Grandparents as Advocates
Frances A. Karnes, Ph.D., co-author of Grandparents’ Guide to Gifted Children

(Used with permission by Open Space Communications) Understanding Our Gifted: Volume 18, No. 1, Fall 2005


If it takes a village to raise a child, should not grandparents be included in that village? All adults are needed to support and advocate for kids to provide a solid base on which they can grow. Gifted kids are no exception. In order to effectively advocate for gifted children, one must know about national, state, and local laws and about policies providing effective programming and services for this population of students.

The federal law, Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Education Act, provides limited funds with only a little over $11 million available for 2005. This law does not mandate education for the gifted; instead, it provides for the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, an office in the United States Department of Education, and a few model projects. In contrast, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does mandate education for all disabled children and youth. While both ends of the spectrum are equally important, there is much yet to be done toward programming for all gifted students.

Because there is no federal requirement for gifted education, laws do vary across states. Some states have a mandate to serve all gifted students, while others only provide screening and identification. A few have no legislation specific to gifted and talented young people. The rules and regulations for states having laws specific to the gifted are usually formulated and approved by state school boards for public elementary and secondary education. Local districts should be in accord with state regulations. In the absence of state law or because of certain local situations, school boards may have specific approved provisions directed to gifted and talented children at the local district level.

[Editor’s note: See for a state-by-state listing of funding. Click on your state to link to contact information for gifted education officials and organizations.]

The National Association for Gifted Children, the Association for Gifted (a division of the Council of Exceptional Children), and many state associations for the gifted have websites with state laws, rules, and regulations posted. There may be related laws and policies that are not specific to the gifted but still impact the field. Examples are early admission to public schools, number of courses required for high school graduation, and dual enrollment in both high school level and college. To be accurate and timely, advocates should have all this information and also know the strengths and weaknesses of provisions for the gifted.

Energy should be focused on the federal and state levels by keeping in touch with elected officials for accurate information. Appreciation should be appropriately expressed to legislators and board members for their support of gifted education. Action needed for gifted education, requests for support for full funding at state and federal levels, and other needs and concerns about gifted education should also be conveyed.

Within the school system, there are many teachers, coordinators, counselors, principals and other administrators, psychologists, etc. who need to have information regarding specific children and gifted education in general. School districts should be encouraged to provide this information through teacher training, conferences, and written material. Positive reinforcement of exemplary actions and activities always leads to better relationships, which in turn benefit gifted children.

Being well-informed will assist in determining what you want to encourage. Are more classes for the gifted needed at the local level? Does a mandatory state law need to be passed? Are there more advanced classes needed at the secondary level? Karnes and Lewis (2005) emphasize the importance of making a plan for advocacy, realizing that circumstances may change and adaptations may have to be made.

There are a variety of strategies for advocacy that can be used. These include letters to the editor, news releases, feature stories, public service announcements, and community calendars which can be sent to local, state, and national newspapers. Articles in support of gifted education can be written and disseminated through newsletters, journals, magazines, the Internet, and other print media. Bibliographies on specific topics in gifted education can be shared with schools, associations, and other community and state groups. Radio and television provide opportunities for interviews. Student performances that showcase talents can be facilitated within the school and at malls, meetings, or other events.

Grandparents may have the time, connections, and expertise to help write grant proposals. Karnes and Stephens (2003) describe ways of securing money and goals and services through fund-raising, grant proposals, and fund development, including funding from public and private foundations and corporations. Through these efforts, instructional materials and supplies can be increased, special programs can be initiated, and scholarships for students and teachers can be secured.

Grandparents can be valuable resources for advocating in the schools. They have experience in speaking, writing, creativity, and interpersonal, organizational, and development skills. As a grandparents, you can make a difference in the education of gifted children across our nation.

Government Resources

  • Congressional search (to locate your members of congress):
  • U.S. Department of Education:
  • U.S. House of Representatives (with links to representatives’ offices and committees):
  • U.S. Senate (with links to senators’ offices and committees):



Karnes, F. A., & Stephens, K. R. (2003). The ultimate guide to getting money for your classroom and school. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Lewis, J. D., & Karnes, F. A. (2005). Public relations and advocacy. In F. A. Karnes & S. M. Bean (Eds.), Methods and materials for teaching the gifted. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.


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