How to start a support group for gifted children and their families
Most branches start as support groups. This sounds a lot less imposing and overwhelming than a branch, which has
much more formal connotations and is enough to put off people who want support, but do not think that they are in a
position to start up a branch.
One of the most important aspects of branches is the contact with like-minded people, which is the basis of any
support group. Not only do children need to mix with other like children but their parents need to know other parents
who are going through, or have been through, the trials and tribulations of being parents of gifted children.
Gifted children give their parents many moments of joy, happiness and pride but they also can cause headaches.
Some children need nothing extra and their parents are not looking for help but those who are, are very relieved
when they find that other parents are going through the same difficulties that they are. These are often parents
of boys. Problems with boys are often more "in your face" than those with girls. Parents are almost forced to look
for answers. This is where support groups are invaluable.
If there is no support group in your area you may feel strongly enough to set up your own. How you go about it can
depend a little on the community that you live in. Smaller communities often have networks in place that make
communication with the members of that community easier, which will expedite contact. In larger communities other
forms of communications are required.
What follows falls under four headings: you can scroll through or click on the link below to go straight to the
section of interest.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Once you have decided that a support group is what you would like to have, decide what you would like to get out of
it. If you have already spoken to other parents, discuss with them what they would like. It is important to have some
idea of the direction that you would like to go, even if this is not the eventual direction your group will take.
Call a meeting of interested people. This may be for parents only, teachers and parents, or for whole families.
If you have adults only, an evening is obviously better but you may prefer to have it during the day in the weekend
and ask people to bring their children. Have someone to be with the children and give them some low-key activities such
as story telling, kite making, board games. This way you can talk without interruption. However, you can also include
the children in the discussion about what they would like. This is obviously dependent on the age group that you attract.
WHAT FORM SHOULD YOUR GROUP HAVE?
Small groups will have an informal basis. Arrange to meet monthly, perhaps at someone's place or at a supportive
The meetings can be a chance for the children to mix and for the parents to get support from others and find that
they are not the only one with a particular problem.
Dependent on the numbers and ages of the children, some activities can be organised. This may be a speaker or a
workshop or maybe ask everyone to bring along a game and these can be shared. There are many people in every
community that are willing to share their knowledge and skills. Sometimes they just don't know it!
Social activities are also a good glue for the group, especially for the older children. They feel very comfortable
with other children with similar abilities and children who may have not strayed far from their parentsí side relinquish
them willingly, sometimes, initially, to the consternation of their parents but eventually to relief. The type of
social activities may be dependent on the type of community you live in. A rural group may have very different ideas
on what constitutes a social outing to those who live in an urban environment.
Recommend that all your group members join the National Association so that they will receive Tall Poppies magazine
(3 x per year) and will have access to the library.
You can use the forum to ask questions that you may have about your children or if you have ideas that
have worked (or not worked).
When your group grows in numbers you may need to have a slightly more formal organisation
and can look at forming a branch. This will require a more cohesive steering group and will require people like
chairpersons, secretaries etc.
- There are some more formal aspects to becoming a branch of NZAGC and the current council will be able to inform
you what these are. They are not difficult and are easy to follow. [South Auckland branch started as a support group
and become a fully fledged branch in 1996. They were quite worried when they did, as they had to raise their membership
fees to include National fees. In fact, their membership is over three times it was when they were a support group.]
Encourage your children to send work to Tall Poppies.
- Should you charge any fees?
At first, it is probably better to have user pays charges only: payment for speakers, room hire, equipment etc. as
it arises, proportioned over the attendees. However, without some sort of fee structure, it can be difficult to put
out newsletters. What often occurs is that people donate the stationery, stamps etc. This may be acceptable but
can get out of hand and people can become resentful because they feel they are being used, particularly if a group
grows in numbers.
If you do not want to charge a fee to cover what is, in effect, administration fees, try and get a local firm, perhaps
a book shop, to sponsor you. They may also offer a discount for members.
You may like to charge a door fee for each meeting which should cover all costs but have a bit extra added to be
put into a fund to allow you to cover any shortfall in activity costs, newsletters and purchase of equipment.
Always have two signatories on any cheque account.
If you become a branch you can have the advantage of being part of an incorporated society without having to go to
the trouble of incorporating yourself.
Rotary clubs and the like are often willing to donate games and equipment and are worth approaching.
Local schools or kindergartens that have a culture of encouraging gifted children will often make rooms and/or
equipment available for your use at no charge.
You may find that people value things that have a cost attached more than that which they get free. Sometimes it
can be an advantage to have a fee.
SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO MAKE CONTACTS AND BUILD A NETWORK
Speak to your schools CWSA (Children With Special Abilities) co-ordinator if there is one. She/he should be able to
put you in contact with other families with gifted children.
Often CWSA co-ordinators have a network in the larger community with other co-ordinators.
Speak to Specialist Education Services.
Hold a public meeting
You will often get a better response if you have a speaker at your first meeting. If you do not know of one that
would be a "crowd puller", the National Council may be able to help with names.
Put up a notice in your local library, citizen's advice bureau and community centre.
Ask schools and preschool centres to put a notice in their newsletters.
Contact your local newspaper to do a story on gifted children and to announce the fact that you are having a public
Put details on the NZAGC website.
Approach any or all branches or Council members for ideas.
Affiliated branches exchange complimentary copies of their newsletters. Support groups can also be offered the same.
Discuss with each branch.
Affiliated branches and groups have their contacts listed on the back page of Tall Poppies.
We hope that some of the ideas above can help you start a group that will provide you and your community with the
help that you want. Contact with just one other family is the first step in forming a support group.
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