Yesterday HuffPost published this piece from Farrah Alexander’s blog titled, “Maybe My Child Is Gifted. Maybe Not. Maybe It Doesn’t Matter”. I was having a great day, spectacular really until I read that piece. The author with such vast knowledge of gifted children that accompanies parenting a 3-year old boldly states, “I just said it doesn’t matter if my child is ‘gifted’ or especially ‘smart.’ It doesn’t matter if yours are either.” Of the National Association of Gifted Children she writes, “because of course that’s a thing.” There is also the requisite mention of “these special snowflakes”.
Sadness, anger, frustration and despair were some of the feelings that post left me with. Is this what people really think? That the term gifted solely exists as a bragging tool for educated, upper middle class parents? That a group of children including the author’s own son are not worthy of the enrichment that they need to thrive? That the NAGC should just be distilled to “a thing”?
I have a son who is gifted so I know firsthand how misunderstood and underrepresented their needs are. You see, I have learned that the best thing I can do for him is not talk so much about his achievements, but to speak up to get him the help he needs. It’s no different than how I speak up for my speech delayed daughter to get her the help she needs.
But yet, time and time again, we treat these two groups of children so differently, especially socially. When I talk about how my daughter had no words when she turned 2, not even the word “mommy”, I get sympathy. When I talk about how my son was understanding series, the kind you would see in a precalculus class, in Kindergarten, there is silence, the kind of silence that implies, “Please stop bragging now.” So, as one of the comments on the post so accurately stated, “Most parents of gifted children keep their child’s achievements secret and cannot share them with friends and family – because of attitudes like yours.”
This implicit gag order gifted parents face was also painfully apparent at a party I went to a few months ago. A group of moms were standing around and inevitably the topic of travel soccer came up and for the following 10 minutes I listened politely to every aspect of travel soccer in our town, to the kids, to what the other teams were like, how to try-out, how long the season was. Not long after that the conversation shifted and I somehow ended up mentioning my son’s gifted math class. That conversation was shut down rather quickly, even though I know two of the other parents there had children in the same program my son is in.
There is this perception gifted children are “better” at school and pretty much everything. I assure you, any parent with a gifted child will tell you that is not true. I know I will. I recently wrote about how it took my son five, yes count them, five long years to learn how to swim because the same wiring that enables him to recalculate the Cubs batting averages during the game also creates sensory difficulties and anxiety. He was scared of the water, splashes greatly bothered him to the point of interfering with the skills he was learning. So I will tell you all day long it’s not about being better, it’s about being different.
But again since so often I feel like I am shouting out on deaf ears, we have to speak up to give our gifted children the resources to help them thrive. The NAGC is more than “a thing”, they are a real resource and agent of change, who worked to incorporate several provisions to help gifted children in the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act. There is no nationwide standard and gifted programs, where they exist, vary considerably so the mission of the NAGC is an important one. As I wrote in this piece, gifted identification and testing are inconsistent at best.
Parenting a gifted child is plain out exhausting. It’s tiring being with a child whose mind is on overdrive day and night. Often after 11PM my 8-year old son is still up, trying to calm his overactive brain down. I am not sure when he does succumb to slumber each night because I am usually way ahead of him. Having moved around a couple of times in the past two years, it’s tiring researching schools, programs and various testing criteria, since the standards of what constitutes gifted are not uniform. I’m tired of finding enrichment year-round to close the gaps of what is not provided at school. I’m tired of worrying about my son at school, hoping and praying he is not suffering socially for being smart.
Last and certainly not least I’m also so bloody tired of dealing with parents like Farrah Alexander who do not understand what it truly means to be gifted. The fact her post was published on a mainstream site like HuffPost shows how prevalent her attitude is. I can shout all day long but how much of an impact will a blog like this,one with maybe 300 pageviews in any given week, make?
I will say I am thankful to see much backlash on this post like this and this from the gifted and talented community. Let’s add more of our voices to the chorus to continue to advocate for our children.
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