Kate Distin

Gifted Children: A Guide for Parents and Professionals - Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006

Winner of NAGC's 2007 award: "Supporting Gifts and Talents - Most Important Book"

For several years I was one of a group of volunteers who counselled gifted children and their families for the UK National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), before its Counselling Service closed in 2005. The Service's counsellors and its manager all had first-hand experience of having being gifted children ourselves and/or of being the parents or grandparents of gifted children. After the Service closed, this book grew out of our discussions of how we might continue to share what was, for some of the group, several decades' experience of working with gifted children, young people and their families.

What emerged was the book that we had needed when our own children were younger. Our babies were not born with labels on their foreheads, "Gifted - Handle With Care". We were often not even sure that our children were gifted; afraid to admit they might be; struggling to believe that we really knew them better than anyone else. What we did know was that our children seemed different from most others, and that this made us feel different, too. In our isolation we had no idea that our experiences were quite normal for the families of gifted children: that we were part of a scattered community of people-like-us. It is the companionship of this community that we hope to provide, through our book: the reassurance that the parents, grandparents and other carers of gifted children are not on their own; that they do know their own children best; that it is possible to find a comfortable place for giftedness in their families' lives.

Our subject matter is inevitably biased towards the problems that gifted children can face. Of course this should not be taken to imply that all gifted children will face all, or even any, of these problems. It is simply that their needs are brought mostly sharply into focus by the difficulties that some do encounter. There is also plenty here about the joys and advantages of being gifted or of having a gifted child, but the brutal fact is that there would be no book if that were the only side of the story. The positives are genuine and numerous, but the negatives are what provided the impetus for writing a book to support the families of gifted children.

Our aims in writing it were to help gifted children, their families and carers (including grown-up gifted children) to learn more about what is typical or normal for gifted and talented children; to shatter some of the myths about these children and their parents; to enhance their awareness of the emotional impact of giftedness; and thus to enable gifted children and their families to live more comfortably with their giftedness, shifting their focus from its challenges to its rewards and possibilities.

We hope very much that our book might act as a primer, not only as an introduction to the subject of gifted children, but also in detonating a great explosion of confidence in parents to ask for their gifted children's needs to be met, to live more comfortably with giftedness in their family lives, and to resist the pressure to deny that part of themselves or their children.

"We must be open to the amazing insights and ideas of gifted children. We must listen to them and bravely enter into their world, and give them confidence in it. Then they will feel trusting enough to become a part of ours." - Michal Hambourg

About the Book's Co-Authors

Peter Carter was an NAGC counsellor from 1994 until the Service closed in 2005, and until retirement was a Registered General Nurse and Registered Mental Nurse. Peter is also the father of three children, and acquired a specialist knowledge of Asperger Syndrome as it affects the gifted, through his efforts to understand his gifted son who was also (eventually) diagnosed as having Asperger Syndrome. Peter served as an NAGC Branch Chairman for five years.

Barbara Conchie was the Manager of NAGC's Counselling Service from 1994 to 2002; her background is in education. None of this book would have been written without Barbara, and indeed the NAGC's Counselling Service would not have developed into the close-knit, caring and professional group that it was if Barbara's firm but gentle guiding hand had not been on the tiller. Under her leadership, the Service in 1997 took part in the pilot study for the United Kingdom Register of Counsellors, the national system of self-regulation for the counselling profession. After a very stringent process, the NAGC's Counselling Service became only the twelfth organization to become a Registered Sponsoring Organization (i.e. listed in the UKRC).

Crystal Dickinson is the mother of three differently gifted children, all diagnosed as dyslexic although none is related to the others (one born, two adopted in infancy). She has been a local authority social worker, before training as a counsellor with the National Marriage Guidance Council (now Relate). She was an NAGC counsellor from 1997 to 2001 and now works with detained asylum seekers.

Susan Divecha was an NAGC Counsellor from 1984 to 2002 and an active member of NAGC Scotland for many years. Susan's background is in Information and Resources for Education, and she is also the mother of gifted children.

