Our 9-year-old son is in a self-contained gifted/talented program, chosen entirely on his IQ score, and is at the upper end of his class.

We're delighted with the boy. He is tall, healthy, physically fit, well-coordinated, well-liked and respected by his peers. School is near the bottom of his list of fun things to do, but he tolerates it good-naturedly.

Our problem is with the gifted/talented "establishment." The school seems to expect him to encounter problems with friends, classmates, family and society in general because of his giftedness. To help the children deal with these problems, they use a book called The Gifted Kids' Survival Guide by Judy Galbraith.

It seems to encourage the children to think of themselves as "GTs," rather than as kids who are gifted.

Some sections actually contradict things we've tried to teach our son. To illustrate:

"As a GT, you need to recognize and accept that parents make mistakes, teachers make mistakes (and you make mistakes).

"You have the right to make mistakes and not 'do your best' if you feel like it." (The emphasis is mine).

The numerous "GTs" quoted in the book sound like Grade-A brats.

What do you think are the "problems of the gifted?" I'm afraid my son will begin to live up to those expectations.

Labels are going to be the death of us. Children are so self-conscious, so conforming, that even the most fortunate difference can embarrass them.

Children always know how they're ranked, but they don't like to be treated as if they're in a race apart.

The book you mentioned (Free Spirit, $7.95) does just that but the school must have chosen it because it and its two companions seem to be the only ones written for gifted children, and some need help to accept their slot in life. Although the book expects far too many negative responses, the gifted child should know that mistakes are inevitable since he's apt to pursue perfection and be very unhappy when he fails. And he should realize that everyone works harder at some jobs than others but that he'll have to pay the consequences -- a point the book ignores.

Don't worry. No matter how smart your son, you and your husband will influence him much more than anyone else, or any book or movie or TV show. Your delight in him, and the self-esteem he consequently feels, will help him disregard negative advice, particularly if you openly tell him how you feel about it and why.

Actually, your son is probably having an easier time of it than most children. The intellectually gifted are often more popular than other children because they reason well and because they are often creative, athletic or exceptionally ingenious about fixing or making things, or they're born leaders, because they understand themselves and others so well.

The intellectually gifted can have problems however. They may find school so boring that they lose interest in it or find it's so easy they don't learn to study, research and persevere, all skills they'll need in college and in life.

A gifted child can be challenged in many ways.

He may go to pull-out classes in school, attending more advanced classes in 1 or 2 of his best subjects. He also may be given extra time in the media center or extra projects to do in place of work he's mastered. Unnecessary repetition can set a gifted child wild.

In a magnet center, the gifted usually take their advanced classes together, and mix with the average students in clubs and for homeroom, gym and music, just as they'll mix in the real world.

You'll be pleased to know that it takes more than a high I.Q. and high test scores to get in the GT program.

Teachers first look for students who are curious, creative, observant and enjoy humor; reason well, deal with abstractions and are concerned about right and wrong; have a big vocabulary, a large reservoir of knowledge and become absorbed in a task; understand quickly, skip to conclusions intuitively and remember well -- and who are a little different from the other children.

Forget the test scores and grades. Learning is more important than grades, and good health, good friends and good times are as important as learning. You've helped your child have that balance in the first nine years; you'll surely help him keep it for the rest, whatever books he reads. Questions may be sent to P.O. Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.

Worth Noting

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