Western education professor authors book on gifted children

DANBURY, CONN. — A teacher for more than 10 years and the mother of three gifted children, Dr. Nancy Heilbronner, Western Assistant Professor of Education and Educational Psychology, has a lot to say about the future of some of our brightest students.

Heilbronner’s book, “10 Things Not to Say to Your Gifted Child: One Family’s Perspective,” which was recently published by Great Potential Press, provides information and support to parents of gifted children. Heilbronner is also a co-author of “Think Data,” along with Drs. Joseph Renzulli and Del Siegle, researchers and educators at the University of Connecticut who specialize in the study of gifted children. In her book, “10 Things Not to Say to Your Gifted Child,” Heilbronner includes the advice and experience of her three grown children, who provide their perspectives on what it was like growing up differently and out of the mainstream.

Heilbronner’s main premise is that gifted children have certain academic, social, and emotional needs and that they must be nurtured at home and properly challenged at school. “Gifted education is important,” she said. With the recent flurry of school board budget cuts, classes for children identified with talents and abilities are often the first ones to be eliminated. “Many talented students’ needs are not being met,” she said. “So, what’s happening with the future doctors, scientists and engineers of the world?”

Speaking from experience, Heilbronner said that some gifted children become bored in school by less-than-challenging curriculum, often resulting in misbehavior. In addition, she suggested that “there are many social and emotional ramifications to the elimination of these programs, and talented children may go on to suffer from underachievement.”

Heilbronner also discussed other social and emotional issues that affect some gifted students, including the drive to perform perfectly. “Perfectionism may either be healthy or unhealthy, depending on its outcome and whether it enables the child to perform or shuts the child down,” she said.

To assist the gifted child who is discouraged by less-than-perfect results, she suggests rewarding effort instead of achievement, emphasizing the learning process rather than focusing on absolute success or failure.

Heilbronner, who teaches in the educational doctorate in instructional leadership program at WCSU, said that gifted children come from all socioeconomic backgrounds. “There are talented students across the board,” she said. But, she worries that many, especially underrepresented students such as African American and Latino children, are not getting the education that they so desperately need in order to achieve their potential. Her book is designed to raise parents’ awareness about their gifted children’s academic, social, and emotional needs.

“Educate yourself about giftedness in order to understand your child. Some people think it’s all about IQ,” she said, “but it’s not. Be an advocate for your child.”

“Ten Things Not to Say to Your Gifted Children” is now available from Great Potential Press at www.giftedbooks.com/products.asp.



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