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All chil­dren are nat­ur­ally curi­ous, with broad ima­gin­a­tions and an inher­ent abil­ity to drive any­one with­in earshot slightly doolally through repet­it­ive ques­tion­ing. How­ever, if you’ve ever been around a child whose curi­os­ity levels are through the roof, or whose out­land­ish ima­gin­ings leave you won­der­ing if there was some­thing extra in your tea, you may like to con­sider if they are actu­ally dis­play­ing signs of gif­ted­ness, says Deb Walk­er, CEO of the New Zea­l­and Centre for Gif­ted Edu­ca­tion (NZCGE).

Unfor­tu­nately, though, some oth­er signs can be social or emo­tion­al issues that are often tar­geted by kids at school.

Adam*, aged 10, was hav­ing a hard time. Labelled nerdy by the oth­er kids, he with­drew both emo­tion­ally and socially. Although demon­strat­ing com­plex thought pro­cesses in maths, sci­ence and tech­no­logy, his social issues held him back. Con­cerned for his well-being, his par­ents referred him to NZCGE and Adam entered the Mind­Plus pro­gramme. The change was significant.

Adam made friends, worked in his strength areas and dis­covered he could sing. He audi­tioned for, and got, the lead in his main­stream school’s music­al pro­duc­tion and was a show-steal­er. Now at uni­ver­sity, Adam cred­its NZCGE with help­ing him find a ‘home’ for his mind.

Walk­er says NZCGE holds a vis­ion of a future New Zea­l­and in which extraordin­ary minds do extraordin­ary things, and Adam is cer­tainly a prime example. Estab­lished in 2014, it blends two organ­isa­tions with over 30 years of com­bined exper­i­ence. The pre­vi­ous Gif­ted Edu­ca­tion Centre and Gif­ted Children’s Advance­ment Char­it­able Trust decided to form the new organ­isa­tion with a vis­ion to com­bine the strengths of both.

Walk­er describes the ser­vices provided by the organ­isa­tion as four main areas: Mind­Plus, a one-day-per-week pro­gramme; Small Pop­pies, for chil­dren aged two to six and their par­ents; Gif­ted Online, for Year 4–10 chil­dren who live in rur­al or isol­ated com­munit­ies and are unable to access a face-to-face pro­gramme; and Con­sult, a series of con­sultancy ser­vices for edu­cat­ors, par­ents and the net­works who sup­port gif­ted learners.

Walk­er says the centre divides its approach to the chil­dren into per­son­al, tal­ent and con­cep­tu­al devel­op­ment. She explains NZCGE’s philo­sophy as the pro­vi­sion of a com­ple­ment­ary edu­ca­tion­al resource, a kind of learn­ing toolkit, rather than an altern­at­ive education.

Our free selec­tion work­shops are a great way to dis­cov­er if your child would bene­fit from the sup­port we can offer, and there is the option of a one-to-one, par­ent-fun­ded assess­ment too.”

Hav­ing brought the sub­ject around to cost, Walk­er says that, unfor­tu­nately, NZCGE receives no gov­ern­ment fund­ing. To keep costs as low as pos­sible they invite engage­ment with busi­nesses, trusts and found­a­tions to provide a spon­sor­ship pro­gramme. They also invite ment­or­ing by mem­bers of the pub­lic, and they accept dona­tions of items like com­puters or fur­niture from offices or busi­nesses that have upgraded.

These chil­dren need help with their edu­ca­tion in the same way that oth­ers with a spe­cial need do,” she says. “It doesn’t mean they are super­i­or or more afflu­ent because they attend NZCGE. The word ‘gif­ted’ is just an explan­a­tion for the way they learn.”


* Name has been changed.