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Gifted kids have many strings to their bows

BY MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2009
Photo: AMELIA JACOBSEN

GIFTED DUO: As gifted children, Ryan, 12, and Amber Edwards, 10, excel in a range of activities but are often misunderstood by their peers.

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Violinists Ryan and Amber Edwards have an unconventional approach to learning.

The brother and sister learn with their senses, picking up music by ear, rather than written notes or instruction. They also act on instinct.

They are inventive, creative and fidgety.

Thousands of Kiwi kids are just like them, but the New Zealand school structure, which focuses largely on reading and writing, lacks the resources to cater for these students’ learning needs.

Gifted Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday, aims to highlight this often misunderstood subject.

"For a long time Amber hated going to school and was really quite unhappy but she’s always really liked one day school," mum Ros Edwards says.

The 10-year-old has been attending the Gifted Education Centre’s one day school once a week for the past four years and her brother also attended the school for two years.

The classes at one day school are structured around the individual’s learning requirements.

Their mother says it has done "huge things for their self-esteem".

Amber is a gifted artist and has been working on a book with author Joy Cowley, while "technokid" Ryan makes musical instruments and catapults out of anything he finds, and is one of his school’s champion chess players.

The St Thomas’s School students were both recently selected for the Auckland sinfonietta, a junior symphony orchestra.

From next year, advisory support for professional development in gifted and talented education will no longer be funded by the government, as announced in its 2009 Budget.

The Gifted Education Centre says gifted children tend to learn rapidly, have excellent memory, are highly creative, intense and sensitive. Some have disabilities.

Giftedness may also bring problems – such as loneliness, being easily distracted and a lack of social skills, the centre says.

A 2008 Education Review Office report found 58 percent of schools’ provisions for gifted and talented students were either somewhat, or not, responsive and appropriate. It said kids were bored and frustrated at the lack of challenge in their schools.

GiftedEDnz says gifted children are often undermined by misunderstandings by other children, because gifted education has never been adequately covered in New Zealand teacher education.

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- East And Bays Courier

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