#gtie Chat Sunday 28th April 2013
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Giftedness creates in children a special educational need that requires intervention. In Ireland, the inclusion of gifted children (termed ‘exceptionally able’) in legislative definitions of “special educational needs” places gifted children in a no-mans land that makes it impossible to even begin to address their educational needs.
This chat was a follow on from a previous chat on Giftedness as a Special Educational Need. At first glance, these words have what appears to be a simple meaning; gifted children have educational needs that are different to the needs of other children, and in this sense they are ‘special’ needs.
However, the accepted common-or-garden definition of ‘Special Educational Needs’ tends to highlight a deficiency and/or a specific learning difficulty. Such a deficiency or learning difficulty requires intervention to enable a child to maintain progress in school with his/her peers or to leave school with the skills and knowledge to live as independent a life as possible. Therein lies the origin of this chat. The purpose of this chat was to examine whether defining gifted educational needs as ‘Special Educational Needs’ was actually a constructive approach to viewing gifted educational needs. Twice-exceptional students can benefit from intervention for their learning difficulty so this added detail was not considered this time around.
There are pragmatic reasons to take a second look at how we view gifted education needs in Ireland. International contributors, as ever, throw gifted education provision in Ireland into stark relief.
The premise for the chat is what appears to be the limbo in which gifted students in Ireland lie. Gifted students have “special educational needs” but there is no funding to provide for their educational needs so we can’t even recognise them because if we do, we would be required to fund provision but we have no funds so we can’t recognise them….
The 1998 Education Act is the single most important piece of legislation regarding Education in Ireland. The long title of the Act (which forms part of the legislation and is not just a title) states that its purpose is
“…TO MAKE PROVISION IN THE INTERESTS OF THE COMMON GOOD FOR THE EDUCATION OF EVERY PERSON IN THE STATE, INCLUDING ANY PERSON WITH A DISABILITY OR WHO HAS OTHER SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS, AND TO PROVIDE GENERALLY FOR PRIMARY, POST-PRIMARY, ADULT AND CONTINUING EDUCATION AND VOCATIONAL EDU- CATION AND TRAINING; TO ENSURE THAT THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IS ACCOUNTABLE TO STUDENTS, THEIR PARENTS AND THE STATE FOR THE EDUCATION PROVIDED, ….” (emphasis added).
This would, on the face of it require the government to make provision for the specific needs of gifted children in Ireland. The Act goes on to define ‘special educational need’ as
“‘‘special educational needs’’ means the educational needs of students who have a disability and the educational needs of exceptionally able students; “
What is interesting about this definition is that it arguably gives TWO definitions of ‘special educational needs’ . It states
“educational needs of …disability and educational needs of…..exceptionally able…”,
that is, the word “and” is not necessarily a simple conjunction but a separator in a list.
Following this line of reasoning could be considered somewhat wishful thinking given the second significant piece of legislation concerning students with special educational needs, namely , the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004. The long title states the Act is
“…TO MAKE FURTHER PROVISION, HAVING REGARD TO THE COMMON GOOD AND IN A MANNER THAT IS INFORMED BY BEST INTERNATIONAL PRACTICE, FOR THE EDUCATION OF PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS, TO PROVIDE THAT THE EDUCATION OF PEOPLE WITH SUCH NEEDS SHALL, WHEREVER POSSIBLE, TAKE PLACE IN AN INCLUSIVE ENVIRONMENT WITH THOSE WHO DO NOT HAVE SUCH NEEDS, TO PROVIDE THAT PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS SHALL HAVE THE SAME RIGHT TO AVAIL OF, AND BENEFIT FROM, APPROPRIATE EDUCATION AS DO THEIR PEERS WHO DO NOT HAVE SUCH NEEDS, …” (emphasis added).
The title is significant in laying out the purpose of the Act, which isn’t wholly only educational. It made financial sense from the government perspective to ‘allow’ for SEN students to be included in mainstream schools. Now, no one can argue with having that choice and it is very clear and welcoming that many SEN students have benefitted from inclusion in mainstream schools. But by the same token, inclusion also means the government can skimp on provision where or when needed under the shield of the EPSEN ACT. This ‘provision’ can sometimes mean ‘not at all’ and this is , in part, affirmed by the fact that exceptionally able children aren’t even mentioned in the 2004 Act.
