Gifted is a fairly loaded term in mainstream society. It doesn’t conjure up different neural wiring like autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder does. All of these brain based differences elicit various reactions from those who are unfamiliar with neurodiversity. If people understood what giftedness means and what twice-exceptional is, they would have a better appreciation and, perhaps, compassion for the whole spectrum of this type of divergent thinking and its impact on daily life.
It seems that the term gifted connotes lucky. It then is implied that the fortunate nature of having a gifted child means life is easer. Gifted isn’t easy. Of all that giftedness brings to the table, ease is most assuredly not one of them.
Raising gifted children makes life challenging and entertaining if you have a good sense of humor and are well balanced psychologically and emotionally. I don’t think parenting is easy even when you have children who go with the flow because of how messy and unpredictable life is, but with gifted and twice-exceptional (2e) kids, even simple things become difficult. In fact, in our home simple tasks are hard and difficult things are easy almost as a general rule. Twice-exceptional children likely top the list of most confusing child to parent. These intellectually gifted, challenged in other areas children require a lot of patience and understanding. There is no parenting rule book to follow for the twice-exceptional child.
Twice-exceptional children can be brilliant in their preferred areas of interest and completely challenged in another. These second exceptionalities are brain based differences that can affect learning, social, emotional, psychological, behavioral, physical or a combination of many of these attributes coupled with advanced cognitive abilities. They aren’t lazy or unmotivated but, rather, limited in some areas and oftentimes disinterested in working on those struggles. As I believe in a strength based approach to learning, and a gentle way of parenting, there is little emphasis on struggle areas and a celebration of innate abilities. All people like to feel good, confident and successful so I choose to honor and support where my children are and what they need to develop themselves meaningfully without adding undue stress by focusing on areas that elicit anxiety. Not all children will be well rounded to the societal middle and for some of us, that isn’t an aspirational goal.
While the hallmark of giftedness is asynchronous development, the 2e child’s extremes in abilities go beyond such uneven development to the point of creating a distinct impact on daily life. The struggles for many ameliorate with maturity but the obstacles along the way can add additional stress to the family dynamic. As a family unit, we make decisions that are supportive of all our personalities which greatly affects us when we venture out into the world. A long, hot day in the sun amongst a crowd of people at an outdoor event doesn’t appeal to us photosensitive types and collectively we aren’t able to endure it for long. We generally try not to engage in experiences that are likely to overwhelm us. We have learned throughout the years to to understand who we are and what we need to feel safe and content. It is easier to stave off unwanted triggers once you are aware of them and are able to adjust your day accordingly. We are a team and we cater to the one who is experiencing dis-ease. When one of us has a fear of elevators, we all accommodate that family member and seek out the stairs to maintain calm and move forward with the day.
When a young child has an advanced intellect in a specific area or a few areas but every day life skills are that of a child several years younger, this can be perplexing for parents. In fact, these are the most dumbfounding moments in our life. The notion of acting one’s age doesn’t resonate when a child is many ages at once. The dichotomy of listening to a child discuss string theory and quantum physics in one moment but then not be able to engage in a simple life task in the next seems absurd, yet it is a very likely occurrence. A brilliant intellect does not equate to the ability to tie one’s shoes, for instance.
Even when parents become used to the challenge areas, the lack of ability with common sense skills can really become frustrating. When a gifted child’s abilities across all domains develop so asynchronously that becomes the line that tips over from gifted with quirks toward twice-exceptional. In a radical unschooling lifestyle, the impact of giftedness and twice-exceptionality may be lessened due to the customized, child-centered nature of this other than mainstream mentality. Traditional societal expectations are irrelevant for a gifted unschooling family. We choose this path because we are aware our children need it and we want something more than a status quo life. We are not trying to mold our children into something they are not. The focus shifts from the external world onto understanding and nurturing one’s true authentic self. The journey is ever changing and filled with waxing and waning passions but the underlying constant is that of freedom. Free to choose how you spend your time and free to be exactly who you are.
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