For posts on bullying, visit The Learn to be Buddies Series Blog.
All images and posts written by and copyright to Amanda Clements (nee Gray) 2009-2012 unless otherwise indicated.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Graphic Organisers: An example of a "least intrusive" adjustment

Graphic organisers are one of the best examples of an adjustment that can be made for students with disabilities whilst also benefiting all other students in their class.

What is a Graphic organiser?

Graphic organisers are things like tables, diagrams, flow charts, checklists. They can be used to visually represent the link between ideas, or the steps in a process. You can find many examples of graphic organisers at or

How would you use a Graphic organiser?

Lesson plans:

Graphic organisers can be used as lesson plans to help children be organised and stay on track....

images from Microsoft clipart and

This would be important for a student who has attention and organisational difficulties such as ADHD, Autism, Down Syndrome, Bi-polar disorder and so on. However, something like this could be hung out the front of the room and used for the whole class as it could benefit all students.

Concept maps

These are very helpful to help children with recognising relevant vocabulary, as well as helping them to create links between ideas - which is an important process in learning and remembering things. They can be as simple or as complex as appropriate to the age of the child. They could also be made with pictures and words, or just pictures as well.

Writing and reading scaffolds

Graphic organisers are a great way to help children who struggle to organise their thoughts. It can help them write more coherent, longer stories or essays.

Giving a child who is struggling with literacy a story map before they read a story can also help them focus on the meaning of a story rather than just decoding the words on the page. Having a sense of how the story fits together. This will help them read more fluently as knowing what is going to happen gives children struggling with literacy a better chance of making correct "informed guesses" about any unfamiliar words on the page - a process we all use when reading, especially when we don't want to interrupt the flow of the story.

Story maps can be simple or complex. They can be used for children of all abilities, though you should never force children to use them as many children who are very creative, or gifted in story-writing, work best when they can just let the story flow from their pen. So the "least intrusive" use of story maps would be to use them in demonstrations and introduction to topics and stories, and then making them available for those who want to use them in their writing tasks.

For factual texts, KWL charts are a good way of activating interest and prior knowledge of a child. This can be very helpful for children with ADHD and Autism as it can help them become interested in the topic.

Simple or more complex main idea charts can help students organise their thoughts when they have to write assignments or essays on topics. These can be used in a similar way to story maps.


We have probably all used checklists at one time or another. Checklists are another example of how graphic organisers can be used. Instructions can also be represented in a series of pictures - which is important for any child who is struggling to hear, remember or read instructions.

Rules for Using Graphic Organisers

Blaxendall (2003) discusses the benefits as well as the pitfalls of using graphic organisers. He suggests successful use of graphic organisers comes down to three things:
  1. Consistency: Regularly using the same set of organisers. This helps children get used to what each type of organiser is used for and what they symbolise.
  2. Coherence: Don't put any irrelevant information in an organiser - it is for important information only. Keep it simple.
  3. Creativity: Use them in as many situations as possible (classwork, homework, group work). Use pictures as much as possible, ensuring that they are age-appropriate and specifically relevant to the content of the organiser.

Blaxendall, B. (2003). Consistent, Coherent, Creative: The 3 C's of Graphic Organisers. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(3), p47.



Monday, November 23, 2009

What is a Reasonable Adjustment?

If you are a parent, have you ever been frustrated with what has been done to support your child in an inclusive classroom? Have you ever wondered what limits there are on the types of things that can be done?

And teachers, do you feel you have been asked to do too much? Have you wondered what can be reasonably expected of you when including a student with a disability?

Part 3 of the Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education 2005

Part 3 lays down some guidelines to help learning support teams make the decision about what might be reasonable in terms of adjustments to be made for a student. The criteria centres around the concept that any adjustment made must “balance the interests of all parties affected.” (p10)

But first…. What is an adjustment?

Basically, it is anything that a school and/or teacher do to help a child with a disability to participate and access facilities. It can be anything from using visual schedules to putting in ramps for a child in a wheelchair to employing a teacher’s aide.