To be fair, the 2004 Act does say it is to make “further” provision, which could suggest that provision is not complete. Or it is! The real downer is the definition of ‘special educational needs’
Section 1 (1) states “ In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires….” and
“…‘‘special educational needs’’ means, in relation to a person, a restriction in the capacity of the person to participate in and benefit from education on account of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability, or any other condition which results in a person learning differently from a person without that condition and cognate words shall be construed accordingly;
On the face of it, exceptionally able students are excluded here. However, there are a number of ways of looking at this definition. It can be viewed as a refinement of the ‘first part’ of the 1998 definition (“…..educational needs of students who have a disability …..“) if we consider the 1998 definition a list – and the ‘second part‘ was left untouched. In this instance, we could say that the 2004 Act merely ignored but not specifically excluded (equivalent to “we haven’t come to that yet versus we’re never coming to that” !) exceptionally able children from the definition of ‘special educational needs’. My reason for this line of thought is that there is nothing in the 2004 Act referring back to the 1998 definition and certainly nothing in the 2004 Act repealing the 1998 definition. In this situation, the 1998 definition stands.
Another way to examine the 2004 definition is to focus on “…any other condition which results in a person learning differently …”. This clause could be interpreted as being independent of “…a restriction…on account of….” judging by the comma before the “or” in ….”learning disability, or any other condition…”….so it could read,
“special educational need” means,……, any other condition which results in a person learning differently form a person without that condition…./.
This could be interpreted to mean that the 2004 Act includes ‘exceptionally able’ children, just not be name. Sadly, they were not included by provision either.
This is where the debate gets interesting. It could be argued that the 2004 definition alters the 1998 definition such that exceptionally able children are no longer included within the definition of “special educational needs”. This might sound like a disaster to some people. But it could equally be an opportunity. At present, there is no funding for exceptionally able children to receive anything other than educational experiences within the current model mixed-ability classrooms. In my experience, exceptionally able students view of mixed ability classrooms is uniformly negative.
Usually this is not for want of the teacher trying, but more that the teacher has all the other students to look after so identifying a gifted student is the least of their concerns never mind addressing their classroom needs.
If giftedness was not defined as an special educational need in Ireland, it could open the door to gifted children being more readily recognised by schools and teachers. It is unlikely that in the foreseeable future – in Ireland, at present, this means about 10 to 20 years (!) – there will be any funding to allow for extra provision to meet the needs of gifted children in the classroom.
It’s a tough call in many respects. Should giftedness be a special educational need but not be addressed, or not be such a need and perhaps open the door to mainstream recognition.
Here are the views of contributors as the discussion developed
Josh Shaine wrote before the chat,
SEN has two different components to it: the educational program component and the *idea* of a Special Need. It is vital to understand that just because a school, a system, or a country chooses to *not* call giftedness a SEN does nothing to change the degree of NEED of the gifted child.
Giftedness is a SPECIAL need when a child’s academic, social, and/or emotional growth are seriously hindered by failure to address the needs of a child. While I would grant that there are gifted children for whom there may either be no SEN or may only be an intermittent SEN, for some children, the degree or type of their gifts may cause them to have a SEN on a regular and sustaining basis.
Assessment should be made on a child by child basis, as surely as an IEP should be designed on that basis (and, in truth, all children’s educational needs should be).
The question posed concerning “when resources are tight” is presenting a false dichotomy. There is an inherent assumption that to meet the needs of the gifted must have a negative impact on a school budget – an ironic assumption given how sparingly the gifted budget has been funded in most countries, most systems, and most schools.
With properly trained teachers, the costs of meeting gifted children’s needs drops steeply. With appropriate grouping policies, the costs drop even further. And with the willingness to create cross-age groups, costs drop further still. It is only in the smallest districts and/or schools that actual meeting of those needs becomes a challenge to a budget (though I grant that there is a challenge to school management).
Even then, just as in many places schools and systems create cross-system collaborative programs for (other) SEN students, so too could the gifted children in multiple districts be banded together to meet mutual need at a fraction of the cost of providing separate programs for each district.