Susan Gomme was a founder member of the NAGC Counselling Service, serving from 1977 to 2002, during which time she was also active at Branch, Regional and National level in NAGC, including nine years' service as Chairman of the NAGC's Board of Trustees. A Cambridge graduate with a background in teaching, Susan has also seen her four gifted children through school, university and postgraduate qualifications. She has been an invited speaker at two world conferences on gifted children, as well as at universities and colleges, and was a keynote speaker at the joint NAGC/NASEN/NACE conference in 1997. Susan has contributed several articles on counselling to Looking to their Future, and is the author of The Role of the Family in Michael J. Stopper (ed.) Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted and Talented Children (David Fulton, 2000).

The late Michal Hambourg was a distinguished pianist and Honorary Fellow of Trinity College of Music, who had for many years been the NAGC's Music Counsellor. She was the daughter of the pianist Mark Hambourg and, as an international concert artiste, Michal had appeared at the Proms and during the war at National Gallery recitals, as well as on the BBC as soloist and in radio dramas.

May Mackay was a founder member of the NAGC Counselling Service, serving as a counsellor from 1977 to 2002 and as Counselling Co-ordinator on the Board of Trustees for several years. She is the mother of gifted children, and from her experience of running a nursery she brought a knowledge of pre-school giftedness to our book.

The late Barbara Sanders was an NAGC Counsellor from 1995 to 2002. Barbara had a background in teaching, was the mother of a gifted child and was also a member of the Telephone Helpline Service for ovarian cancer sufferers.

Catherine Shaw was an NAGC Counsellor from 1997 to 2001 and is the mother of a gifted child. She is an Interpersonal Communication Skills Teacher, Assertiveness Trainer and Community Mediator.


"This guide is grounded in rich seams of experience, with parents and former counsellors from NAGC taking us through the myths and realities of giftedness. It is a truly family offering, with encouragement for parents and professionals but, most importantly, for the gifted child herself." Dr Stephen Tommis, Director, National Association for Gifted Children (UK).

"A useful practical and well written informative book" Reviewed in 2006 for the National Association for Gifted Children (UK)

"very useful, particularly sections which gave practical advice about helpful ways in which to talk to gifted children about their abilities and frustrations." Reviewed again in 2009 for the National Association for Gifted Children (UK)

"Gifted Children is a beautifully crafted book, full of human warmth . . . This book will enrich the lives of all that come across it and, as a result, is an invaluable resource for parents and schools." Reviewed for ChildrenNow magazine by Marcelo Staricoff, deputy head teacher, St Bartholomew's CE Primary School.

"Parents of gifted children, I am sure, will find this book reassuring and instructive, as it looks at 'giftedness' from so many different perspectives." Reviewed for CAMBRIDGE (The Magazine of the Cambridge Society) by Maley Lloyd, St John's College School.

"Although parents are the major focus of this book, professionals, as the title indicates, have much to gain from reading it if seeking to understand and meet the needs, especially the emotional needs, of gifted children and their parents." Reviewed in Educational Review 60 (1).

"Insightful, encouraging and indispensable." Reviewed by Kirkus Reports.

"Written clearly and concisely . . . Recommended for all public libraries." Reviewed by Library Journal.

"Gifted Children is a welcome source of information for gifted children, their families and professionals; and fills a gap in literature that explains what it's like to be gifted, what gifted really means, how to support these children and their families and issues they may face." Reviewed for by Michelle Apthorpe, approved adoptive parent and social worker.

"offers parents an accessible account of what giftedness may mean for their child and what schools can do to support them." Reviewed by G&T WISE.

"This is an excellent, book, clearly written and would be an extremely informative resource to refer to for anyone wanting an insight into the lives of gifted children." Reviewed by the National Childminding Association.

"offers a wealth of constructive advice." Reviewed in Book News.

"I found this book very comforting to read" Reviewed by Education Otherwise.

"I think parents of gifted children would find it highly supportive and informative, particularly the contacts it offers with
other organizations. Professionals working to support families would also find it helpful as an introductory text." Reviewed by Alison Bray (Warwickshire Educational Psychology Services, UK) for The British Journal of Educational Psychology.

"This is a great overview of all the social, emotional, intellectual issues that seem to so often come with giftedness." Reviewed for the 'Ontario Gifted' message board by Emily.

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