Case Study 1: Identifying Gifted Children

Cassie

Cassie has recently turned four and attends a kindergarten program in a Melbourne suburb. She is curious and highly motivated to learn, with a particular interest in animals and their environments. Her language development is advanced and she is beginning to independently read and write.

Cassie spends a lot of time finding out about animals, asking questions and having her parents read to her from books and do research for her on the internet. She then creates books, dictating to her parents what she wants to write, and then copying what they have written. She also does drawings to illustrate her books.

Cassie wants to spend time doing these things at kindergarten. However, her educator is only generally encouraging of her interest and does not spend time reading and researching with her. Cassie has only limited turns on the computer, and the books available on her area of interest only provide basic information about things she already knows.

The educators continually urge her to engage with concrete/basic hands on and ‘age-appropriate’ activities on offer such as play dough, home corner and the sandpit. Cassie has become bored and frustrated at kindergarten and now tells her mother that she doesn’t want to go.

Cassie’s parents: Marissa and Jim

Marissa and Jim have talked to Cassie’s teacher, Mandy, about Cassie’s interests and how they support her at home by reading to her and helping her research information. Mandy told them that educators at the kindergarten cannot spend the same amount of time supporting Cassie’s interests, and that she will need to be more independent at kindergarten.

Cassie’s parents understand that the educators are busy and have responsibilities for all children, but they also felt disappointed that Mandy did not appear to be enthusiastic about supporting what they know to be a passionate interest of Cassie’s, or her emerging literacy skills.

Now Cassie is saying that she does not want to go to kindergarten any more, and Marissa and Jim don’t know what to do.

Cassie’s educator: Mandy

While admiring the support that Cassie’s parents give her, Mandy feels that Cassie needs to become more ‘independent’, and focus more on interaction with her peers, rather than seeking out interactions with adults.

She also feels that Cassie should be engaging more with the range of developmentally appropriate activities provided as part of the kindergarten program.

Mandy also does not believe in formally ‘teaching’ academic skills such as reading and writing at kindergarten, and so is reluctant to encourage Cassie in copying an adult’s writing. She wonders if Cassie’s reluctance to attend kindergarten is due to social and emotional immaturity.

Reflection

As a professional working with young children, how would you respond to these scenarios?

Do you recognise behaviours similar to these in any of the children you work with?