Yes, implementation at the outset *might* have some start-up costs, but compared to the cost to a system and to the child and to society of failing to meet these SEN, the price seems cheap.
Excerpts from the Chat….
@cvalvarez A teacher friend of mine said that many view education as filling a cup, and regard the gifted as already overflowing.
@teachinsagift In TDSB the “need” is identified by testing and if you “meet criteria” top 2 percentile…you have the need for an ISP
@cvalvarez Having an SEN should mean that the child requires different curriculum or placement in order to be working in his zone of proximal dev
@peter_lydon This is the limbo G&T children are caught in in Ireland – no funding as SEN and not provided for in class (generally)
@cvalvarez If we are defining SEN to mean that a child hasn’t met certain standards of achievement, then the gifted will be left out. #gtie
@ffarry1 I guess I’m lucky that my LS teacher has a few spare slots so he takes my two gt kids for extension activities
@peter_lydon Q2. Is there an incentive to make use of misdiagnosis to access provision? One label as good (or bad) an another?
@cvalvarez There may be an incentive in some cases, but unfortunately, the accommodations offered would not include more challenging material.
So, a student can get help for the thing they can’t do but none for the thing they can!
@ffarry1 #gtie SEN stands for Special Educational Needs – pupils at each end of curve should qualify then??
@CheriseAlbright For us in Ala. gifted isn’t affected by ADHD or autism label #’s. But not enough #’s means driving between schools.
@ffarry1 I know a parent who looked for extra support in republic for her gt child – no go! Moved her to North and got it
@peter_lydon So we are exporting our gifted kids now as well!
@cvalvarez Differentiation (mainstreaming gifted) tends not work. It sounds good on paper, but it is rarely well-implemented.
@CheriseAlbright Some of my gen ed teachers differentiate well. Some don’t. Few get the socio emo needs.
@peter_lydon and absence of proper academic provision leads to more socio-emotional issues
@cvalvarez Cluster grouping within a homogeneous classroom has the same issue. Most effective is separate gifted school.
@CheriseAlbright My teachers either believe one earns diff by doing low level first or don’t get the looming underach. coming
@ffarry1 I use Edmodo (virtual classroom) to differentiate homework at times – can pitch to diff levels then
@CheriseAlbright I love Edmodo. Worked great for my fer students. Still trying to train my younger ones.
@peter_lydon I use tchnology to differentiate – topic for another chat soon – but not as good as specific provision
@CheriseAlbright Exactly. The challenge is necessary for normal development. #gtie
@peter_lydon Q3. Are Pull-Out sessions appropriate/useful for gifted children then?
@CheriseAlbright Some of my kiddos really need sp ed service and some don’t. They all qualify through a matrix process (scores for several items: test scores, behaviors, products, etc. #gtie) tho.
@cvalvarez Pull out sessions are difficult to justify since they are typically enrichment activities that any kid could benefit from.
@begabungs In Bavaria they are just focused on Enrichment & very performance oriented in schools with gifted program
@begabungs Mentoring is better than Pull-out sessions!
@peter_lydon Mentoring is vital for gifted children – really affirms there intellect and view point.
@ffarry1 I’m really interested in the educate together secondary schools implementing an IEP 4each pupil next yr! Would like to see how it goes
@peter_lydon this (individual IEPs) is going to be tough but it is the gold standard in education – will be helped by proper implementation of technology
@CheriseAlbright Some g/t kiddos need sp ed to learn how to stay productive and have good relationships… to be ready for life.
@peter_lydon @msmulvey #gtie A gifted school would be a beacon of excellence not just in Ireland but in Western Europe.
@Boz23RT @peter_lydon: #gtie @CheriseAlbright An ‘A’ is meaningless to a 14 year old who is writing at degree level!
Full chat here
Oregon Technology in Education Council
The Atlantic Gifted Students Have ‘Special Needs,’ Too
Do Gifted Children Have Special Needs?
Wrights Law Gifted Children Who Have Special Educational Needs
Pennsylvania Dept of Education Special Education for Gifted http://csiugifted.wikispaces.com/file/view/parents+gifted+guide.pdf
Young, Gifted and Neglected
Virginia Dept of Education
Glossary of SEN Terms