Part 3 states that the decision about adjustments must be made in collaboration with the student and/or their associates. It also states that the student and/or associates’ (ie. parent/caregivers) opinion must be taken into consideration as to whether the adjustments are adequate.

So as part of the learning support team, parents should have a voice in the discussion about what adjustments are appropriate. But as in any advocacy role, we need to make sure we are as well-informed as possible about our options. As stated in the previous post, parents have a right to ask for information and can bring a friend and/or advocate with them when they attend learning support meetings.

One parent I knew got much more support for her child when she brought her privately consulted speech therapist with her to the learning support team meeting. This was primarily due to the fact that the therapist knew a lot more about what the child needed and could provide evidence of that need through official reports and so on.

The student

Part 3 states that the decision about adjustments must take into account the student’s disability. This may seem superfluous, but it is important that the Learning Support Team be well informed about the characteristics of the disability, and also how that disability affects the individual student – as all students are different, even if they do have the same disability.

The adjustments need to support the student in achieving the curriculum learning outcomes, whilst also maintaining the integrity of the course or ensuring that the accreditation standards for the course are maintained. This means that some adjustments will need to be abandoned because they either water-down the content of the courses as specified in the Syllabus documents. Alternatively, they might create a false impression of the child’s capabilities.

For example, students who have intellectual disabilities who are completing the School Certificate or High School Certificate would be completing the Life Skills Certificates. The Life Skills curriculum has been specifically designed for students with intellectual disabilities as it focuses on functional skills, or skills that will help the child succeed in their future life.

It is not a “watered-down” version of the regular curriculum. It is an alternative set of criteria. But it is only accessible to children under strict guidelines as it would be inappropriate for children who can learn the skills contained in the regular Syllabus if given appropriate supports.

For example, a child who is deaf can meet the requirements for accreditation under the Curriculum guidelines if they are provided with adjustments such as an interpreter. Click here for guidelines (Word doc) on who can complete the Life Skills Curriculum.

This brings us to the next point Part 3 makes: That the adjustments must provide adequate support so the child can participate in the educational activities.

The adjustments should also promote the independence of the child. I previously discussed this in the context of teachers aides.

Part 3 mentions that the adjustments should be the “least intrusive” option. The least intrusive adjustments are subtle. They don’t take away a child’s independence or choice. They have minimal effect on the child’s social belonging and status in the classroom. In short, they don’t “intrude” on the child – or their friends - socially or academically as they learn together in the classroom.

For example, let’s say a child is struggling to sit still in the classroom for long periods of time. The most intrusive approach would be to continually correct and re-direct the child. “Johnny, sit down.” “Have you finished your work yet, Johnny?” and so on. This will affect the child’s self-esteem, it could be disruptive to others (perhaps even more so than the actual getting out of the seat), and can lead to a labelling of the child as “naughty.”

A less intrusive approach would be to know the child’s limits, as well as their strengths and work with them. Have clear, visual guidelines like a picture that you put on the board/Smartboard to indicate when it is time to stay in their seat. Use eye contact and pointing to the picture to prompt the behaviour. But also know how long the child is able to sit still. For some children who have ADHD, or cerebral palsy, sitting still for long periods of time can be physically impossible. So occasionally have fun physical breaks, or options for movements like running errands, getting children to bring their work to you for checking or having a one minute “stretch break” every 10 to 15 minutes.

But as the child gets older and has more practice at sitting still, the time they can “last” is likely to increase. Then, as Part 3 states, the adjustments need to be reviewed and changed with the child’s changing needs. This should be the case for all adjustments.

Teacher and students

When making adjustments, we also need to balance the interests of the teacher and students in the classroom.

The concerns of teachers often revolve around their ability to equitably cater for all children in their classrooms in terms of the amount of time they may need to spend with a student who has a disability, answering their questions or managing their behaviour. They may be concerned about the disruption caused by some of the more difficult behaviour, and doubt their ability to deal with that behaviour without extra training. They may also be concerned about extra time and expertise required to plan inclusive lessons and design appropriate materials.

