Comparing Gifted

Recently I had a conversation with an amazing group of parents trying their best to keep at bay this monster of a job we call Parenting-the-Gifted-and-2e-Child.

“We just want the teachers to see his giftedness for what it is,” one said.

“What if they do?” asked another.

“What if they don’t?” we all worried.

We compared their journeys to our own and to other children’s even though we knew we shouldn’t.

“Comparison is a path which leads to insecurity and unhappiness,” One concluded.

“All kids are different and so comparison is futile,” another added.

“But still,” we all worried.

Does comparing beget more comparison? Does any good come from comparing one child to another or from comparing our experiences to our children’s experiences? To compare is human; or so the saying (should) go.

This blog was born from comparing and conversing about the habits, needs, and experiences of my children against the norm. For me, learning disabilities hid my giftedness and giftedness hid my learning disabilities. When I was young, I would compare myself to images of giftedness; and each time I did, I found that I fell short. Dropping out of high school was the final proof that I was not at all, in any way, gifted.

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I was not gifted. I was not gifted.  I was not gifted when compared to…?  That elusive end to the sentence. When compared to … to whom? To what? Rice noodles? Einstein? Border Collies? Sarah Johnson from two doors down? Integers? Lip gloss? Digital clocks? Gertrude Stein? Post it notes?  Random lists?

If we are going to compare, let’s get to the point. What exactly are we comparing ourselves against? Gifted kids were just “gifted kids.” Generic, shiny, fantastic, and perfect Gifted. Who can compare against that?? You see, therein lies the trouble with comparison: it is always against this strange and elusive norm. Normal gifted or normal normal. It is why we are encouraged not to compare our children to other children or compare their experiences to our own. Comparison has become a dirty word.

But I think we would serve our children well if we compared them; in fact, I think we are doing our amazing, fantastic, and whimsical wonders of overexcitability and asynchronistic-ity a disservice by not ever comparing them against one another.

We need to compare our children, swap notes, and consider what each gifted and twice-exceptional child is going through. We need to do this until we find enough similarities and differences that we can be sure that no child falls through cracks (and by cracks, I mean the gigantic vortex-y chasms that exist in both the identification and education of the gifted and twice-exceptional child).

Imagine if the world saw more than just a generic “Gifted Kid.”

I can imagine that world. It’s what I strive for with this blog. I am a high school dropout. It doesn’t matter how many degrees are accumulated after that fact; that fact remains. Let’s imagine I was in high school and could compare myself with the gifted dyslexic or the gifted underachiever. What if I had compared myself to a gifted high school dropout?  Yes, what if.

The face of gifted, the words of gifted, and the comparisons of gifted need to change if we are ever to completely serve our children’s needs and our own as their parents.

Compare the following statements and questions. They are all very real. Can you find similarities and/or differences? Can you find merit in the world hearing this gifted? Could comparing your child to their children help to motivate you?  Can you see a way we could help the community find their children’s place?

  • “My son doesn’t test well, but I know he is gifted…. I’m so frustrated!”
  • “My daughter was placed in a Special Education class to help the school handle her behavioral problems. She struggles with authority, but she reads Hawkins every night. What do I do?”
  • “My daughter writes at a 1st grade level, but she completes algebra assignments for fun. They put her in a gifted pull-out program but she doesn’t like the extra workload. How can I explain to the school that she needs a challenge but still needs remedial support?”
  • “All of my children are so emotional. They can barely make it through the day or to school in the morning, let alone a structured class or an accelerated program. Isn’t there anyone who understands?”
  • “I have never heard of a gifted program; besides, I’m an only parent and my kids need to go to the neighborhood school so they can take a bus.”
  • “My family and I are transient. My children get two of their meals a day from the school. I’m so afraid they won’t finish school or they’ll fall into the wrong crowd. They are so smart, I just wish they had the opportunities every other kid has.”
  • “I am dyslexic and I don’t know if my son is or not because it costs too much to test him. Children’s Hospital has a program with a 1-2 year wait, but they need a referral and the teachers don’t see any issues. I think he’s doing grade-level material because his giftedness is hiding the disability. What can I do?”
  • “My daughter just learned English and didn’t understand the test they gave her.”

Gifted looks different to and on everyone.  Gifted crosses all cultural and socioeconomic lines. Gifted is not one-size-fits-all. Gifted needs to be compared and we need to use the comparisons to start the larger conversation that all Gifted children, from all walks of life, with all abilities and disabilities, require specialized instruction and a place within the budget so that teachers, administrators, and lawmakers can meet each of our children’s unique  social, emotional, and academic needs.

“We have to do something,” said one.

“What if we do?” asked another.

“What if we don’t?” we all worried.

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