Finding an extracurricular program, whether it be a sports, club, or school team (such as debate), that is a good fit for your child is an important and sometimes difficult part of a well-rounded development. You want to find a program that enriches your children’s life, and gives them experiences that they would not normally be able to get otherwise. It’s very important that research be done before enrolling your child into any program, and if your child is above average in intelligence, Mensa might be one of the programs that you could consider. However, unlike other programs, Mensa is rather unique, and has some particularly stringent entry requirements, so it is worth considering some facts before deciding if Mensa is right for your child.
First, Mensa is more of a society than a program, so it automatically differentiates itself right off the bat. This is not a program that your child will receive much recognition for within the school walls; there is little in the way of celebration short of personal achievement. That personal achievement can be fantastic if it’s properly fostered and rewarded individually, but don’t expect the school to be involved. Secondly, entry into Mensa requires supervised testing in order to qualify, so not every child will be able to join, even if they are gifted. Mensa restricts membership to those with IQs in the top two percent. Also, Mensa is not for the very young, but it does have programs for gifted children as young as 14.
On the other hand, being a member of Mensa evokes a certain sense of satisfaction in some children. Knowing that one is intelligent, and being told that one is special can be make for an amazing boost in morale and positive thinking for a child. This positive reinforcement is vital to gifted children, and difficult to achieve outside of being praised by an outside party. Mensa can provide this reinforcement, so it is absolutely worth considering. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make, and each child is different, especially when gifted.
Unfortunately, though, there are other factors to consider as well. Sometimes having a child who is of above average intelligence is something of a double-edged sword for the child. On one hand, the child will likely excel at most testing, placement in schools will be easy and effortless, and retention of material is almost guaranteed. However, this does not come without a cost. Most children with such a high level of intelligence suffer from social difficulties as a result. It becomes more difficult for them to make friends, and often, these children feel a sense of isolation. It can be very trying for a child to make friends with other children when they have difficulty relating to them. If this is the case for your child, you may want to explore Mensa as a social outlet where you child can interact with other high-IQ individuals.
Mensa is an excellent program, and is fantastic for gifted children, provided that it is the right fit for them. Due to the uniqueness of the organization, though, it can sometimes be a difficult decision whether or not to place your child in the program. Talk with your teacher, principal, counselor, or psychologist to discover if Mensa is the proper fit for your child. Every child is unique, and while yours may be gifted and bright, it always helps to be well informed before entering into any program.
The U.S. branch of Mensa has a gifted youth program, for which you can find information at www.us.mensa.org/join/gifted-youth-admission/
For more general information about Mensa, practice tests, and how to join, check out its Web site at www.mensa.org.