Meeting the Needs of an Exceptional Child

Have you been told by a school administrator, teacher, or psychologist that your child is “exceptional?” This seems to be happening more often these days.

There are many different kinds of exceptional, with some more challenging than others. And any time a parent finds out their child is not “typical,” it can be confusing and intimidating. While every child is unique, there are some things parents can keep in mind should they receive a diagnosis of “exceptional” or a suggestion that their child should be tested.

The first, and most important thing for parents, is to maintain and strengthen attachment with your child. It’s easy to get caught up in the multitude of doctor visits, evaluations, and teacher conferences, all while dealing with life’s daily tasks of meals, housework, homework, extracurricular activities, and on and on. You may be feeling overwhelmed. Your child may be getting feedback that they don’t fully understand. So, this is an excellent time to take a breath and spend some uninterrupted time with your child … talking, doing a quiet activity together, or simply cuddling. Your child may need extra attention, and may need that added reassurance that you love him just the same, no matter what he is doing in school or during evaluations.

If it’s discovered that your child has a learning difference, they may need help setting up new routines, reminders, or organizing extra support outside of school (tutoring, a social group, or behavioral therapy). If your child has been designated as “gifted” and is being moved into an advanced program, they may need reminders that it’s OK to try new things, it’s OK to make mistakes, and that they are valuable to you no matter what their letter grade.

It’s also important for the parents to get some outside help for themselves. Finding teachers and doctors that you feel comfortable with, and that you can seek out as you evaluate what your child will need is vital. In our “age of information” it can be both wonderful and terrible to Google about your child’s situation. Instead, it’s more valuable to have professionals on your team who know your child and have worked with him directly.

Finally, be careful about locking yourself into one plan, or saying “never” about a suggested aid or situation for your child. If a teacher suggests moving your child into a special education class — whether to give him an additional challenge or to help with a deficit — it’s important to be open-minded about how that change could help your child.

If you have concerns about how the move could influence your child socially or academically, I recommend you schedule time to talk to your child’s teacher and counselor. If your doctor or teacher is suggesting help by way of medicine, it’s important to not let fear or stigmas influence your decision. You are the best advocate for your child. So, you’ll want to ask for a referral to a specialist to help with dosage and type in order to get them the best medical care possible.

If your doctor or teacher should suggest that you to seek out a behavioral therapist or a social group, it is important to recognize that this is not a criticism of your parenting or communication skills, but a method of helping your child cope with emotional or social situations that are challenging to them.

By keeping an open mind, and surrounding yourself with people who care for your child, you’ll be better equipped to help your child become happier and better adjusted in their environment.