So, a while back, I wrote a post called Kids turn into adults. I elaborated on that thought on my facebook page via a status update and a meme I found yesterday, and it gained some traction. Several of my friends, who are also recovering gifted children, commented on the post. And, not surprisingly, a few parents of today’s gifted children also commented. I promised them I’d gather my thoughts and post them in a coherent way, so here it goes:
What Does It Mean To Be Gifted?
I like to think of us as a horde of divergents, haha. But, the reality is that each gifted person is unique. They think differently. They process ideas without regard to the steps normal people use. They make connections others cannot see.
Possible Problems Gifted Children Face
Here is a handy-dandy chart of the things that make us gifted in contrast to our nuerotypical counterparts, but with every amazing quality comes a possible downside. No one gifted person has all of these qualities, nor does any one person have every single one of these problems, however, we have to acknowledge that too much of a good thing can certainly be a bad thing.
The problem with gifted programs is that often, they spend so much time telling us how “smart” we are or how “rare” we are, and not enough time helping us explore who we are and how to navigate the problems that come with it. A lifetime of social isolation and misunderstanding can certainly lead to a number of other problems. The need to belong can lead to oppressive social anxiety. Seeing systemic problems and injustices creates the feeling of treading water in a world of existential dread. No wonder so many of us experience mental health crises.
Gifted Girls–The Good News
Girls often feel a need to comply with social norms (yay for the patriarchy!!!). Girls are less likely to (at least in their younger years) to have behavior issues.
Gifted Girls–The Bad News
Girls of all kids, gifted or not, get told that their performance is due to their innate abilities. “Wow! Look how smart you are!” “You are just naturally SO athletic!” “Of course it was easy; you are intelligent like your mother!”
These statements have the effect of making young women believe that work is not necessary for their success, that instead, it is simply within their natural ability. That doesn’t seem too harmful at the outset, but in adolescence, many challenges academic, mental, and physical arise. Girls often “break down” when it doesn’t come easily to them because they’ve not been taught how to approach a challenge.
Gifted Boys–The Good News
When boys fail to be successful academically or physically, the world tells them to put in a little more “elbow grease” (aka: effort, try harder!) (yay toxic masculinity!) . Challenges tend not to discourage young men, unless they lack the motivation to take it up.
Gifted Boys–The Bad News
Gifted young men are much less likely to care about maintaining social norms. Acceptable behavior is optional and caring to complete academic milestones can fall by the wayside. Graduating high school? Eh. Who cares? Gifted boys are less likely to be identified because they may not comply in class, can get poor grades, and can seem generally unmotivated.
Exceptionalities are those “exceptions” to normal learning patterns. It is the fancy and more acceptable way to refer what we once called disabilities. Giftedness is an exceptionality. That’s right: giftedness is a type of “disability”.
Double exceptionalities occur when a person has more than one exceptionality. It is extremely common. You can be gifted AND have ADHD. And dyslexic. And be on the autism spectrum. And have alcohol fetal syndrome. and and and and and.
A person may be gifted in the area of math or logical reasoning, and at the same time, have a disability in reading.
This can confuse people; it can confuse the gifted person, and it can obstruct the ability of the person to get help for their disability, or their ability to have their giftedness recognized.
What Can We Do?
We can start by understanding the problems that gifted people face and working to educate gifted people as well as their parents and educators about those problems. We can work to educate gifted people about themselves. We can help them understand who they are and how to navigate the world as that person.