All these factors need to be taken into consideration when planning for inclusion. But it is important to note that we cannot expect zero disruption in inclusive classrooms. Inclusion does come with its challenges, and for some children placement in specialist classes may turn out to be the best option in the context of the resources currently available in our education systems.

However, as reported by Foreman (2008), research does indicate that children without disabilities who learn in inclusive classrooms may develop extra-curricular skills such as respect, value for diversity and social values associated with inclusion that they may not have developed in other classrooms. It also indicates that students not diagnosed with a disability may feel an advantage from the adjustments made for fellow students with disabilities.

So, when choosing adjustments, Part 3 states that not only should we look for the least intrusive option, but we also need to look for the least disruptive option.

So, some examples of what we cannot expect from teachers are:

  • To spend chunks of time one on one with a single student
  • To spend all their time planning adjustments that will only cater to one child

But we can expect teachers:

  • To participate in learning support meetings or collaborate with support staff
  • To spend a reasonable amount of time planning adjustments that are essential to the child’s completion of class tasks

And, teachers, you can get support from specialist staff such as Support Teachers to help you access ready-made resources, or for help in designing appropriate resources for students with disabilities.

When it comes to the challenge of behaviour, you might also want to read this post to hear the perspective of a teacher.

School and Education Departments

In making sure that adjustments are reasonable, school and education departments will also need to look at the available funding and resources. Part 3 highlights that the costs and benefits of every adjustment need to be weighed up. It is important to make all effort to implement the best adjustments, but these need to be realistic in the context of the funding rules and other regulations governing what can be implemented in schools. You can get more information about this from the disability consultant in your local education office.

Finally, whenever a learning support team has decided on a specific adjustment, it is important that it be implemented as soon as possible. As Part 3 indicates, the adjustments should be made available as soon as possible so as not to disadvantage the student in their learning.

So if you are heading off to negotiate adjustments for your child or your student, make sure you keep these things in mind.


Foreman, P. (2008). Setting the Scene: Teachers and Inclusion. In P.Foreman (Ed), Inclusion in Action, p2-36. Thomson: Australia.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Learning support teams

Thanks to Hilary Clinton, we have probably all heard the old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, it might also be said that “It takes a team to educate a child with special needs” – not so catchy, but just as true.

What is a learning support team?

A learning support team (LST) is a team of people who coordinate, plan and review the supports available to a child with a disability (Lyons & Kelly, 2008; NSW DET, 2008) . This team should include all those involved in the day-to-day education of the child.

According to the NSW Department of Education and Training (NSW DET, 2008), the people you will usually find on a learning support team include:

  • Parents/caregivers
  • the principal or another executive staff member such as the head teacher for welfare, or assistant principal
  • a class teacher representative (if your child is in an inclusive classroom)
  • the school counsellor
  • a specialist teacher, such as a support teacher or the specialist class teacher if your child is in a specialist classroom.

Other people who may be involved in the team could include a disability programs consultant or itinerant teachers from the Department of Education, a teachers’ aide, or specialist personnel from outside the Department such as a physiotherapist, child psychologist, speech therapist, occupational therapist and so on. Parents can also bring along an advocate, interpreter or other “moral support” in the form of grandparents, friends or family support workers.

What happens in a learning support team meeting?

There may be two types of meetings involving learning support teams in your school (Lyons & Kelly, 2008). The first is a meeting of all learning support staff in the school. This meeting may happen once a week or once a fortnight and does not include parent involvement. These meetings do not focus on any one child, but on the needs of all children with disabilities in the school.

This whole school meeting of learning support staff focuses on items such as:
  • Distributing resources
  • Making referrals
  • Managing case loads
  • Reviewing or sharing information about students

Learning support team meetings focusing on individual students, and involving parents, most often happen once a year. These are usually focused on the processes involved in applying for and reviewing funding and resources. The tangible outcome of the meeting is usually a written profile of the child, a learning support plan and perhaps some completed forms related to funding (see this document)

The NSW DET identify the key processes involved in supporting children with disabilities as being a cycle (see image below, adapted from NSW DET, 2008 p12):

The student profile:

The child’s strengths
This might include the student’s interests, abilities, achievements, social networks and skills and so on.

