Gifted Awareness Week

2021 – Parental Advocacy for Academic Acceleration

Parental Advocacy for Academic Acceleration - Ayesha Umar

There is a plethora of empirical evidence about academic acceleration as best practice to cater to the needs of the gifted students (Assouline et al., 2015; Colangelo et al., 2010; Colangelo & Wood, 2015; Gagné, 2015, 2020; Gallagher et al., 2011; Gross, 2006) . Yet our educators hold back in implementing best practice. 


Those of you who have gone down this road would relate to the following statements by educators in response to whole year academic acceleration: “He is a happy child. I don’t want to stress him.” “I don’t want to separate her from her friends.” “I am concerned about his social emotional health.” “How will she cope socially?” “We are extending her in the current year level. There is no need for whole year acceleration. It will only complicate things.”


While advocating for your child there comes a time when you start doubting yourself. You doubt that if you are doing right by your child by accelerating him a whole year that is making him skip a year at school. To ensure your child’s best interest, you must make an informed decision. The first step is to recognise the need for academic challenge in the classroom. Look for the signs. Is your child complaining of being bored at school? Is he causing trouble? Is he disengaged? If you answered yes to any of these questions then your child needs acceleration in terms of curriculum compacting, ability grouping or whole year acceleration.


Now evaluate your child’s current academic prowess. Check previously conducted tests. The best assessment could be done through off level testing. Off level tests as the name suggests, assess the student’s abilities in mathematics and reading at levels higher than his current year-level. Their results indicate the level of curriculum they are currently at. If the off level or adaptive tests show a whole year advancement in reading and mathematics, then your child probably needs whole year acceleration. Now get the writing assessed. If a student is an academic year ahead in reading, writing and mathematics then he needs a whole year academic acceleration.


Acquire evidence of this whole year academic advancement. This can be done through documenting test results, individual education plans (IEP) or school reports. Before you reach out to the teacher or the leadership of the school for whole year acceleration, strengthen your defences. Do some research around its efficacy for your child. Familiarise yourself with the policies for gifted students on state and national education websites. Collect references that support whole year acceleration.


To strengthen your arguments, find acceleration related information on state, national and international gifted and talented organisations websites. This information will help you understand the process better and also clear your personal doubts around social emotional development.


Lastly, read some literature in support of academic acceleration. You will only find research literature that supports acceleration as to date no research has proven it otherwise.


You are now equipped to advocate for whole year academic acceleration for your child. Reach out to the classroom teacher. Ask her what she can do to cater to your child’s growing academic needs in the classroom. If she doesn’t mention whole year acceleration, then bring her attention to the assessment results that are evidence of your child’s 12-month academic advancement. If she is still not convinced, then communicate with the year level coordinator. Follow the right line of hierarchy till you are heard.


Ask for a meeting with the principal and the classroom teacher. Take all the evidence that you have collected, both related to your child’s whole year academic advancement and that in support of acceleration on websites and in research. Advocate for your child.


If it still doesn’t work, then it’s time to look for a school that has a gifted and talented program. Look for educators who have accelerated their own gifted children. They will empathise with you. They will know where you are coming from. They will support you and facilitate your child in the most conducive way possible.  



Assouline, S. G., Assouline, S. G., Colangelo, N., Gross, M. U. M., Templeton Foundation, Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, & National Association for Gifted Children (U.S.). (2015). A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students v.1 and v. 2 v.1 and v. 2. Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, University of Iowa.

Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., Marron, M. A., Castellano, J. A., Clinkenbeard, P. R., Rogers, K., Calvert, E., Malek, R., & Smith, D. (2010). Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy. Journal of Advanced Academics, 21(2), 180–203.

Colangelo, N., & Wood, S. M. (2015). Counseling the Gifted: Past, Present, and Future Directions. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93(2), 133–142.

Gagné, F. (2015). Academic talent development programs: A best practices model. Asia Pacific Education Review, 16(2), 281–295.

Gagné, F. (2020). Differentiating Giftedness from Talent: The DMGT Perspective on Talent Development (1st edition). Routledge.

