D is for Development

from Parenting for High Potential

by Dr. Joanne Foster

gpp author joanne foster

Determining what giftedness is all about means focusing on many aspects of the individual. In this column, the fourth in an alphabetical series, I start with specifics about giftedness (Details), and then move on to some ways of thinking (Dispositions).


Here are some Details…

Developmental differences – no two people are alike or have the exact same experiences across the life span; giftedness is about diversity, and individual differences in how we develop

Dynamic – growth is fluid, and so a person’s capabilities change over time based on influences, supports, effort, and many other factors

Domains – this refers to the contexts in which we live and learn, and also subject-specific areas of strength and weakness

Diagnostic – teachers can be “mismatch diagnosticians”—that is, they can find out individual students’ current educational (and other) needs, and then plan learning and programs accordingly

Differentiation – differentiated programs are teaching practices that take into account a flexible range of options, and focus on the individual student

Difficulties – gifted learners may struggle with some tasks—maybe math, or spelling, or organization, or sports…? Not everything is a slam dunk. (Offer assistance as needed.)

Drawing/Drama/Dance/– some children have gifted-level abilities in art, or theatrical performance, or other areas not addressed fully at school, and so a parent has to be proactive and seek ways to enable them to develop and showcase their talents

Desk – every student needs a place to think and work effectively (OK – so a nook in the attic or under the stairs is not ideal. But it’s better than no nook at all!)

Documentation – it’s a good idea to keep a record of your child’s accomplishments—both in and out of school—along with examples of the kinds of supports that help him flourish in different settings

Delicate matters – sometimes children ask elusive or tricky questions about giftedness, ones that are poignant or that cause adults to stop and think harder than they might otherwise…  (“Will I always be gifted? Why don’t I feel smart? Is Grandma gifted? Are you? How do I know if I’m gifted?)

Discussion – talk about these questions, answering them honestly, while keeping in mind the child’s age and level of understanding

Disabilities – a child’s ability may not be realized if a disability prevents him from expressing his talents, or affects his achievement. A comprehensive evaluation can be useful in determining if a child has dual exceptionalities, learning issues, or vulnerabilities—and what kinds of accommodations to try.

Determination – tenacity, resilience, and staying power can facilitate learning, and help to make us stronger and wiser (Who can you think of who has true grit?)

Demands – sometimes teachers give gifted learners too much work, piling on the demands, rather than providing more suitable (and reasonable) learning opportunities –and students may have to speak up (respectfully, of course, and preferably with a practical plan in mind)


Here are some Dispositions (directed toward taking action)…

Desire – it’s not enough to be bright enough to learn, it’s important to want to learn

Deliberation – thinking, planning, monitoring, and reflecting on outcomes—all of these are important to personal growth and achievement

Dreams – there’s more to life than facts and figures! (Where would we—or poets, or scientists, or athletes, or anyone—be without hopes and dreams?)

Dispel misconceptions– there are lots of myths and mistaken beliefs connected with giftedness, and so we have to strengthen understandings of what giftedness is, and is not

Direction – all children need guidance and help to stay on course, and to navigate the daily do’s and don’ts…

Decision-making – choosing the most suitable school or program, or the right learning options—for and with a child—takes time, information, thought, a collaborative approach, and diligence

Dweck – if you haven’t already done so, check out Carol Dweck’s research on the value of having a growth mindset, and on the importance of encouraging effort

Doldrums – when children are not challenged sufficiently they can become bored or despondent (the doldrums is a dull, drab, desolate place where nothing ever changes and nothing ever happens); and when learning drags due to dreariness or despair, perk things up!!! Discover creative alternatives, the unexpected, and rousing and stimulating choices…

Doubts – even the smartest people can experience misgivings about their abilities; parents and teachers can counter these thoughts and feelings by offering encouragement and positive reinforcement

Dumbo – a different kind of elephant, he was able to fly by flapping his ears. Now that’s a gift! (Triumph is often a matter of perspective…)

Demonstrate – parents and teachers can model the kinds of dispositions and actions that will serve children well in different situations, including troubling times, and when things go awry

Destiny – no one is born smart. We create our own destinies, and become who we are based on how we assemble the many pieces of life’s puzzles, over time

Dare – why not???

Delight – share the happiness and pride you feel about your children with your children, and help create new and joyous adventures—day by day by day…


About the Author

Being Smart about Gifted EducationJoanne Foster is co-author (with Dona Matthews) of the award-winning book Being Smart about Gifted Education, 2nd Edition (2009, Great Potential Press). She is also a parent, teacher, consultant, researcher, and education specialist. Dr. Foster has over thirty years experience working in the field of gifted education. She has written extensively about high-level development, and has presented on a wide range of gifted-related topics at conferences and learning venues all across North America. She teaches Educational Psychology as well as Gifted Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She can be reached at joanne.foster@utoronto.ca


This article is part of a series entitled ABCs of Being Smart, featured in the National Association for Gifted Children’s journal e-issues of Parenting for High Potential. Published with permission. Rights reserved. 


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