The child’s difficulties or support needs
The way this is done will differ according to the funding policy of your state. For example, in NSW funding is allocated according to the level of need identified under 5 domains: Key learning areas, communication, participation, personal care, movement (NSW DET, 2004).

The key learning areas domain is about identifying the level of support a child may need in order to learn the syllabus outcomes identified in the curriculum. In this area, basic skills such as literacy and numeracy are often the focus.

The communication domain is about identifying the ability of a child to both understand what is said to them, and their ability to convey meaning to others.

The participation domain focuses on two areas: social competence and safety. The team will discuss the child’s level of need in the context of social interaction. And they will also discuss what management strategies may be needed to ensure the child’s safety.

The personal care domain focuses on the child’s support needs in the context of hygiene, eating and dietary needs, and health care procedures.

The movement domain is where the child’s mobility and fine motor skills such as handwriting will be analysed to determine what level of support they may need in these areas.

You can see some profiles of hypothetical children here.

The Learning Support Plan

The learning support plan usually has three key elements: goals, roles and responsibilities, monitoring procedures and a review date.

Priorities and goals:
Based on the child’s profile and identified difficulties, the learning support team usually identify priorities to help guide the child’s education plan. These priorities are then usually written into long term goals for the child. These goals then guide the support strategies and educational program for the child.

Roles and Responsibilities:
To ensure appropriate coordination and implementation of support, the learning support plan usually identifies the roles and responsibilities of team members in relation to each goal.

Monitoring and Review:
Strategies for monitoring the child’s progress towards their goals may also be identified in a learning support plan. This will ensure that the team is accountable for what has been done, and also helps the team review what is working and what is not. Ad date is then usually identified for the review of the plan.

Things to remember when collaborating

One of the most difficult things about team work is bringing together different ideas and perspectives. So it is important to remember a few things:

For parents:
You are the "expert" on your child, and what you and they want from education. You should feel free to actively advocate for your child. If you are feeling a bit daunted by the process, bring along someone who will help you in your advocacy role.

However, make sure you are well informed. Being familiar with The Disability Standards for Education 2005 and the state/territory's funding policies and so on will help you in your advocacy role. Groups such as the Strengthening Families service can help with this.

You might also find it beneficial to visit your child’s classroom to get an idea of how it works and what might be practical in the context of space, number of children and resources available.

For schools:
Teachers are the “experts” in curriculum requirements, or the things that children need to learn to progress through school. Executive staff and consultants know about what is practical within the funding and resource limitations. Therapists and medical staff will have very specialist knowledge.

Seeing things from these different perspectives may mean setting priorities is not as easy as it sounds, though these should be significantly guided by parent/caregiver input. So it is important that all parties are flexible and recognise that there is not necessarily and right or wrong answer when it comes to priorities as these should be shaped by the developmental stage of the child, the parent/guardians’ priorities and the combined information from all professionals.

Another issue is that education and medical professionals may find it difficult to stick to using language that people not involved in these fields can understand. This is simply because every profession has its own jargon. So it is okay to ask for something to be explained, or be put in plain English.

Everything that goes on in the LST meeting should be meaningful to and inclusive of all members of the team.

References and links:

Lyons, G. and Kelly, A. (2008). Resources to Support Inclusion. In P. Foreman (Ed), Inclusion in Action, p427-499. Thomson: Australia.

NSW Department of Educatio and Training (2004). Students with Disabilities in Regular Classrooms: Funding Document. Online at

NSW Department of Education and Training (2008). Who's Going to Teach my Child. Online at

The Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education 2005

Information from the Victorian Department of Education:

Information from the NT Department of Education and Training:

Information from the South Australian Department of Education and Children's Services:

ACT information:

From Education Queensland:

From the Western Australian Department of Education:


Monday, November 16, 2009

Teachers' Aides

Teachers' aides, or Student Learning Support Officers as they are now know in the NSW Department of Education system, are one of the most used supports for children with disabilities in regular classrooms. They are very valuable, but we as teachers and parents need to be aware of their role in the classroom.

