Surrey group offers understanding of gifted children

Niovi Patsicakis (left) and Marian Mahony – both mothers of gifted children – have started a support group for parents in White Rock, Surrey and Langley to share experiences and advice.  - Alex Browne photo
Niovi Patsicakis (left) and Marian Mahony – both mothers of gifted children – have started a support group for parents in White Rock, Surrey and Langley to share experiences and advice.
— image credit: Alex Browne photo

You can’t always tell the gifts by the wrappings they arrive in.

That can be especially true of gifted children – one of the flip sides of a special ability can often be a disability, such as ADHD or Asberger’s.

Their highly individual strengths can also be misinterpreted, pigeonholing them as ‘problem’ children.

And in many cases, emotional levels don’t match intellectual levels – leading to further challenges at home and at school.

“That’s actually known as asynchronous development,” said South Surrey resident Niovi Patsicakis, a retired teacher and educational consultant who, together with Learning Disabilities specialist Marian Mahony, is starting a support group for parents of gifted children in Surrey, White Rock and Langley.

The first sign-up meeting for the 10-session SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) Model Parent Group will be held Thursday, Jan. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre, 6188 176 St.

“It’s open to all interested parents,” Mahony said. “Their children don’t necessarily have to have been assessed as gifted.”

As parents of gifted children themselves, both Patsicakis and Mahony said they’ve had their share of challenges in knowing how best to emotionally support their children through the process of self-discovery – even with their own years of experience as teachers and resource-room staff.

One of the problems parents encounter, they said, is being just as confused about their children’s gifts as their children – who may already have been mis-categorized as learning disabled, inattentive, disorganized, lazy or simply disruptive in the classroom.

In a situation that can only be exacerbated by one-size-fits-all approaches to education, promulgating generalities about gifted children can be misleading, Patsicakis and Mahony agreed. But there are some recognizable cues that can point to children whose needs they wish to support through the parent group, they said.

In addition to learning disabilities and emotional challenges coupled with obvious gifts in different directions, other indicators can be children who are unusually intense and sensitive; who have high energy levels or seem scattered and disorganized; have very high expectations of themselves or others; can be argumentative or perfectionistic; have trouble finding friends their own age; or are rapid, curious and innovative learners who may be bored and disruptive in regular school situations.

“Quite often I’d be at odds with my child – it would be a power struggle, in which I felt, ‘I’m the parent, I know best,’” Patsicakis said.

“I had to learn to turn it around – there are so many better ways to handle issues.”

Beyond providing their input as facilitators, Patsicakis and Mahony said, the group will provide parents an opportunity and a forum and share their own experiences, challenges and strategies as they learn more about giftedness.

For more information about the upcoming seminar, email or call 604-329-0850.

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