I join Patrick Welsh {Outlook, Dec. 2} in wishing that many special programs in schools today did not exist. However, I do not join him in believing that the abolition of such programs would result in the abolition of the problems they seek to address. The fact is these programs meet important needs.

I know that Welsh is aware of these needs. One cannot come into daily contact with children without knowing about the outside pressures on them, which all too often interfere with or even prevent learning. Surely Welsh is aware that gifted children are not protected from these influences. Children who are brighter than other students still may be poor, or have alcoholic parents, or grow up in an environment that doesn't value education or in a household where English isn't spoken or be subject to other factors that put them at risk for realizing the full intellectual potential they have. To ridicule the phrase "at-risk gifted student" is to subscribe to the myth that only the well-adjusted upper middle class can produce gifted children.

As a part of the gifted/talented program in Arlington schools, I am glad that we are widening our search to include children who may be "disadvantaged," to use Welsh's term. This is not "the hollowness of the bureaucracy's efforts at innovation in dealing with disadvantaged children." Being bright is no guarantee of being a part of the mainstream or of being problem-free.

As an English teacher with 15 years of experience, I identify with many of Welsh's anecdotes. The farther afield he goes from his own experiences, though, the less valid I find his observations.

-- Kathleen F. Grove