Gallagher, S., Smith, S. R., & Merrotsy, P. (2011). Teachers’ Perceptions of the Socioemotional Development of Intellectually Gifted Primary Aged Students and Their Attitudes Towards Ability Grouping and Acceleration. Gifted and Talented International, 26(1–2), 11–24.

Gross, M. U. M. (2006). Exceptionally Gifted Children: Long-Term Outcomes of Academic Acceleration and Nonacceleration. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 29(4), 404–429.

2020 – The Guilt of Parenting Gifted Children

The Guilt of Parenting Gifted Children - Kate Burton

As well-being is the theme of Gifted Awareness Week 2020, it seemed prudent to not only focus on gifted children but also the parents of these curious and often intense little people! As a friend said to me many years ago, when I felt overwhelmed with the challenges that lay ahead in relation to navigating the psychosocial and academic needs of my own children, “Don’t forget to put your own oxygen mask on first.” Sage advice indeed.


But what do we do when we feel like if we focus on ourselves, our children’s well-being will slip further out of sight? What if we feel overcome with guilt whenever we think we may get this parenting gig wrong? What if we break our child? What if other parents think we’re elitist or pushy? What if, what if, what if??


Many of the parents I work with are swept away by a tidal wave of guilt. This guilt may be associated with wishing they’d tested their child earlier, they’d advocated or pushed for interventions sooner, or even with feeling like a failure as a parent if their response to their little human’s epic meltdown was not imbued with calmness and rooted in empathy. Queue many late nights, trawling the internet to establish how to best meet the needs of your child, and desperately trying to learn how to better respond during the times that you too are at the end of your rope!


But what if we view this guilt as generative? As having the potential to act as a catalyst for change? Like anger, guilt is a feeling. How we choose to respond to it is up to us. When we learn to deconstruct our guilt and lean into its uncomfortableness, we may have to face some confronting truths, but oh how we grow! A commitment to working through our own ‘stuff’ allows us to forge closer connections with others, both at an individual and community level, and this is essential to enable us to support our children.


R.D. Laing reminds us how “True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be or assume that one is.” What Laing highlights is our tendency towards trying to please others, to aspire to what they want us to be, instead of staying focused on our own needs. This dualistic thinking model is one that often causes difficulties when we need to act in the best interest of our children. Giftedness isn’t an easy subject to be open about: the label itself drives parents the world over to hastily explain its many misconceptions, and that’s if they feel comfortable enough to discuss the subject at all. Similarly, this duality is reminiscent of the dilemma gifted young people feel in relation to their academic performance and identity development. Should they mask their abilities in order to fit in? If their passions are quirky, should they also mask these in order be accepted by others?


Values are at the core of our well-being, and many of the gifted individuals I work with strive towards self-actualisation. However, if our actions are not in alignment with our values then unhappiness, anxiety and even depression generally ensue. When we need to advocate for our child and risk upsetting the educational applecart, outlining our values can help clarify the best path forward without getting caught up in the swirling ‘what ifs’. We may not be able to change the past but we can use our guilt to forge a groundswell movement to better identify our core values. These values then provide a baseline for every action thereafter. We can advocate with diplomacy and humility, for example, softening the fear of causing conflict. We can identify composure as an aspirational value, and simultaneously develop the value of persistence as we work towards maintaining a sense of calmness.


By committing to working towards living in alignment with our own values we develop protective factors to support our well-being. And, of course, the natural consequence of this is if we share this journey with our children, they too learn to act from a place of self-awareness and authenticity. The well-being of our children is tightly interwoven with the well-being of ourselves. So, take the time to identify what you need and demonstrate self-compassion as you navigate your own journey and fears. Children are unable to learn what they cannot see, so model how and why living in alignment with your values is so important. And then hold your child’s hand as you help guide them through developing their own values-based framework. A framework that will enable them to flourish and grow into their true selves.

2020 – Well-being

Wellbeing - Anonymous

noun – wellbeing
the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy


Today, my son made eye contact with another mum and initiated a good morning conversation. The text message from the mum, a family friend for years, brought tears to my eyes and melted my heart. She knew I needed to hear it. My well-being needed it.

