward success and fulfillment; and that each child’s developmental trajectory is unique.   


For more on Understandings—and other pertinent topics ranging from to (including Development, Health and Happiness, Independence, Motivation, and Opportunities), check out Dr. Joanne Foster’s newest book, ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids: Hundreds of Ways to Inspire Your Child. Readers can find additional information about optimal child development in Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids, and in the award-winning Being Smart about Gifted Education (both co-authored by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster). Dr. Foster’s book Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and its predecessor Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination, provide parents with hundreds of strategies to motivate kids and instill a greater sense of industry. To learn more about these books, and for access to a wide range of articles and links, go to www.joannefoster.caInformation about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Dr. Foster can also be found at this website.  

See the assortment of material published by Great Potential Press for excellent resources on supporting and encouraging creativity and gifted/high-level development. 

There are MANY websites and also lots of organizations around the world providing information, support, and networking possibilities to parents of gifted learners. These include the following:

SENG – Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted –

NAGC – National Association for Gifted Children –

HOAGIES Gifted Education Page – 

CEC-TAG – Council for Exceptional Children – Talented and Gifted –

University of Connecticut, Renzulli Center for Creativity, Gifted Education, and Talent Development  (This site also offers links to various associations for gifted and talented education across the United States) –

Davidson Institute Gifted Database -

ABC - Association for Bright Children (in Ontario, Canada - and in other provinces) –

ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids is a new and exciting parenting book! Dr. Joanne Foster reveals how to encourage and support children’s abilities. She shares understandings based on over 30 years working as a dedicated professional in the field of child development and gifted education, and she provides expertise, practical strategies, and LOTS of relevant resources.

In ABCs, each letter of the alphabet has a thematic focus (such as Independence, Learning, Motivation, and Productivity). The ABC design differentiates this book from other parenting, gifted-related, and educational publications; the alliterative style makes the book unique; and the illustrations by Christine Thammavongsa are creative and thought-provoking. ABCs is a distinctive, engaging, and comprehensive book. The early reviews are stellar.

For more information about ABCs, Dr. Foster’s work, and her award- winning books and other publications (including her column at The Creativity Post), please visit her website at

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