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Published October 1, 2011 at 4:00 a.m.

Give Up the "Gifted"

As a former "highly gifted" child and the father of an early reader just starting kindergarten, I was pleased to read that Vermont does not mandate specialized programs for the gifted ["Little Genius," September 2011]. Indeed, it sounds like we are doing things right.

What we call programs for Gifted Children are really mostly just programs for Pushy Parents. My own experiences in elementary school consisted of being taken off to "smart-kid playrooms" where little learning and much goofing off occurred, while behind-the-scenes parents politicked viciously to get their kids in. I certainly enjoyed my license to lord my status over "ungifted" peers, but probably would have gained more from real subject studies in my own classroom with my excellent teachers than I did from the whims of "enrichment."

Even a quick glance at the oh-so-carefully-formulated laundry list of characteristics in the article's sidebar makes one laugh out loud. Standardized testing of 5-year-olds — or 10-year-olds — is supposed to identify some meaningful subset of all that? "I am sorry, Ms. Smith, but while in her testing little Sally revealed a strong liking for structure and order, her capacity to be puzzled did not score high enough to get her into the program." All kids have some of these traits, and good teachers learn how to make use of them in the classroom to bring other kids along.

The greatest gifted program in the world, as your last sidebar suggests, is staffed by involved, creative parents. Don't spend money on tutors; take your kid to a museum!

Nathaniel G. Lew, Burlington

G&T Story Well Done

Thank you and kudos to Aimee Picchi on her article ["Little Genius," September 2011] on gifted children in Vermont! It was well done and balanced. Of course, I appreciate very much her mention of the New England gifted conference coming to Vermont this fall.

Carol Story, South Burlington

Story is an organizer of the two-day New England Conference on Gifted and Talented Education, which takes place October 13 through 15 at the Sheraton Burlington Hotel & Conference Center.

Disappointed With "Shots for Tots"

I am a naturopathic physician in Montpelier. I am the primary care physician for hundreds of children in central Vermont, and I administer vaccines daily to many of my patients. I was disappointed with the article in the recent issue of your magazine ["Shots for Tots," September 2011]. It really only explored one side of this issue and rejected a family's right to choose which vaccines to administer to their children and when. 

There are many vaccines that provide many children with much-needed protection from potentially deadly and debilitating infections. However, not every child has the same risk factors, and it is very reasonable to make educated and individualized decisions. While herd immunity is important with some of the infections, it is not important with others.

I won't go into all of the details but I was very disappointed in this piece of "journalism." I have long thought that if I were ever to advertise in a periodical in Vermont, it would be Kids VT. Now I am not so sure.

Gabriel Archdeacon, Montpelier

Discredited Article, Not Link

Re ["Shots for Tots," September 2011]: At what point did the discredited article in the Lancet cause the possible link between autism and MMR vaccine to become "the now-discredited link between the MMR vaccine and autism"? How does one discredited article prove there's no link? Remember that one article in the 1950s that said there was a link between cancer and cigarette smoking but which was then discredited when the article's author turned out to have changed his numbers? Whew. Glad that link between smoking and cancer was discredited! My comments are a response to the article and not an opinion on the overuse of and under-testing of vaccines in general. It's a controversial and troubling topic that I've dealt with as a parent. I can't prove a connection between vaccines and autism, but it's depressing that so many articles and commentators use only that Lancet article as their proof that there is no connection. Thanks for putting out an excellent paper!

Michael Royer, Burlington

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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