Can my child be in a Talented and Gifted program if he’s on an IEP?
Interestingly, I have fielded this question from several of my families the past year. Many children who need specialized instruction or assistance in one area also need accelerated or advanced curriculum in another area. An IEP (Individualized Education Plan) does not exclude a child from a Talented and Gifted program (called TAG here in Oregon, or GATE in California.)
As a speech-language pathologist, I spend most of my time focused on a child’s areas of need. His weakest skills in language and processing, his delayed articulation, or his poor executive functioning. I measure progress with data and reports from parents and teachers. I pore over discrepancies in test scores and reports from other professionals to try to determine precisely where the child is struggling. Parents often hop on board this process, providing me with wonderful detail about the interactions where their child’s social skills failed that day, which essay problems on the science test were giving their child the most difficulty, and what neighbors witnessed the behavioral meltdown outside as the child refused to get in the car. With many of the students, their ability to perseverate on a topic, or, as one teacher put it: “drone on and on and on about the same thing…” is often an area we focus on to increase conversational flexibility and theory of mind skills.
Sometimes I will just listen to my students and marvel at their areas of STRENGTH. Oh-my-goodness, these are some of the brightest children I’ve come across. Whether it’s listing all the U.S. presidents (and their wives and children!) in order, detailing the process of spontaneous combustion and where it occurs in the universe, or creating an imaginary world full of characters, these students have gifts that need to be celebrated. And, in the case of some students, their gifts make them exceptional when compared to their peers, even in the academic setting. When I look to the future and try to predict what my students will be doing when they graduate and enter the “real world”, I see them in jobs capitalizing on these skills that they have. Which is why, yes, it is entirely appropriate for a student who needs accommodations and specialized instruction to also have opportunities for deeper study and research. It also reminds us as parents and educators that a child’s strengths should be celebrated… everyday, every chance that we get.