I may have a gifted child. I may have two. I’m not trying to brag, I’m not breeding geniuses over here – when the teacher told me I should look into it I almost glared at her as I said “it sounds like a label”. I wasn’t excited, I was annoyed because at the end of the day, it IS a label. At the time I’m pretty sure the teacher was telling me “I can’t help you” and I wasn’t keen to hear it. But reading about giftedness now, I’m kind of glad I have a label to explore…
What is giftedness? Well the presumption is something relating to a high IQ and I have met 5 year olds that know fibonacci numbers and pi to a hundred decimal places…yep, gifted. But it seems upon reading giftedness is much more than that. As I said, I’m not breeding geniuses. My kids aren’t doing log scales just yet. My kids are articulate, creative and know a lot of cool stuff, but their IQs would be on the high side of average at a guess. Besides, IQ scores can be improved with study so the number to me is arbitrary.
Where giftedness becomes interesting and worth understanding is when you get to the OTHER aspects of the gifted child. James Delisle (PhD) does a brilliant job of explaining the other quirks of a gifted personality and THIS is where it began to help me understand my kids. I like feeling that I understand my kids, so I wanted to share with you also, in case it helps…
Delisle, in his book Parenting Gifted Kids, talks of the work of Michael Piechowski and areas of OE – overexcitability – in gifted kids.
- Psychomotor – surplus physical energy – this alone does not distinguish giftedness of course, however it can be linked with cognitive juices rapidly flowing and needing an outlet (and can be misdiagnosed as ADHD). When my son was really young he developed a habit of walking in circles when trying to communicate I nudged my mum (an ex-teacher) and said “umm…should I worry?” Labels, more lables. We are all somewhere on the spectrum, that’s why it’s called a spectrum, but I confess, it had me worried that I was in for some challenges. (Now of course I KNOW I’m in for some challenges – it’s called parenting!!)
- Sensual – this is a tendancy to become overstimulated by sensory stimuli – loud noises, textures, etc. My daughter asks for eggs without speckles or spots on the shell and won’t eat anything that doesn’t look right to her. Again – not defining her as any kind of genius here, just identifying some things that point to a sensitive personality.
- Intellectual – kind of goes without saying.
- Imaginational – these kids might really challenge you as they tend to be bored with the ordinary and will always keep you guessing. Delisle says for these kids the only second language worth learning is the one they invent themselves – they are smart but struggle as so many people just won’t connect with their quirkiness.
- Emotional – so THIS is where my A-ha moment really began. THIS is where my daugher’s whole introduction to school came crashing down. These kids have really intense positive and negative feelings; a real awareness of the emotions of others; form deep personal attachments; and often are concerned with life, death, spirituality and very deep philosophical issues. My daugher bust into tears the other day because the young woman who often served us at the grocery store had left and found another job – she liked to go and say hello to Amy whenever we were at the store and now she’s miserable she might never see her again. I can guarantee you she will still be talking about how sad she is in another 3 years and longer. THAT is not normal for a five-year-old, so far as I know. Not to mention our visit the other day with some home-schooling families. My daughter told me at the end of the day how she had spent a lovely day talking with Bella about her dog that had passed. She allowed Bella talk about how sad the experience made her, mindful to keep checking in with her if she preferred to change the subject since it made her sad, or would she like to continue…yes, she’s 5 and she’s holding space for a 6 year old to share her sadness. Blew my mind.
Gifted kids get a bit of a hard life because they are expected to be always brilliant and mature for their age, instead of kids. I am definitely guilty of struggling here – my daughter is articulate and sometimes has the attitude of a teenager, so when she gets silly and childish it’s easy to get annoyed with her – duh.
Gifted kids can be snubbed because others feel they think they are special just cause they’re smart, or because school is “easy” for them. Often don’t relate well with kids their own age. Being gifted isn’t about bragging – these kids didn’t ask to be different. It’s a tough road and it’s worth us as parents and educators trying to understand how they tick so that we can work with them, for them, instead of just labelling.
So whilst our introduction to school was pretty disastrous, the teacher gave me a gift of a label. Exploring that label has helped me to see my daughter more clearly, so that I may understand and honour her in all her amazing emotional extremes (heaven help us!). It is her super-power it seems to empathise, to feel, to express. I don’t want the world to tell her to toughen up and learn resilience – she has a gift. A giftedness.
She IS a gift. And I’m going to keep practicing at remembering how precious she is.