Shhhhhhh. Don’t say it.
At least, if you have to say it, don’t use it to actually refer to anyone.
Or, at least not anyone you know.
Certainly don’t say it in public.
You know, the “g” word.
No, not the “G” word, that’s ok, just don’t talk about the “g” word.
It’s offensive. You might make someone feel bad.
But, it needs to be talked about, so here goes…
My oldest daughter, K, is gifted. Actually, I’m going to get really outrageous. She’s profoundly gifted.
We can talk about special needs all day long, and despite the fact that there is still a lot more ignorance than we would like, most people at least kinda get it, are accepting and agree that students with disabilities deserve an education that meets there needs.
But when you start talking about the other side of special education, that children who are not just smart but truly gifted, who need and deserve a different type of education and programs to meet their needs, you hit a lot of resistance. People think children who are gifted are already at some sort of advantage. Or they misunderstand what gifted means and think all that’s needed is an extra assignment, like an honor’s course or something.
And when you tell people that your child is gifted, the response is not usually helpful. I usually hear things like:
“You’re so lucky”
“Well my kid’s smart too”
“There’s no way she’s actually THAT smart, right?”
“What did you do to make her so smart?”
Even the teachers and administrators at her elementary school didn’t really get it. They tried their best to dissuade me from advancing her a grade (she did 1st semester of 1st grade and 2nd semester in 2nd grade to complete 2 grades in 1 year) but the fact that they told me it was ultimately my choice proved they knew she could handle it. They told me it would mess her up socially and she wouldn’t make new friends, and that of course I didn’t want to rush middle school where she would clearly be a target for all kinds of problems because of her younger age.
For one thing, I knew my kid and they were so wrong, and I couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t advance her a grade. She is profoundly gifted academically, but also advanced socially, emotionally, creatively and in leadership skills. She is tall for her age and talks with adults, like an adult. Her friends always were older, anyway.
But having (or being) a gifted child is not easy. And the more gifted you are, the harder it can be. Sure, we’re not worried about her getting accepted into college, or paying for it for that matter (she already has 2 scholarships at age 10). Right now she is in a program for academically talented youth that I have a lot of confidence in and hope for. But it was very painful for all of us to get to this point. So much work at home to keep her learning and interested, trying to educate teachers who insisted she must have ADHD that she was, in fact, simply bored out of her skull. And there is a hyperactivity and a lot of things that do honestly look like ADHD until you study it…these are also symptoms of giftedness. Gifted kids are not easy kids. Smart kids, yes. Gifted kids, no. They are…different.
Then of course the dreaded kindergarten (Michigan has ridiculous laws like it is illegal for kids to enter kindergarten for any reason if they will not be 5 by 12/1 of that year), and pulling teeth to get her advanced a grade. A year after that advancement she was extremely bored again and we though about moving to a large southern city near other family where an appropriate program could be found for her. Fortunately we found the REACH program here, at Battle Creek Public Schools. Even then, last year she struggled with not being challenged in some subjects. She is a perfectionist and has a hard time working in groups. Most people do not think the way she does and she has a hard time explaining her work. It is difficult to find reading material on her level that is appropriate for a 10 year old to read.
It also takes a while for new people, even the gifted teachers, to see and believe what she can do at times. I laughed so hard at her middle school open house. Her principal from 5th grade was there and told me “they’re really going to have to challenge her, even in this program. But I guess they’ll figure that out pretty quick!” 😉
And don’t dismiss being bored. Yeah, it’s boring to review material. But when you’re gifted and being held back, it’s like being bound at the starting line of a race you have been dreaming about running. It is painful. And it’s not right. Maybe someone would have already found the cure for cancer, but instead of having their curiosity nurtured and been asked to perform their best they had to do “age appropriate, grade level work like everyone else, no ‘special’ treatment”, they got bored, dropped out of school and ended up doing nothing but goofing off. Sound extreme? It happens a lot more often than you would think. Gifted education is an important part of special education that needs to be talked about. Dare we dream that one day it become mandated and at least *partially* funded?
Oh, and while I’m using “the word”, I may as well break it all out for you…
I’m gifted too. I pretty much never say it, it’s embarrassing …like you think too highly of yourself. But if you take the false stigma off it, it’s a clinical diagnosis just like autism. And I was diagnosed gifted and given special pull out classes as a kid. So I guess I can say it. I’m no K, but my mind works fast and I get bored easily. I love to learn and I am gifted in language arts and sciences…but I have a lot of difficulty with math.
So, there it is. I have more to say about giftedness and the skewered way Americans view it and treat it, but I need to get to sleep. Maybe next time. 😉