Most every parent wants what is best for their children. We want our kids to grow up to be well-adjusted, independent, and successful adults, an outcome every parent dreams about. If we are all honest, at one point or more in our lives as parents of highly gifted and sometimes emotionally-intense children, we have all worried about how to achieve this outcome.
Nearly every parent in our BRIGHTLinks Community has reached out in search of finding a connection to true peers and families that can be empathetic to their child’s academic, social, and emotional needs. Our students have struggled to find their peers and their families have struggled with advocacy for acceleration as well as appropriate and accessible resources.
Having no access to a peer group, a supportive community, and poorly met academic needs can be extremely isolating. It can cause increased at-risk behaviors leading to demotivation and underachievement. Our families have been advocating for access to peers and appropriate academics since the time their child began their school journey.
Since March of 2020, school closure policies that arose from Covid-19 have caused a widespread ripple effect that affected access to appropriate academic resources and social support for most children. Meaning many children across the country were now experiencing the same loneliness and isolation as well as lack of appropriate academic support as many of our children have all along. Along with significant learning loss, many parents report seeing a regression in their child’s social and emotional development, functioning, and coping skills. School environments have become increasingly volatile.
In order to address these issues, schools have begun to actively implement what they call Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs. These programs are not based on individual assessments or needs, but are interwoven in every subject in school with a strong commitment to at-risk groups as identified by race, disability, homelessness, ESL, gender identity, and other marginalized groups. Notably gifted and highly gifted students are left off of these lists as an at-risk group.
Now funded by over a trillion dollars of ESSER money from the federal government, systemic SEL programs such as CASEL, PANORAMA, and Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community (WSCC) are being implemented in every subject across the country with the goals of closing the educational gap, improving district performance, and increasing educator preparedness.
Despite years of research of the needs of gifted students, these systemic SEL programs do not incorporate changing policies to allow improved access to ability grouping (peer access) or improved access to academic acceleration that can be found at links such as these:
How Can We Better Understand, Identify, and Support Highly Gifted and Profoundly Gifted Students? A Literature Review of the Psychological Development of Highly-Profoundly Gifted Individuals and Overexcitabilities
In 2017, Kathleen Casper wrote an article for SENG after she evaluated SEL programs for gifted students. Read more about her evaluation here: Why Canned Social-Emotional Skill Programs in Schools Can Harm Gifted Students More Than Help Them.
Today, as a reflexive measure to the pandemic, state and national organizations for gifted students are suddenly touting SEL for gifted students. The idea of social and emotional learning and even the principles of SEL sound nice. As I said in the beginning, every parent wants their child to grow up to be well-adjusted, independent, and successful, but without a connection to true peers and easier access to appropriate acceleration is a given, all the good intentions will still not change the fact that their HG/PG needs are not being acknowledged or met.
Parents: Please reach out to your schools to see what SEL programs your school is using. Research into CASEL, PANORAMA, and WSCC programs. All of these programs have a history of collecting and storing data on minor children. Parents must be vigilant about opting in or out of programming. Surprisingly, many of these programs have tool kits that run group activities that encourage children to share their feelings and experiences openly during academic class time. Typically, such activities are run by experienced mental health professionals who have done individual assessments and have created treatment plans for their clients. These types of groups are also run in designated, private, and therapeutic settings and NOT the classroom.