I have focused on my children’s well-being for the past 10 years and this year, I am focusing on my own. I’m not saying that in a selfish way, but in a self-care way and hopefully in a way that models to my children how their self-care will lead to lifelong wellness.

My children are both in schools where they feel comfortable and safe. This wasn’t an easy journey, and like a roller coaster, the spirals down left us all feeling ill in the stomach, but when you hit the highs, you can see so much of the view and what is possible. By no means, was this journey done alone. The number of supporters we have had along our journey has been incredible, from medical professionals, family members, friends with kids who have similar profiles and friends who don’t understand my journey but understand my need to cry at random and different milestones and who nod and listen and give me a hug.

So, this year I am trying to become more comfortable, healthy and happy. Google dictionary, I am taking your OR and raising you to AND!

Comfortable. I am going to be more comfortable talking about my kids’ neuro diversity and asynchronous development. Yes, he can be gifted and have rubbish handwriting! I’m not going to shy away from my family’s normal in all it gory intricacies. I am going to model this to my children. I want them to see that I am comfortable with who they are and they should be comfortable too.

Healthy. I am going to go to the gym (for classes and not just the coffee shop). I am going to make sure I look at my diet as carefully as I look at my kids’. I am going to watch myself talk, treat my foibles with humour and love and cut myself some slack when perfection doesn’t quite happen. I am going to model this to my children. I want them to see that I am healthy in body and mind and that is something they can strive for and control too.

Happy. I am going to embrace our journey. I’m going to surround myself with the love and happiness of my tribe. I’m going to share their joys, be it a kid making eye contact for the first time, or a 6-year-old triple grade skipping or laughing about how your kid might be better at doing your taxes than your accountant. I also know that you can’t to be happy all the time, but by developing a love of contentment and revelling in the golden happiness of those key moments, I hope to build my resilience for the hard times. I’m going to model this to my kids. I want them to see that am content and happy and can share in the joys of others. I want them to see that I am resilient, even when those moments of happiness seem to be too far apart but be secure in the knowledge that another happy moment will come along.

I don’t know how much I’ll stick to, but it’s good to have a plan, so here’s to 2020 and my goals for well-being.

2020 – The intersection between challenge and wellbeing at school

The intersection between challenge and wellbeing at school - Kylie Bice

“I thought the work would get harder when I started high school. That’s what I’ve been waiting for, for years. But it’s just the same stuff all over again.”


“I’ve been in Kindy for ages, when will I learn how to write?”


“The girls in my class are friendly, but I can’t talk about quarks and antiquarks with them because I want to fit in, and they just want to talk about boys and singers. I haven’t found anyone yet who I think will want to talk to me about quarks, maybe I never will.”


“I’m in the top group for spelling, but I’m not very good at it. I got two words wrong on my last test but I only started crying when I got home and sat on the trampoline. The trampoline is where I sit when I’m sad because I didn’t get 100%.”


“I didn’t learn anything at high school and the teachers all hated me because I disrupted all the classes, but still averaged 95% on all my tests. I would just read the textbook at the beginning of the unit and then I’d learned it all, so I didn’t need the teachers. I’m a cardiologist now, but still get angry when I think about my high school experience. It was all such a waste of time.”


These are actual quotes from gifted adults, children and adolescents, and all of them point to the connection between being challenged at school and wellbeing. All too often, gifted students are unhappy and experience school as place where:

– nothing new is learned,
– they are asked to revise and practice knowledge and skills they have long mastered,
– they have no intellectual peers,
– no-one is interested in their area of passion, or
– where failure is terrifying because they have never been challenged and so never experienced it.


These are the students at risk of questioning their own identity, underachieving, and seeing school as a place of boredom, frustration and a sense that they are nothing more than a number in a relentless system.


In order to maintain engagement and see the value in their education, on a daily basis, we must:

• Pre and formatively assess students to determine prior knowledge and avoid students practicing and repeating skills, knowledge and understandings they have already mastered.

