Conference to help early childhood workers, educators and carers cope with gifted children

30 September 2013

Early childhood educators and other professionals working with young children will soon have help at their fingertips to ensure they meet the needs of children with advanced development or giftedness.

With one child out of every 20 children exhibiting advanced development or giftedness and current State and Commonwealth quality and learning frameworks requiring early childhood educators to have high expectations of every child - the online resource written by Deakin University’s early childhood giftedness expert Dr Anne-Marie Morrissey and consultant Dr Anne Grant is timely.

“This is the first time in Victoria there have been such policy initiatives focused on giftedness and talent in early childhood and the early years of school, and how professionals working with these children can best respond and support them in their learning and development,” Dr Morrissey said.

“Australia is a leader in research in this area and the conference, where the new resource funded by the State Government will be launched, is a chance for parents, early childhood professionals and teachers in the early years of school, to hear from some of our leading experts.”

The conference is being sponsored by Deakin University’s Centre for Centre for Research in Educational Futures and Innovation, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) and Victorian Association for Gifted and Talented Children (VAGTC).

Dr Morrissey said given the new national and state frameworks governing the education of gifted children it was important people who worked with children were able to identify and respond to the gifted or talented child.

“A State Government inquiry into Gifted and Talented Children in 2012 highlighted there were issues identifying children who were gifted or talented,” she explained.

“There appeared to be a lot of misunderstanding about these children, what they looked like and what their needs are.

“The resource was created to address these issues.”

Dr Morrissey said identifying gifted children was a sensitive and complex process.

“It really is about getting to know the child and building up a picture of the child’s development,” she said.

“Giftedness can show up in children as for example advanced thinking and reasoning rather than necessarily early academic skills such as reading and writing.

“For example you may have a four year old asking questions about the meaning of life or they are interested in talking about topics that you would not expect a four-year old to talk about.”

Dr Morrissey said giftedness also had different levels, one moderately gifted children for instance appeared in every 20 children whereas one exceptionally gifted child appeared in every 10,000 children.

“One of the challenges gifted children can face particularly at pre-school, is that they can end up on their own because they have complex ideas of play and their peers don’t understand what they are talking about.

“With gifted boys for instance, because they are not engaging in typical play with their peers, they can be seen as not socially competent and held back a year, which compounds the problem.

“Because they are not socialising in the age- typical way with their peers, it doesn’t make them socially incompetent.”

Dr Morrissey said one of the best things early childhood educators could do was to understand what was happening and spend time with the child talking to them.

“Conversations with adults can provide the stimulation and challenge that these children typically seek, and which may not be provided by their peers,” she said.

“What you have to do is identify where the individual child is at, rather than saying they are in line with the expectations for their age.

Dr Morrissey said the (Early Childhood / Victorian Early Years Learning Development Framework) –require educators to have high expectations of every child.

“Educators cannot take the position that because these children are meeting expectations typical for their age, that everything is alright,” she said.

“High expectations for a gifted child need to be considered in relation to their own individual development and learning.”

Dr Grant said the resource also included a discussion on the challenges faced by families with a gifted child and how early childhood professionals can support these families.

“All parents, perhaps instinctively, turn to other parents to help them cope with the challenging role of parenting,” she said.

“However, when your child is following a different developmental path, as we know is the case with young gifted children, then it is not easy to ask other parents for advice on how to manage.”

Dr Grant commented, that as a result parents with a gifted child can feel rather lonely in coping with the task of being the best parent they can be.

“Transition from an early childhood setting into the first year of school is accepted as a significant change in a child’s life and we now know that gifted children approach this change with different expectations from those of children who are age-typical,” Dr Grant said.

“Educators and teachers need to be aware of the important aspects of this experience for young gifted children, and be able to provide appropriate support so that these children also make a positive transition into a new learning environment.''

Further information

Victorian Association for Gifted and Talented Children (VAGTC)

Giftedness in Early Education conference

Friday 11 October, 2013

9am-4pm (registrations from 8.30am)

Deakin University Melbourne City Centre

Level 3, 550 Bourke Street

Melbourne Vic 3000

This conference is for parents and educators of young children (0-8 years) with advanced development/giftedness. It is a unique opportunity to hear from Australasian researchers about giftedness in early childhood. There will also be opportunities for questions, and discussion about the implications of their research for parenting and teaching.

To register

News facts
  • With new national and state frameworks governing the education of gifted children people who work with children need to be able to identify and respond to the gifted or talented child.
  • New resource has been created to help people understand gifted and talented children, what they look like and what their needs are
  • Parents with a gifted child can feel rather lonely in coping with the task of being the best parent they can be

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/ 0422 005 485

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30th September 2013