Myths and misuse

Myth #1: Teachers' aides are responsible for the education of the child with a disability in the classroom.

Teachers' aides are not trained in education. They are not teachers. They do not have training in the syllabus or accreditation requirements for education. Therefore, they should not be called upon to plan or program for a child.

Teachers' aides may have achieved a Certificate in working with children. You can visit this TAFE NSW page for information on what Teachers' aides may have studied. For example, their subjects include learning about different types of needs and workplace safety.

So, in the classroom, aides are there hands-on support for the teacher. They help implement, assess and provide feedback for programs planned by the teacher and/or support teacher (whose role I will discuss in a future post). The primary responsibility for the day-to-day education of the child is the classroom teacher. The long-term planning is the role of the Learning Support Team.

Myth #2: Teachers aides should only be used to work one-on-one with the student to which they have been allocated... or are there to do the photocopying.

The funding for teachers' aides is based on the needs of an individual child. The number of hours they are employed is determined by the assessment of the child's needs - a process determined by the Learning Support Team. Therefore, a teacher's aide is employed to assist the teacher in furthering the education of one child.

However, this does not mean that they must sit at the back (or front) of the classroom with the child and constantly scaffold their learning. In fact, as discussed in previous posts, this can be detrimental to the inclusion and independence of the child.

Watch this video from the Teachers.TV site to get an idea of how teachers' aides can be used least intrusively:

So basically, there are a few options:

- Circulating: a teacher's aide can be used to help answer questions of students, thus freeing up the teacher to give adequate support to all children in their classroom. It also ensures the child for whom they are employed gets the chance to be independent, but also gets their questions answered immediately.

- Small groups: To maximise the hours a teacher's aide is employed, schools often group students with disabilities into the same class - whilst taking care to minimise the impact of this on the way the classroom operates and the learning of other students. In these cases the teacher's aide may work with small groups of students, especially when the class whole class is involved in small group or cooperative learning. A teacher's aide may also be used to withdraw a number of students from different classes to implement a specific program planned and supervised by the support teacher - for example, literacy programs.

- Physical assistance: A teachers' aide may also be needed to assist a child in the physical demands of movement around the school or writing.

Myth #3: A student with a disability will have a full-time teacher's aide.

It is quite rare for a child to have a full time teachers' aide. As discussed in a previous post, teachers' aides are usually allocated to a child for a certain percentage of the week. It is then up to the Learning support team to determine when it is best to use that teacher's aide.

For example, if a child with a physical disability's main difficulty is increasing physical tiredness during the day, then the teacher's aide will most likely be used in the latter half of the day to support movement around playground, and scribe for the child in classes later in the day.

If a child with Autism struggles most with the social demands on the playground, then the teachers' aide will be used to support the child on the playground through extra supervision and possibly some structured games.

You might want to look at the NSW DET Students with Special Needs in Regular Classes: Funding Support document to find out more about how funding might be used to support children with disabilities at school.

So while teachers' aides are a valuable resource, we need to understand that these are some of the ways to best utilise this resource without expecting too much or too little from them.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

Support Services: What can we put on our wish list?

As this year comes to an end and we start thinking about the next school year (in Australia, at least), it is important to know what support services are available in our school systems. The first thing to understand is the laws and Standards that set the guidelines for supports in schools.

For countries other than Australia

If you are from the US you will need to know about the Individuals with a Disability Act and Section 504 … and maybe more. I have not worked with these, so will not discuss them here. However, you might want to do some reading starting at the site.

If you are from the UK, you might want to start find out about Special Education Needs support by visiting this site:

For Australia
The Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education 2005

Part 7 of these Standards is called the Standards for student support services. Here are some of its main points.

Where do the support services come from?

- Students with disabilities should be able to access support services within the school or Education Department available to students without a disability without discrimination. So it the school is has supports such as a mentoring system, or peer support, peer tutoring or career advisor, children with disabilities should be able to access these services in the same way as all children in the school.

