Test Prep: Seize the Opportunity! Is Gifted and Talented Testing Right for your Child with Special Needs?
by: Elaine Chak, M.S. Ed
With every New Year, we traditionally make resolutions and changes in our lives, all for a singular purpose: to lead a fuller life, which in itself comes from self-improvement and the refusal to let opportunities pass us by. Every New Year is a promise of fewer regrets and “what ifs.” It is only natural that we want the same personal fulfillment and success for our children and students. With this in mind, I pose the question: should children with special needs consider taking the Gifted and Talented exam? In the effort to take hold of every opportunity, the answer is yes.
The way I see it, the Gifted and Talented exam is like a lottery ticket. If you buy it, you have a chance to win a reward; if you don’t buy it, you automatically lose. Unlike the lottery, the G&T exam does not come with any registration fees. No matter what the results are, your child is still guaranteed a free public education. Although the G&T assessment only determines eligibility to apply for a G&T program, it is a doorway that can lead to great opportunities for a child in the future. Now for parents of children with special needs, your child will face and overcome great obstacles throughout his/her life. To deny them the chance to take the G&T exam is to place before them yet another obstacle--one in which they are denied the brightest classrooms and best educational opportunities in the city. Why close the door of opportunity on them?
Many people often have the misconception that children with special needs are not bright and intelligible, or that they can’t think for themselves. This belief is incorrect. As a special education teacher, I've worked with a number of brilliant and talented children that have learning disabilities and Individual Educational Plans in place with related professional services. Based on my experience, children can be both highly gifted and also possess a range of physical disabilities, learning or attention issues, language-based challenges, processing disorders, frustration tolerance, social/communication disorders, or behavioral disorders. Often, a child’s disability masks their actual capabilities, strengths, and intelligence. The G&T exam and the child’s placement in a gifted program can help remove that mask.
If you are a parent of a child with special needs, don’t be so quick to opt out of an opportunity to advance your child’s talents and abilities. Your child’s disability or delays should not determine their future. Get to know your child’s strength and weaknesses. If you do not believe in your child’s ability and nurture their gifts, who will? You are your child’s advocate. Know what rights your child has to Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). When it comes to test taking like the G&T exam, find out if your child has the right to extra time or other accommodations and modifications fit for the child’s specific needs.
Given the right support and guidance, every child can learn and improve their abilities. Trust us when we say this, as a group of educators, we have seen many children with special needs strive in gifted and talented programs across the city! So for this New Year, make it your goal to keep that window of opportunity open for your child with special needs and give them the chance to seize his/her opportunity!