• Make sure students are not asked to complete ‘core’ work before they can access the work that is genuinely at their level and will offer challenge. Gifted students often experience years of being ‘rewarded’ for completing their work by being given more, and over time they become demoralised or learn to avoid the extra work by finding ways to waste time.

• Avoid asking the strongest students to mentor, coach or teach other students. Teachers often do this with the rationale that this helps both students. In reality, neither the weak nor the strong student benefit from this arrangement. It is important to remember that our brightest students deserve to be learning new material rather than being a substitute teacher, just as other students expect to do every day.

• Avoid asking students to catch-up on missed work if they are out of the classroom to access extension work. This is especially true if the missed work includes unnecessary practice and repetition!

• Design learning tasks that have genuine challenge based on what is known about a student’s prior knowledge. Challenge can come from posing abstract and complex questions rather than low-order repetition or retell. Challenge can also come by giving students the work they are ready for including accelerative options.


In my role as an Education Consultant I see many teachers and schools who are doing a wonderful job of ensuring their gifted students are challenged, including those who may be underachieving or twice-exceptional. Nevertheless, we need to improve our consistent practice across Australian schools and sectors to ensure that our brightest minds see the value of school, that their time spent at school genuinely does have value for them, and that as a result of their school experience they are confident, self-aware, resilient learners and problem-solvers.


2020 – Through the eyes of an educator

Through the eyes of an educator - Kellie Clarke

I wasn’t always a Gifted Education advocate.

In fact, when I was studying my dual undergraduate education and music degrees in NSW in the early 2000’s, subjects surrounding this field weren’t available at my university. Whilst I was repeatedly taught the importance of nurturing the academic and socioemotional wellbeing of students with a disability or learning disorder, gifted learners were never discussed. 


Upon entering the teaching profession, my understanding of giftedness was, mistakenly, founded purely on the stereotypes that society had presented me throughout my young life. That all changed in my second year of teaching, however, when I was fortunate to teach Anna (name changed), a seemingly happy and well-adjusted 11-year-old girl. Anna’s IQ exceeded 153, she was a virtuosic musician on two orchestral instruments, had previously been year level accelerated, had a great group of friends and a loving family, and also, told me she self-harming.


Anna was the first time a gifted student had broken the ‘life is easy for gifted students’ adage that I had, until that moment, held dear, and I nor any of her other teachers at the time, ever saw it coming. Anna epitomised the stereotypical gifted profile that many educators continue to resonate with. She was incredibly high achieving, excelling far above year level despite her acceleration, attentive, well-mannered, softly spoken, meticulous and responsible. In the days, weeks and months which followed, we, her teachers, pondered how Anna’s wellbeing had been overlooked to the point whereby she sought release through self-harm? How had we been so blind to the pain she was experiencing? What could we have done, or could do in the future, to support Anna’s wellbeing further? Accordingly, Anna unknowingly set me on a path of deep personal and professional reflection, resulting in the creation of a relentless motivation to advocate for the needs and wellbeing of gifted learners within the school environment.

Fast forward 13 years and I have since completed my Masters in Gifted Education and have worked almost exclusively in this field for the past 6 years. Thanks to Anna I am uncompromisingly driven to help teachers and schools provide for, and nurture, gifted students’ wellbeing. Like anything in education, it is not an easy job. Through my eyes it appears that some schools prefer their G&T Coordinator to be seen and not heard (aside from after events such as the Da Vinci Decathlon, GERRIC programs, Math Olympiad, and ICAS testing.) I continue to have teachers tell me that they don’t understand why student X is feeling frustrated in class, as they are providing extra worksheets at year level for the student to do. Additionally, I also hear ‘student Y can’t be gifted, he’s only getting a C in (insert subject name here)’, thus exemplifying the role gifted stereotypes continue to play within today’s education system.