- If a student with a disability needs a specialised support service to ensure that they can participate in learning or other school-based activities, and it exists within the Department of Education, then the Standards state that the “provider must take reasonable steps to ensure that the student has access to the service (but may arrange for it to be provided by another person or agency).” (p19)

- If a specialised support service is needed, and it does not exist within the Department or school, the “the provider must take reasonable steps to facilitate the provision of the service to the student by another person or agency.”

Who decides on what is necessary?

Part 7 identifies that the process of deciding on the nature of the support services needed for the child should include consultation with the student or an associate of the student.

An associate, according to Part 1.4 (p6), is:

“(a) a spouse of the person; and

“(b) another person who is living with the person on a genuine domestic basis; and

“(c) a relative of the person; and

“(d) a carer of the person; and

“(e) another person who is in a business, sporting or recreational relationship with the person.”

So, in the school situation, the Learning Support Team (who I will discuss in another post) should jointly make this decision. And parents and their child (if the child is over the age of 11) should be part of that Learning Support Team.

What services should be supplied?

- specialised equipment: which can mean anything from mobility aids to technology such as that seen on the spectronicsinoz website.

- appropriately trained staff: which usually means teachers’ aides and support teachers.

Part 7 also stipulates that staff should be aware of available support services and be provided with information about these so they can assist students to access these, including through collaboration with “specialised service providers” such as social workers, speech therapists and so on.

In the next few posts I will look at writing more about the roles of teachers’ aides, support teachers, and what might be “reasonable” in the context of funding structures and current resources.



Monday, November 9, 2009

Ask Amanda: Understanding the behaviour of children identified as Gifted and Talented

Recently a Twitter friend asked me if I had any information about behaviour in children identified as Gifted and Talented. My mind immediately went back to the late 90s, early 00s when I was helping to coordinate the Gifted and Talented Support group in a country area.

I thought of one parent’s struggle to keep up with her child’s voracious appetite for creative outlets – dancing classes, band, drama, writing clubs...

Of another child’s social difficulties as they struggled to communicate in a way that their peers could relate to, ending in taking a leadership role and primarily acting as director of her peers’ play.

Of another child who told great, convoluted and engaging stories, but could not get his pen to keep up with his thoughts. Instead, he could only write random words that, when read by some one else, seemed to have no connection with each other.

Of other students who were getting in trouble at school because they found it hard to concentrate and stay interested in activities that seemed mundane and almost insulting in their seeming simplicity.

Of other children whose emotional sensitivity lead them to do things like refuse to eat, respond with deep remorse and guilt to the slightest reprimand or guidance, meltdown because they drew a wobbly line where they wanted a perfectly straight one…

But then there were also the triumphs. The academic and creative achievements. The special, caring natures evidenced as children protected peers and siblings from playground cruelties or worked for charity. The depth of insight as they discussed social issues. The incredible memories from right back into their toddlerhood years and the amazingly creative stories.

So what does it mean to be gifted?

The Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children has a great, quick summary to read on this topic. They highlight that some of the key characteristics of Young Gifted Children include:

- Reaching milestones such as walking and talking early

- Good long- and short- term memory, often with extensive knowledge of a topic of interest, and consequently a large and complex vocabulary

- A “thirst for knowledge”, constantly questioning, exploring, investigating, deconstructing, reasoning

- High levels of energy and activity

- Emotional intelligence, which usually includes a strong sense of justness

- Good understanding of abstract as well as concrete concepts, with quick understanding of new concepts

So what’s the problem?

Web, Amaned, Webb, Goerss, Beijan and Olenchak (2004) have a great table on the second page of their article. It clarifies how the strengths of a child identified as gifted can also lead to some social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.

For example, their strengths in memory, understanding new concepts, reasoning and so on can lead them to be impatient with the “slowness” of others. It can also lead to boredom, or an unwillingness to participate in learning activities that help drill basic skills required for higher order skills. This can cause difficulties in the classroom with concentration and engagement in class activities. It may be that the child becomes the “class clown” and begins to under-achieve due to their disengagement.

Their ability to analyse and critique makes them good leaders, researchers… but can lead to them being seen as bossy or arrogant. It can also lead to perfectionism, which can be positive in that it helps motivate children to do their best. But it becomes a source of anxiety and can lead to depression if the child cannot ever be satisfied with their own attempts or achievements (Peters, 1996). It also means that rather than learning from mistakes and trying again (an important element of resilience), they give up and feel like a failure.

