Identifying gifted children before preschool

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- Even before she celebrated her first birthday, Marisella was accomplishing things well beyond her age.

Her mother, Alicia Acevedo-Urcuyo, said she "just met all of the developmental milestones earlier than the average."

By 18 months, Marisella was reading. When she was 2 years old, she had mastered numbers.

"I never taught her how to count to 100 nor did my husband, but one day she came home and was counting to 100 on her own," Acevedo-Urcuyo said.

Now 4 years old, she can't put books down. Acevedo-Urcuyo remembers thinking, "A little scary thinking what are we going to do? How are we going to keep her challenged."

A similar concern for the parents of some other 4-year-olds. Behind their big bright eyes, theses kids have something very unique in common.

They all scored 90 percent or hight on an IQ test. A requirement to enroll in what's believe to be the first and only public gifted preschool program in Arizona.

"I do feel confident that there is enough kids around the Valley whose parents realize that their kids do need something more than a regular preschool can offer," said Dina Brulles, director of Gifted Education for the Paradise Valley Unified School District.

The classroom comes equipped with the latest technology, including iPads, Macbooks and Chrome Books. Like many gifted students, Marisella was actually struggling before enrolling in the program.

"At her previous school, she had been reading and no one actually recognized that about her so she had to suppress it because her peers weren't reading," Acevedo-Urcuyo said.

A sign teachers pick up on, sometimes more often than parents.
"Sometimes these children, when they aren't getting their needs met, they shut down," said Sarah Torrilhon, who teaches the gifted preschoolers at Desert Cove Elementary School. "They get into trouble because they don't have a stimulating environment and different activities to do."

Right now the Paradise Valley Unified School District offers the gifted preschool program at Desert Cove Elementary School but hopes to open another class next month at Fireside Elementary.

As for Maricella, life is good again.

"She's spunky, she's sassy again and is herself," Acevedo-Urcuyo said. "She wakes up in the morning and is happy to go to school."

If you don't live in the Paradise Valley School District, you're still eligible to apply to the program.

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