Other schools, thankfully, are further along on their gifted education journey. These schools are more receptive to the needs of gifted students by way of their gifted education programming, differentiation programmes and views toward acceleration practices. Also, and perhaps even more importantly, their willingness to educate teaching staff as to the needs of this heterogeneous population. One such school instigated a monthly Gifted Girls morning tea, whereby the gifted high school students had a regular unstructured social get together, thus greatly improving the students’ sense of belonging. One parent described these meetings as the single biggest highlight in her daughter’s 10 years of schooling. Another school recently began including aspects of gifted education into their regular staff meeting schedules across Prep-Year 12, as a way of not only upskilling staff, but also having gifted students viewed as priority learners within the school.

What about Anna, you ask? I, together with her team of teachers, worked diligently to modify our teaching practices, curriculum planning and pastoral programs to better cater for her and other gifted students’ academic and socioemotional needs. She also received extensive external support. Unfortunately, thing got worse before they got better, but with the right support, Anna has since grown to become a happy, healthy, highly educated and successful young lady. Little does she realise, but she also changed my life.

2019 – Finding solace away from home

Finding Solace Away From Home - Sara Selkirk

It was January 2018 and this New Year had brought our family from New Zealand into a new home – Australia. 

Within three weeks, by eldest had fallen off the monkey bars and fractured his arm, requiring surgery. He was four and a half. I will never forget his bravery and my apprehension as they took him into theatre. Nor will I forget him waking up from the anesthetic. He screamed. A lot. There was rage in his eyes. The nurses tempted him with Icy poles and he hissed at them and very expansively told them where they could go. It was then that the nurses looked at me and one muttered under her breath: “Is he always like this?”


It was a comment that was very familiar to me by now. People who met us, whom we played with often asked similar questions. “Oh he’s just tired” or “He must be getting sick…” I would often say. Those who knew us better knew that it was not the case.


This particular little powder keg has been catching everyone off guard since the day he was born. “Very alert” all the hospital notes said. Didn’t we know it. He never slept. He fixed my gaze in the car mirror at 3 weeks of age. He was smiling at the same time and giggling a few weeks after that. I felt crazy for showing him books at 6 weeks but I recall genuinely feeling like he was following the pages and the story. By age one he spoke over 100 words and had full sentences including complex and abstract topics by 18 months. It would take me some years, and another much more “typical” baby later, to really appreciate how abnormal all this was. But at the time he was just our special boy.


Family humored us for a while – being new parents, being the first grandchild. Yes, of course he was special, aren’t they all? But it wasn’t until the preschool years that we began to run into problems. His emotional outbursts were unsettling. He would shout and protest for hours over seemingly small incidents. The line between overstimulation and under stimulation was a fine one that left us on edge every day. Grandparents were adamant it was our “soft” approach to parenting and lack of boundaries. But how do you set boundaries with a 3 year old who won’t accept “because I said so “as valid enough reasoning? Who seems to have little regard for any kind of authority? Who questions everything? All the time.


It was an isolating experience. He attended kindergarten but some of his behaviors meant that potential friendships did not progress. Not everyone was willing to look beyond the behaviors to the wonderful inquisitive, kind and compassionate child. We had long conversations in caron the way to kindergarten about the melting point of titanium, only to have him open the car door on arrival and scream: “Bum bum poo poo!” at the top of his voice to his peers. He knew exactly how to modify his behavior to impress them. He flew under the radar well.


Whilst looking for other activities locally to fit his interests of science and philosophy we stumbled upon a one-day-a-week kindergarten extension program. I didn’t know much about this at the time but figured it would give us another day of childcare and seemed to fit his interests. Through his passionate teacher at this program we learnt about asynchronous development. We met a number of like-minded families with bright and quirky kids. To speak with these parents who had also had similar experiences was a breath of fresh air. Who had faced some of the same challenges, the same questions and same looks from others when their kids did or said something out of the box. It was unusual to suddenly have a network of friends whom we didn’t have to explain ourselves to. Whom we didn’t need to make excuses for.

2019 – Find Your Tribe – Love Them Hard

Find Your Tribe - Love Them Hard - Tracy Riley

This blog was created by Dr Tracy Riley, as a member of the Board of giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education. She has found her tribe in gifted education – and she loves them hard.

Your tribe is made up of the people you connect with through shared passions and commitment. Members of your tribe affirm, validate, inspire, and challenge you.


