As a homeschool coach and gifted advocate, I am often referred parents who have just had their child identified as gifted. They may have known for years that their child was different but the understanding of giftedness with all that that entails is often completely new. Words such as asynchronous development, heightened emotional intensity, Debrowski's Overexcitabilities and more are often times all brand new and it is so overwhelming. Just spend some time googling those terms and you will see what I mean. Much of the time families are coming to me because they have decided to pull their child out of a traditional school setting that just isn't working - their child is bored, having behavioral problems, struggling from serious anxiety or experiencing social issues and it is clear that a change is needed and very soon.
I remember being in that space not so long ago. My oldest ( now almost 18) was in the middle of 7th grade at the time and she had already been through 3 schools in 3 years. From 1st Grade - 5th Grade she had been in our local public school where from the very beginning she struggled. She had a few close friends and was involved in the local Girlscout Troop but overall school was not a place of joy and happy learning . ( It is supposed to be you know)
She was so very bright but in school and at home , school became a huge burden. She would twirl in her chair, drop her pencil a thousand times, complain endlessly. Homework often took hours and would end with both of us in tears.
Our time together at home was anything but pleasant.
Her teacher back then would come to try any number of behavioral techniques designed to get her to "comply" and get her work done in a timely fashion. Timers would be set, smiley face/frowney face daily report cards sent home, rewards and consequences given. Nothing seemed to work. Parent teacher conferences led to a barrage of negative feedback and me being told that my daughter probably had ADD ( she does not) . Teachers would keep her in from recess and lunch to "punish" her for incomplete assignments, she failed the school's gate placement test because she thought it was boring and the teacher refused to have her retested because she said she was an expert in giftedness and my daughter was most certainly not gifted (she is)
Eventually she was bullied for 6 months without us knowing- all for being different. Some years were better than others as we tried our best to advocate for our child but despite our best efforts - slowly her self esteem started to whither away. I asked the principal what he would do if he was in my shoes and he told me to homeschool or send her to a school for the gifted.
I really did not want to homeschool. My company , Women4Success was thriving and our family was growing. I could not see how having my daughter home would be good for any of us given how unhappy she was. How little I knew back then how homeschooling would solve all of our problems and give us back the happy curious child we had once had. So... of course we decided to try the gifted school. It was so clear that the teachers loved what they did and it seemed my child would finally get the intellectual stimulation she so craved. But alas, it didn't quite work out that way. She loved the way they taught but the workload was ridiculous. Homework took 3 or more hours a night and she had no time for anything else including weekends. Sports and extracurricular classes had to go and there was little time for fun. Then the health problems started. Nausea and vomiting. Headaches. She was missing 2-3 days of school despite desperately wanting to go- the pressure proved to be just too much for her 11 year old self.
Eventually we moved her in 7th grade to a Catholic school with her best friend. At first she had a big smile on her face and seemed genuinely happy. Homework took so little time that we knew she wasn't being challenged but we didn't care. She played on the volleyball team and had a few nice friends. If we could only get her through to high school we thought all would be well.
Except that it wasn't. 2 weeks before Christmas - in the middle of 7th grade we got a phone call from the teacher that our bright and sensitive daughter was failing every class. All F's. Work that was clearly too easy for her. Her teacher said that when given time to do work in class, our child had nothing to show for it. She was emotionally volatile, angry, sad, depressed and just completely done. They wanted consequences , we wanted answers. Why wasn't our child thriving? What were we doing wrong? Why didn't anyone seem to know how to help?
We finally had her formally tested by a psychologist and received the information we had been waiting for to give us the courage to say enough. Enough to the fighting, enough to the stress, enough to the trying to make it work. In February of 7th grade we took the plunge and finally pulled her out to homeschool. That was the single best decision I have made as a mother. Ever.
You see my daughter is gifted. I won't shy away from the word because there just might be one parent out there who needs to hear it. I did not understand that gifted doesn't just mean you are smart or that you learn quickly. Yes it means all of those things but it means so much more. Being gifted may mean that you learn differently, often almost as if by osmosis. It may mean that you are emotionally sensitive, struggle with existential depression, or struggle to find intellectual peers. Being gifted may mean that you relate more to adults than kids your own age but at times you act years younger than you actually are. It can mean that you are a perfectionist and give up just so you do not have to fail. It may mean that you are made fun of for always correcting your teacher , even though often times you are right.
Being gifted doesn't look the same in any two people and as such it can be very difficult to identify. Gifted kids are not just the high achievers and are often times misdiagnosed. And there is the stigma of being gifted. People are just afraid to use the word for fear of offending someone but you know what, I believe we need to use it and this is why.
