By Elizabeth Jones, IEA President and Co-Founder
In reading the article “Is There a Place at the Table for Parents” a few days ago, I began to reflect on and evaluate how we at IEA invite parents to take a seat at the table.
I decided to discuss the topic with our staff. Kate Duey, a parent of 3 gifted daughters and a consultant for IEA, was in the office and had a few compelling comments about how she felt as the mother of gifted children.
She said that she did not feel particularly “included” in most of the past gifted organizations in which her daughters participated. “At one large summer program for gifted kids, I dropped my daughter off at the dorms, and that was pretty much it,” Kate recalled. “No one who administered the program was available for me to talk to. I got to talk to her dorm advisor for a few minutes that day, but that was it. When the program was over, I was to just pick her up and take her home, nothing more. I had no opportunity to speak with anyone running the program nor a way to learn about what happened while she was in attendance. I was a means of transportation more than anything.” That was disconcerting for her, and this was not an isolated incident.
I wanted to see what she would say about us – after all, she is a consultant here to assist our organization. She said, “At IEA, the parents are included in everything from the Apprenticeship presentations, to the Bradley Seminar, to talking with the staff and Fellows at Yunasa, to parent support groups, and parents are even on the Board of Directors. I even have been here when you call a parent to see how class went on Saturday or to see how a child was doing in school that week.”
At IEA, we support the whole gifted child – intellectually, socially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Parent input is crucial. The folks that live with these darling, amazing, and sometimes frustrating little guys have ideas and questions! We know that these children do not operate in a vacuum and that their parents are the life-line to their success.
We want parents to take a seat at the table. We want them to feel involved in our organization and the ways in which we serve their children.
We know that parenting a gifted child is not easy. Other parents, and often even teachers, don’t understand what you are going through. It is difficult to find information, resources, and support to help you raise your gifted child. Your child needs support, but so do you.
Because of this, every program at IEA has some parent component. For example:
- On the first day of Yunasa, parents get to meet and learn from the Fellows, renowned professionals in the social and emotional development of gifted children.
- Parents of high school Apprentices are invited to attend the Apprentices’ final presentations, in which all participants share what they have accomplished while working with their Mentor over the course of the program. A closing picnic for all hosted by IEA staff members follows.
- Academy families are encouraged to speak with staff before or after classes. We are starting Academy Family Nights, where families have the opportunity to connect and build community. We are also using parent feedback to create new classes – parents asked for a young girls’ book club, so we are going to start one this winter.
- Parents of Caroline D. Bradley Scholars attend the annual Bradley Seminar, a weekend of community and learning.
- All of our programs solicit feedback from students and their parents. Information gleaned in these evaluations has assisted us in honing our services to better meet the changing needs of our constituency.
- IEA staff members frequently speak with parents regarding their individual child, even if that family has not participated in one of our offerings.
But are we doing enough? Probably not.
We try to be an open resource for parents looking for support for their gifted child. We offer consulting services. We host several parent support groups throughout the year to provide support, community, and information on topics of interest to parents of gifted children. We have asked Stephanie Tolan, a Senior Fellow, to speak about her experience parenting a gifted child. We have an active social media presence – here on our blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook – all of which provide an open forum for discussion and questions.
Yet children and their parents still go unheard in the gifted community.
We want to learn, we want to help, we want each parent to feel heard and hopefully helped.
Parents of gifted children often contribute to this blog to offer parent perspectives on raising gifted children. A parent of one of our program participants is currently helping with our strategic planning. We ask for parent input, and we take it seriously.
At IEA, we do advocate for gifted children in a way similar to what Lisa describes in the article, but we do our best to bring parent feedback into it. We often provide educators and other organizations with tools to serve gifted children. We do involve parents in our organization, and we believe we are supporting their needs. Our table maybe small, but it is well built.
Please know that you can always come to IEA for support, guidance, information, and resources. We want you to have a seat at the table. We can always build a bigger table.
As an organization that dedicates itself to connecting bright minds and nurturing intellectual and personal growth, we know that parents of these bright minds are integral in this process. Please take a seat at our table.
Do you feel that parents have a seat at the table in the gifted community? Please share with us in the comment section below.