Work with families and other professionals

How families and professionals can work together to support the needs of children who show signs of gift or talent.

Support for families who have a gifted child is important in helping families understand their role in their child's development.

Strong partnerships between parents and the early childhood professional can make an important contribution to healthy, holistic development in a young gifted child. It can also ensure the child has a successful transition into an early childhood or school setting.

Work with families of gifted children

Most parents who believe their child is advanced for their age are usually correct, they may not know how advanced, but recognise their child is developing differently than other children of a similar age. Most parents are aware of this from an early age.

They often feel unable to talk to other parents about this because they don't want to appear to be bragging. This means they do not share behavioural issues or their child's accomplishments. This can be lonely and isolating for the parent. They may express a lack of confidence in how to best meet their child's learning and development needs.

Understand each family

Just as each child is individual, so are families. You should consider the family's individual circumstances in your approach.

A family might have one child noticeably gifted while the other children may be developing in a typical way. These parents may feel uncertain about openly acknowledging this child’s strengths in case their other children feel less valued.

However it is important that parents become aware of separating the value of each child from their individual characteristics and freely discuss each child’s unique strengths.

In some families, all of the children might be gifted but in different domains. One might excel in intellect while the others may be gifted in music, art or sport. This can create both financial and time demands on the family to provide opportunities for each child to develop.

Family approaches to learning

You should consider how each family approaches learning at home. Differences in approach between home and a school or early childhood service can be confusing for young children. They might need extra support at this time.

Support families

When you work with families, you as the expert in providing a stimulating curriculum and the family as the expert in their own child, this provides a strong partnership that can enhance the child's learning.

You can support families by encouraging them to be their own child's advocates. They know their child better than anyone and the information they can provide is valuable. However, families can be hesitant to share this information.

Encourage families to share their knowledge of how their child learns at home. When families share anecdotes or examples you should date and document this so that this evidence can be included in the child's overall assessment.

Here are some common issues for families. Expand the arrow to find out how you can respond and provide support.

The family:

Has not identified their child as gifted

You can:

  • provide explanations about the characteristics of giftedness
  • discuss appropriate educational provision.
Find it difficult to manage different social and emotional behaviours

You can:

  • provide descriptions of how such behaviour is responded to in an early childhood setting
  • link strategies that the parent may have found successful so that a bridge can be developed to best help the child.
Responds by giving more responsibility than the child can handle

You can:

  • work with the family to identify what are reasonable levels of choice and decision making for that child
  • confirm for the family the appropriateness for some decisions to remain the responsibility of older members of the family.
Expects you to provide the same learning environment as that of home

You can:

  • work with the family to develop a detailed understanding of what learning happens at home and how this child approaches learning
  • decide with the family which elements and expectations are the same, where there are differences and how the early childhood professionals and the family can work together to support the child
  • encourage the family to view the early childhood professionals especially educators as partners in the educational process.
Share their anxiety about the challenge of meeting their child's needs

You can:

  • explain how families play an important role in the child’s learning
  • reassure and affirm the family’s support of their child through authentic discussions.

Professional partnerships

Partnerships between families and all of the professionals in a child's life can support the child to realise their full potential.

The following information gives guidance on what information each professional might know and how you can all work together for the benefit of the child.

Maternal and Child Health (MCH) nurses

MCH nurses may identify young children who they assess as being advanced in their development, either through informal observation or developmental screening.

Formal testing is not available for children under two-and-a-half years. Testing is also not recommended for children under three years as it is not considered reliable. However, if their are concerns for the child's health or wellbeing, nurses can refer the family to a medical practitioner who may refer onto a paediatrician or educational psychologist.

MCH nurses can get permission from the family to contact the child's educators and share the results of developmental screening. This can be helpful for planning a suitable curriculum.

School nurses

School nurses can refer preschool or school-aged children who are showing advanced development or learning to a medical practitioner for possible referral for further assessment, which may include an IQ test. Nurses will need to get the families permission to do so.

Early childhood educators

Families often approach early childhood educators for advice and information on formal and informal testing to see if their child is gifted or qualifies for early school entry. Educators can:

  • point parents in the direction of associations and support groups
  • suggest the family contact their doctor to organise a referral to a psychologist/ specialists

Support groups and professional associations

Referral to associations and support groups is always useful, even where families are not seeking formal testing.

These groups can provide general support and contacts for families of gifted and talented young children.

They also sometimes provide extra-curricular programs for gifted and talented children or know of such programs run by other groups. These extra-curricular programs can provide both stimulation and challenge for children, as well as important social contact with peers.

Educators may also want to make contact with these organisations, as they can often provide useful information for professionals working with gifted and talented children.

Contact list

School teachers

Government school teachers can refer gifted children to a Department psychologist or for formal assessment.

Catholic and Independent schools in Victoria should refer to their resource units for more information and guidance.

School teachers can also nominate individual children for extra-curricular gifted and talented extension programs offered to school children by some organisations.

Out of school hours care educators

Educators in out of school hours care services should talk with parents and work with the school to support gifted and talented children who attend their programs.