Athlone – SPEAK – Supporting Parents of Exceptionally Able Kids


SPEAK, Supporting Parents of Exceptionally Able Kids, organises talks/lectures/activities/events geared towards stimulating our children’s interests – encouraging them to think outside the box.  As a support group for parents, we also have a Coffee Morning on the last Friday of each month in Costa Coffee, Golden Island Shopping Centre, Athlone from 10:30 onwards.

SPEAK Coffee Mornings are an informal, open forum where parents can offload, share experiences and maybe suggest solutions through personal experience – all parents of gifted children are welcome to come and meet up!

Our first meeting was in November 2012, with the initial invitations distributed via GTNetworks mailing list.  What a relief it was for us all to meet with other parents who all seemed to have exactly the same issues and concerns.  Suddenly we were able to speak about our children and their talents without being labelled pushy parents, or eyes rolled skyward with the “here we go again” face or the total incomprehension that the child may prefer books or maths to GAA and soccer.  All of us had in some way or another experienced similar situations, including bullying, switching off/dumbing down and changing schools.

The monthly Coffee Mornings continued until we had vented to exhaustion, with new faces calling in but always with a similar list of issues.  The ages of our children ranged from Junior Infants to Junior Cert so we had both Primary and Secondary age groups to hear about.  Underlying all of our issues seemed to be a feeling that our children needed further, extra-curricular stimulation and socialisation.

One thing we were all agreed we were not going to involve our group in advocacy or representation, already being heavily involved in voluntary activities supporting our children’s outside school interests, time constraints meant we wanted to be productive in the immediacy.

So, we decided to do something for our children now, with the idea of organising stimulating activities, getting our children and their families together to share an educational/informative event in a social environment.  Brainstorming for relevant contacts, our first event, a biodiversity day was a huge success and gave us a very solid foundation on which to build.  Within one month we had a schedule of events for the next 6 months and interest and support has built up that we are regularly adding events to our schedule.

The events are informal, facilitating interaction between the children and the speakers.  We continue to develop a network of contacts – professionals, hobbyists and enthusiasts – who come along to give presentations on their field of interest.  Our invited speakers are doing it for their own love of the subject because it’s their personal, infectious enthusiasm we’d like to spread!

It is a non-profit operation with the goal of keeping costs to parents minimal, charging a nominal fee, with a maximum family charge, to cover costs for speakers.  Our events are aimed at families so siblings and parents are welcome.  We are introducing “Elders Evenings”, evenings for the primary school children organised and hosted by secondary school-ers on subjects of their own choosing.

As word of our activities spreads and interest gathers, we have been able to approach event organisers, such as the Atlantic Corridor, with a view to inclusion and consideration of SPEAK in their events.  Athlone Institute of Technology have provided an ideal central venue for the Midlands area and have been very supportive to us in the provision of such facilities.

Our Event Calendar since our first one in August was:

8th August Biodiversity Day Lecarrow, Co. Roscommon with Karina Dingerkus of Giorria
10th September Archaeology & Heritage Cruachan Aí, Tulsk, Co. Roscommon
4th October Alan Early An evening with creator of the Arthur Quinn Triology, Athlone IT
10th November Midlands Astronomy An evening under the Stars
14th November The Brain Dr Deborah Saucier, Neuroscientist, with Atlantic Corridor for Midlands Science Week, AIT
6th December The Titanic Rory Golden, the Irish Diver who dived the Titanic, talks. AIT

We do have the requirement that at least one child has been accepted on to the DCU, CTYI programme for attendance at our events, but our events are for the whole family.

Please drop us a line if you would like any further information, like our Facebook page for updates on our events and other events up and down the country that may appeal to your children., @SPEAK_Ireland

FACEBOOK PAGE:  Supporting Parents of Exceptionally Able Kids


I’d like to thank Joanna Pearman for taking the time from her busy schedule to write the above post for Gifted Education Awareness Week 2013. SPEAK has found an excellent model that might suit other support groups around the country. Using Facebook to communicate is a great solution to helping everyone keep in touch as well as sharing useful information and notice of events. Well done to everyone involved in organising the group.





  1. Just as a follow up – one question that came up yesterday was:
    What does your child read?
    When they’ve an advanced reading age but teen book aren’t really suitable – where do you send them?
    One suggestion was to go to second hand book-shops and pick up teen book from a few years ago when things were a bit more restrained…
    Any other thoughts?…

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