Dear Dr. Courtright,
I’m in a tough spot with a gifted daughter who has also been diagnosed with ADD. She currently takes three honors courses, but the school is pushing back due to her need for special accommodations. My question is whether I’m correct in wanting her to remain in honors courses, with a plan for additional time. The homework this past quarter was relentless but other parents have pushed back on that issue, so the honors homework will probably be less demanding going forward. When my daughter has enough time to do her work, she is quite adept and loves chemistry, literature, and Spanish. She wants to stay in her honors courses, but I don’t want to overwhelm her. Her therapist recently sent the school a letter that nicely forced the issue and they have agreed to an evaluation plan. Am I right in wanting to keep her in honors and do you have any advice for ADD or ADHD gifted kids concerning accommodations? This is out of my expertise and I am only going on gut instinct as well as some internet research.
C.M. in Kentucky
The direct answer to your question regarding honors classes is a strong affirmative. The last thing your daughter needs is to be in classes that are underwhelming for her (in terms of rigor and complexity) because she has the intellectual “horsepower” that would make General Ed courses mind-numbingly dull for her, leading to a host of other unintended, negative consequences (boredom being among the least of these). I strongly recommend that she take full advantage of the honors (and eventually, A.P.) courses that are available to her.
That being said, it is also worth saying that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. It may be to her benefit to take only three or even two honors courses (in her areas of strength) and a regular section of the subject that presents her with the greatest academic challenges. This is in order to make her feel successful to the greatest degree possible.
The honors question is an eternal one for parents of gifted students with a variety of disabilities (“twice-exceptional” students). I almost always reply to them that, in an honors section, it is more likely that a concept, topic or idea will present itself to the student, engage them, and stimulate them to higher levels of achievement than would be the case in General Ed. The work in General Ed would be easier, but would it be likely to engage twice-exceptional gifted students? I doubt it. With the modifications allowed in accommodations under a Section 504 plan, these students will find more success, more intellectual peers, and a more stimulating curriculum experience in honors sections.
Gifted Education Specialist