As Sir Ken Robinson reminds us, “Often we need other people to help us recognise our real talents. Often we can help other people to discover theirs.” Being part of a tribe enables validation of not only who you are and what your talents are, but also connects you with other like minds to kick around ideas, actively question and seek answers, laugh at the possibilities, and cry over the impossibilities.


Brené Brown says in her TED Talk, Finding our Way to True Belonging, “True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are.”

In other words, being part of a tribe helps us become ourselves. From the shared experiences of learning, being, and doing with others of like-mind, we gain a greater sense of identity. We are inspired by the tribe, as its members drive one another to push the supposed limits of our talents.


This shared inspiration can be intense, creating what Sir Ken calls an alchemy of synergy – this is the power of the collective, who bring our strengths and interests together to create something much greater than our individual selves.


Find your tribe.


Gifted learners, like all of us, are seeking a tribe, a powerful sense of belonging, that collectively honours and celebrates their individual strengths, differences, quirkiness, interests, abilities and qualities. Even those who may prefer their own company and working independently will ultimately benefit from being connected to like minds.


Finding your tribe isn’t always easy, despite lists of tips and tricks on social media. Gifted learners may feel as Lissa Rankin describes in her blog, like “the odd duck swimming with swans, who all seemed to enjoy a sense of belonging I never quite felt.” Research in New Zealand concluded that gifted students seek relationships with others who think in similar ways, as intellectual peers and friends in and out of school. Being in like-minded peer groups for learning is one way to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging.


A maths ability group, gifted programme one day a week, or accelerated English class may not necessarily be a gifted learner’s tribe. As another meme explains, Your vibe attracts your tribe. Finding your tribe requires confidence, risk taking, a willingness to try new things with new people in new places. How can parents and teachers support gifted learners in finding their tribe?


Lisa Gemert suggests a range of ways to enhance self-concept in gifted learners that will give them the confidence to create their vibe.

  • Teach service, because when we serve others, we feel satisfaction and experience gratitude.

  • Recognise accomplishments and contributions.

  • Be practically optimistic (without platitudes).

  • Teach social skills, like manners and sharing, to assist with developing friends.

  • Encourage care for others, including pets.

  • Praise effort and persistence, constructively and specifically for outcomes

  • Teach goal setting and persistence with tasks pitched above their level.

  • Build confidence in their intuition, helping them follow their gut instincts.

  • Display and share the mementoes – awards, certificates, artwork, models – from their achievements.

  • Communicate your admiration, gratitude, and pride through notes in lunch boxes, messages in notebooks, text messages, or other ways that work for you.


Building confidence is a fundamental step in connecting with others, through taking risks, building new relationships, engaging in new experiences or facing challenges. As confidence grows, other practical ways of helping gifted learners find their tribe include encouraging them to join local clubs and community groups, participate in competitions, attend meet-ups, volunteer, play sports, start a new hobby, get a paid job, join an online group, or start a book group, club, or other shared activity. These types of experiences may be in or out of school, supported by parents, teachers, coaches, or community members.


Your vibe attracts your tribe.


How can you help ensure that all gifted learners have opportunities to connect with like-minded peers? Advocate.

  • The first step to effective advocacy is to know your stuff. Inform yourself on the importance of belonging (for all learners) and the difference it can make to engagement and achievement in school by reading widely. (Google Scholar is a good starting point.)

  • Maximise your impact by joining with other advocates through your membership in a professional organisation or association (like AAEGT), working with parents of other gifted students in your local school or through special programmes, or engaging in other learning, development, and networking online.

  • Share your messages widely by being willing to work with media – social media, print media, radio, and tv.

  • Whatever you do, advocate for gifted learners by reminding others that all learners need to have opportunities to find their tribe. Use inspirational messages.






Find your tribe.


2019 – Not What I Expected

Not What I Expected - Laura Motherway

From the moment he was born, my son was challenging my expectations of what a baby should be. He came into the world exactly how and when he wanted to- on a very inconvenient New Year Eve. Fast forward a few months, I found myself with a baby who I expected to be goo-ing and gaaa-ing at finger puppets, but instead would sit in a high chair looking intently at people in cafes predicting the moment before someone would laugh and then bursting out laughing in unison with them.