As Web et al describes, their emotional intelligence leads to emotional intensity, sensitivity and often idealism. This can again relate to perfectionism, where they see morals, justice and humanitarian issues in black and white, rather than recognising the shades of grey that exist in the complexity of human interaction.

Web et al also discuss how it is possible for children who are gifted to be diagnosed with mood disorders such as Bi-Polar Disorder due to the intense mood swings associated with their sensitivity and emotional intensity.

Finally, Web et al discuss how the energy associated with an active mind can be misdiagnosed as attention deficit disorders. This is because the behaviour that results from a mind constantly searching for knowledge, constantly active, racing with ideas just screaming to get out can look the same as ADHD – an inability to concentrate, impulsivity, blurting out ideas, struggling to wait for turns or follow another’s lead, and needing to be always physically and/or mentally on the move.

So what can we do?

Here are just a few hints and tips…


Micallef (2009) discusses some strategies. These include:

- Giving private feedback framed in positive language (rather than critique the child in front of others). For example, using phrases such as “Why don’t you have another look at this sentence?” or “How might you improve this?” This way you are tapping into their strengths such as their reasoning and problem-solving abilities.

- Maintain high but realistic expectations. For example, recognise that sometimes what they can think up they might not actually be able to execute. Their body might not be up to it – for example, a young child might be great at designing a complex lego construction, but their fingers might struggle with the fine motor skills required to actually construct it.

- Encourage a “have a go” attitude by modelling this yourself and encouraging attempts. For example, a child may not even try to write something, or draw it, if they cannot fully visualise the product. Encourage drafts, sketches, planning with explicit recognition that errors help you learn.

- Focus on praising the child’s efforts and the process of doing something, rather than just the end product. Avoid being “picky”, commenting on unimportant things or saying things like, “You could do better than that!!”

Perfectionism can lead a child to be overwhelmed by the perceived complexity of tasks because they might be looking at the “big picture” rather than breaking up tasks. Teaching them to break tasks down, make lists and prioritise can be very useful in combating this feeling.

You might also want to read

Emotional Intensity

Sword suggests the following:

- Validate your child’s feelings: acknowledge and talk openly without criticism

- Maintain consistent rules, values and behaviour expectations that are negotiated and discussed with your child.

- Use tools such as an emotions thermometer to help your child identify and manage their emotions

- Help them express their emotions through creativity – such as story-writing, poems, art work, music, an emotions journal and so on. If they struggle with writing, use a video diary.

- Remember that while they may seem like little adults, they are still children who need your support. And their physical and emotional capabilities cannot always keep up with their cognitive abilities.

- Counselling may need to be an option that you explore to ensure their emotional wellbeing.

I would also recommend the book Think Good Feel Good: A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Workbook for Children by Paul Stallard. While still expensive, it is discounted on this site and may be in your local library.

You might also want to visit for more information.

Hyperactivity, impatience

I have already discussed the stop, think, do program in a previous post. You may be able to adapt this to help children who are gifted think about their response to others before saying things that might be hurtful. Use their gifts in empathising with others to come up with solutions to social problems.

For the hyperactivity, many of the strategies that are used for children with ADHD may also apply. Additional strategies will include keeping your child busy with creative and investigative activities (reading, researching, constructing, experimenting, gardening, craft, music lessons etc etc), as well as perhaps teaching them some relaxation strategies.

You might also want to print and pass on the Victorian Associat for Gifted and Talented Children's Article on Meeting the Needs of Young Gifted Children to your child's teachers. Or the National Childcare Accreditation Council's Working with Gifted Children for pre-school teachers. The South Australian Education Department's Gifted Education Policy is also interesting.

Just remember – challenging your child to create something out of things they can collect around the house is just as if not more effective than expensive craft and model kits.

Reference with no hyperlink:

Peters, C.C. (1996). Perfectionism. Our Gifted Children, 3(6), pp23-27.

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