I will never forget the day that my oldest got the test results. She was standing in the entryway to our home and my parents were over. My mom asked her- how do you feel now that you know you are gifted. She said , " Now I know I am not stupid". All those years of negative feedback from teachers, of constantly having them tell her to stop daydreaming, of feeling like she did not fit in- had actually caused my exceptionally gifted child to think she was dumb. Heartbreak.
There is a comfort in knowing that you are gifted. Talk to your kids about it. Tell them how it means that they are not better but different. That it means they are wired differently. But mostly let them know that in being gifted - there is absolutely nothing wrong with them at all!
Please leave me a comment below or send a message if you would like to connect. The more we get this dialogue going, the more we can help all gifted kids thrive.
10/15/2016 04:17:59 pm
Thank you for "getting it" and being so brave to share. Everything is a little easier when you know your not alone
10/16/2016 06:08:59 am
This is so needed...thank you for the important work that you do...grateful.
10/17/2016 03:06:20 am
We need a better term than "gifted". My daughter calls my son "divergent" after the book series. I think it fits.
10/17/2016 10:55:44 am
OMG! I feel like you have been writing about our sons and family!! We just pulled our 5 year old out of kindergarten in the district's "best" school, because he was bored out of his mind and acting out - physically and verbally. The school used those same lame ":) and :(" that you were talking about and refused to label him anything other than a bad kid. Our hearts are breaking as we work through the damage to his little spirit in only 5 weeks. We will be getting both our boys tested in about 6 weeks. It's awful to hear of the same issues experienced, but I'm glad to know we are not alone!
10/17/2016 11:13:51 am
Thanks. Our smart , funny, emotionally intense, caring middle child has his intellectual and social needs met by his school but even his fabulous teacher couldn't convince him of his exceptional learning ability or instill self belief in him. Only by going through the selection process for a gifted programme is he coming to have that self belief - we needed to use the word gifted for that to happen!
I was that kid who never knew, yet I knew inside that I was different....always. When I discovered my own (and my children's) giftedness at age 48, everything made sense. My kids and I discuss the struggles and blessings of giftedness daily and I wouldn't have it any other way.
10/18/2016 07:17:10 am
Great read! I think we could delve more into it and emphasize how important it is for all people to understand themselves, especially the gifted who are at a higher risk of existential depression, among other risks.
10/18/2016 08:42:14 am
Thank you so much for this. Totally relatable. It really does throw on the light to learn what being gifted means for learning but even more so, for relationships - within the family and with the wider community. I wish we could go back in time and redo our daughter's first 12 years. We are doing a bit better now 4 years post diagnosis, but so much heartache could have been avoided. I sometimes wish there was a test that could be done at birth!
10/18/2016 09:05:55 am
Hi, I just read this and got a little weepy. Yesterday I filed the paperwork to homeschool my profoundly gifted 6th-grade son. He is brilliant and sensitive and wonderful, and school was making him sob every morning and get headaches and stomachaches and say things like, "I wish I were dead." This even though he was doing fine academically and he has a lot of friends. He liked his teachers and his challenge program. It just wasn't enough. He was just not connecting to anything that was happening in the classroom -- he felt like he had to turn his mind off to get through a day of school, and that -- to a curious, curious mind -- was torturous and depressing. It took 5 years, but I finally took action. We just started and I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm thrilled!
10/18/2016 09:39:00 am
10/22/2016 10:06:19 am
Such an interesting read. We live in Tenerife and have 9 year old twins and are pretty sure that our son is a gifted child. He is an emotionally sensitive perfectionist and mature beyond his years. It's hard watching him beat himself up over the slightest error. He is currently seeing a psychologist to help him understand his frustration with himself.
12/5/2016 04:42:36 am
Hi Lesley, we tested our girls (twins) through Potential Plus UK. They're really good and give a very thorough report. Good luck!
2/25/2017 04:15:28 pm
The first half of your post strikes every note in me. My son was in the exact same situation. Someone around us did imply that he is gifted. I was tempted to get him accessed by a educational psychologist. Unfortunately I'm not able to find one who's specialised in this area in where I live. I also has the fear of knowing the results. To a certain extent, I wish that my son is not gifted. He is just having some emotional issues due to poor parenting.
9/15/2017 07:50:39 pm
Boy ,that story is heartbreaking. It's almost identical to my son's situation. I am a single mother and am working wondering how am I going to homeschool him. Because after reading that it's my confirmation that I can't continue allowing this precious child to remain in that environment.
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