Gifted is so loaded. The word is irrelevant, other than to succinctly describe a set of characteristics that are both varied and commonplace in those whose brains are wired differently. In the wrong context, it seems to inspire jealousy and hate.
Giftedness describes a different way of experiencing the world, overexcitabilities, asynchronous development, heightened senses, perfectionism and a whole variety of other attributes that connote a divergent mind. It seems odd that a word that means different brain wiring could offend so many people. But, it does.
According to Pearson, the company who monopolizes standardized testing, giftedness is now considered a neurodevelopmental disorder. Apparently, now advanced cognitive abilities and a heightened awareness of the world is pathological so it should no longer elicit envy nor be confused as elitist. I would venture to guess that this newfound disability will do nothing to help gifted children receive services that they need but it does take some of the stigma out of the G word. Most neurotypical people don’t get jealous over disordered children.
I find that outside of gifted advocacy, I don’t use the G word that much. Polite conversation dictates that almost any other word be used so as not to offend those that believe in the false stereotypes about gifted children and their hothousing parents. The truth is there are myriad ways to accurately convey the joys and struggles that giftedness brings to a family’s lifestyle. For us, the words that more accurately describe my children are creative, divergent, outlier, non-conformist, freethinker, status-quo pusher, rebellious, authentic, iconoclastic and completely individualistic. As loaded as gifted is, it just isn’t enough to encapsulate the unique nature of my progeny.
Giftedness, despite its alluring name, is a special need. It doesn’t get treated like one in our society and certainly not in the school system; however, the special need exists nonetheless. Gifted children require a very customized approach to learning and living as they fall outside of the typically developing norm. Gifted children are born with a heightened sense of the world coupled with advanced cognitive abilities. Because of their increased awareness and meta-thinking, gifted children may be prone to anxiety and depression and a mismatch in environment, learning style and parenting can exacerbate some undesirable effects. A misunderstood gifted child in public school can elicit a pathological label pretty quickly merely based on boredom, learning preferences, asynchrony and overexcitabilities.
Gifted children, who prefer a learning style that is not embraced in school, (visual spatial, kinesthetic, gestalt) as well as those that are high in multiple overexcitabilities with significant asynchrony can land multiple diagnosis within a school environment employing standardized measures of assessment. The most divergent gifted children are not standard so applying standardized principles will be both counterintuitive and damaging. When a gifted child isn’t obedient in school and doesn’t follow the top down authoritarian rote style didactic teaching methods thrust upon them, they will act out and get mislabeled. Misdiagnosis is rampant amongst in-the-box clinicians with a traditional in-the-box mindset.
Neglect the strengths and focus on the struggle areas…it’s the schooling way. I prefer to observe my children through a positive lens that highlights creativity, problem solving and divergent thinking. They are free to engage in creative endeavors that are meaningful to them without adult interference. My children excel in their areas of interest while eschewing traditional k-12 academics.
At some point most parents raising gifted children turn to alternative education and throw out their one-size fits all parenting approach. For many, this realization doesn’t happen at first, or all at once; however, after a certain amount of time served amongst same aged neurotypicals, our neurodiverse children start shedding light on who they are and what they need.
Gifted kids rarely fit any preconceived construct and going with the flow is usually not one of their characteristics. Very divergent children push all the boundaries of conventional wisdom and they force us to make drastic changes pointing us farther away from in-the-box-thinking.
Regardless of the word chosen to describe my eccentric children, who are paradoxical, argumentative, concerned with justice, bothered by the disingenuous, plagued by emotional depth and acutely aware of all the senses, they are extreme and most lay people would be overwhelmed by their verbosity and intensity. More is rarely the merrier as they crave deep, personal connections with others over superficial banter. You can’t just throw them into a situation with a bunch of age peers or a random caregiver and expect it to all work out. I’m sure lay people are unaware about how we have to customize our days to suit each high maintenance need that giftedness brings to our life; however, that is our reality. These kids are entertaining as well as challenging to be around and they do not obey or perform for adults.
Gifted children can be pretty odd, they rarely conform to the norm and their argumentative nature can offend people. These traits are not generally embraced by most adults who expect children to be well behaved and do as they are told. We appreciate a subversive paradigm where children make decisions about their own life, authenticity reigns supreme, children are trusted and adults are respectful and supportive. Our lifestyle fosters mutual respect for each unique temperament and we do what we can to accommodate the varied extreme needs that are omnipresent. My gifted children are weird, authentic to their core and they do not acquiesce. While the term gifted encompasses many of our characteristics, it may not be enough of a word to really encapsulate our bizzare and unique personalities. We are outliers and our non-conformity extends beyond the limits of the G word.
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This blog is part of a blog hop on defining Giftedness