Fast forward a few years and I found myself with a pre-schooler who fought every household rule we had and was neither motivated by reward or consequence- just compelled to do what he wanted, when he wanted to do it.


It has only been a few months since my son has been identified as profoundly gifted. It came about as a complete accident. My husband and I were searching for ways to help with some challenging behaviours and enormously overwhelming emotions our son was experiencing. We were half expecting the psychologist to tell us that our son had some attention or impulse control challenges, but instead she told us he was bored. She told us his intellect was ranked in excess of the 99.9th percentile, and there was actually no way of knowing how intelligent he was since he reached ceiling scores in most of the tests she conducted. We were astonished. Not because we didn’t think our son was extraordinary, but because he wasn’t showing any of the attributes I associated with giftedness.


In hindsight I guess it’s no surprise that my son would challenge my expectations of what giftedness is as he challenged me in just about every other way.


I had always thought giftedness looked like pre-schoolers sitting quietly teaching themselves to read and write and being enthralled by mathematical games, but this was absolutely nothing like our son. We were so naive! What giftedness looks like in our family is pirates skidding across wooden floors, Broadway musicals recited verbatim and homemade pulleys to hoist toys (and sometimes children) up to the patio rafters. It is standing in the shower and not being able to figure out how a toy army man has ended up on the wrong side of the grouted drain. It’s the often hilarious but deliberately inappropriate commentary during a church service. It’s the strongly worded feedback received about an incorrect song lyric, or an emotional outburst about the perceived unfairness of a rule. It’s also being told how beautiful you look when you wear a new dress or change your hair in the slightest way. It’s being able to take a young child to a Fringe Festival play and hearing them laugh the moment before the joke is delivered. It’s enormous love, enormous laughter and enormous curiosity. It’s so much fun!


My son is extraordinary. All my children are. I am sure many people think he is badly behaved or at least rather cheeky… which I suppose he is! He is still trying to work out why he is different to his mates at school, why he sometimes gets in trouble for reasons he doesn’t understand or why he sometimes struggles to feel like he belongs. Sometimes giftedness can look a lot like something else. My son challenges the way I thought things should be, so I am certain he does the same for other people. I am praying he never stops challenging me, and hoping he continues to challenge what people think. This world needs more disruptors. More people who make us stop and re-consider our position on things. I am excited to see what the future holds for our son and our family, I just hope I have the energy to keep up.

2019 – Former PEAC Student Inspires

Former Primary Extension and Challenge (PEAC) Student Inspires Current Participants at Special Gifted Awareness Week Event - Kirsteen McCrory

During Gifted Awareness Week, Nicola Thomas joined a class of current PEAC students at the Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA) taking part in weekly course called “AQWA Experts” to share her story and to inspire the futures of a new generation of students. These students complete the course by attending sessions at AQWA one morning a week over ten weeks, culminating in them presenting their own ‘expert’ talk about one of AQWA’s resident creatures to an audience of their peers and parents, onsite at AQWA.


Nicola, a former PEAC student, is currently in her final year of a double major in Marine Science and Conservation Biology at UWA. She has taken part in three turtle tagging programs through Pendoley Environmental and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.


Through these programs she tagged flatback and hawksbill turtles on three sites along the northern WA coastline. Just recently she finished a placement with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, in which she did field work on seagrass, freshwater invertebrates and water sampling. She is taking part in survey work through the Department of Fisheries with both abalone and tailor research. She volunteers as a SCUBA aquarist at AQWA, and also with the Swan Estuary Reserves Action Group (SERAG). Through SERAG, her name was put forward for the Swan Alcoa Landcare Program (SALP) Budding Landcare Award, and she was chosen as a finalist. She has also recently attended Conservation Camp in Albany.


