1996 Kathi Kearney, Drawing with children with mental retardation by Permission. The telephone rang, and the mother was desperate. Five-year-old Michael was entering kindergarten in the fall.
He had recently been tested because he seemed advanced in his development. To her surprise and the examiner’s, the child was not only intellectually gifted but tested above 160 IQ. It is ironic that in an ideological environment which stresses “full inclusion” in regular classrooms for children with severe disabilities, highly gifted children are still being excluded in many ways. Full inclusion” is a term used by educators to describe a philosophical approach to the education of children with disabilities. As this current movement sweeps the nation, all children in “full inclusion” schools will be affected, both by the presence of a wider diversity of students and teachers in the classroom and by administrative policies flowing from this philosophical stance. Gifted children, especially those who are economically disadvantaged and those who are highly gifted, are particularly at risk as the political and ideological winds of the 1990s shift and converge. This is the only group of exceptional children with no protection under federal statute for a “free and appropriate public education.
If inclusionary classrooms are committed to serving all students, they must choose to include, both physically and philosophically, even the most extremely gifted children as well as children with the most severe disabilities. This means more for both groups than simply being in attendance in the regular classroom. Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally. What do we know about highly gifted children?
School placement is an extremely difficult issue for families and schools alike. More than 50 years ago, Hollingworth noted that “In the ordinary elementary school situation, children of 140 IQ waste half of their time. Not only are talents lost and bad work habits reinforced, but compelling students by law to attend school, and then limiting academic challenge for some students while providing it for others, is unfair. To become intellectually accessible to all students, public schools must provide access to the full range of curriculum, preschool through college.
We do not allow epithets based on race, ethnicity, gender, or disability to continue unchecked in today’s schools. We must not permit slurs based on ability either. Part of establishing an inclusionary school environment is making sure classroom language and social interactions are not hurtful to any child. Meyer state, “Inclusion has no conditions and makes no differential value judgments. One of the most common educational difficulties highly gifted students experience in both school and community programs is an arbitrary age requirement for curriculum access.