Nicola was a PEAC student whilst attending Churchlands Primary School. She took part in many biology based courses. Her two most influential courses were Swamp Stars and Marine Science Madness. About “Swamp Stars” (based at the Henderson Environmental Centre at Star Swamp in North Beach) with PEAC teacher Kirsteen McCrory, Nicola says, “It gave me a good understanding of the ecology and biology of Perth and I’ve also found the principles to be very relevant while doing my conservation camp down in Albany.”


Of “Marine Science Madness” (based at AQWA) with former PEAC teacher Sabine Winton, Nicola says, “It inspired me to work towards achieving a much greater understanding of marine biology. Since then I have directed all my work and spare time to learning all I can about the underwater world, and loving every second of it.”


PEAC allows like-minded government school students in Years 5 and 6 to interact and work together in an environment of choice and active learning. The program focuses on developing the students’ personal and social and critical and creative skills, whilst accessing and applying above-level curriculum content.


The Year 6 students in AQWA Experts who met Nicola at the Gifted Awareness Week event had the following things to say about their own experiences and their sense of belonging within the program.


“At PEAC you get to work with different kids that think like you.” Sienna


“PEAC is amazing because cooperating with other people with the same interests extends your learning extraordinarily.” Nic


“We can cope with being bombarded with facts and knowledge they never dreamed of having. That means we all belong.” Fiona


“I feel like I can share myself more freely because I’m with people like me. I think that PEAC has given me a chance to see what I want to do with my life. I think that meeting Nicola has really sparked my interest in marine science.” Bonnie


“It is great to extend our learning with other students from other schools that think the same way: creative, inspired and smart. To me PEAC means learning with no limit. It means learning and meeting new people to study and learn with.” Reef


“The reason why I love going to PEAC is because I get to be with people that are like me.” Samantha

“PEAC is a good place for me to be with other like-minded peers. I can be challenged and extended along with everyone around me. I can belong rather than being the only person extended.” Elijah


PEAC acknowledges their long-standing relationship with AQWA and thanks them for their continued support of the program and each individual student. In partnership with PEAC, AQWA regularly host two different PEAC courses: the Science-based “AQWA Experts” and English-based ‘AQWA Authors”.


2019 – Gifted Girl

Gifted Girl - Chloe

My name is Chloe and I’m nine and three quarters. I would say I’m fairly normal (for someone who is much more different). It’s just that some people would think I’m weird, crazy or pushed too hard. You see, I’m one of the people classified as ‘gifted’.

When I was little (approx. ten months old), my mum took me to a mothers’ group outing. There were not many toys available to play with, so I started ‘reading’ through book after book after book.

I was quite happy in preschool and kindergarten, even though the work was too easy for me, because no one really noticed that I was different. Although once, I wrote in pen and the teacher was very angry even it was quite neat because she wanted us to write in pencil only. Then when I was in year one I started diverting away from the other kids in the school. Even though I tried to connect with the other kids, I just was too different or I was the opposite gender or too young.


I often used to feel terribly bored and immensely lonely at school. I would come home every day feeling very depressed. The work was much too easy and I got every question correct but my yearly and half-yearly reports weren’t great. I don’t know why, but I felt the teachers hated me. One time, my previous school trialed coding class, and let me tell you one thing: it was way too easy (I already had my own website I coded myself). I tried to communicate with the teachers via my mum (I was too scared), but they just thought mum was pushing me too hard when in reality I was the one getting my mother to talk to them.


I played pretend at school because I had no real friends. The girls were all about dance and looking pretty, but I don’t like just gossiping about my hair or how good my jazz moves are. Also, most of the boys liked sport or found it too awkward to play with me because I was a girl.


This year I made it in the gifted class at a more welcoming school. I’m happy now at my current school, but I feel there are other less lucky gifted children out there; ones who cannot reach their full potential because there are no special classes or schools where they live, or any at all. There are also ones who cannot get an education because of the mere fact that they are girls, or kids who stay in hospital or with non-tangible disabilities like dyslexia or Irlen syndrome.


I want those children to be and make themselves heard, and we should try and make a change in the world, starting with our communities. I would like people to recognise and respect gifted children — and, on that case — any other children who are ‘different’: transgender, with a disability etc. .