How Slow Can You Go? Trivia and the Gifted/2e Child

I have never enjoyed trivia.  Never.

And yet, at the slightest mention of trivia I feel a crazy competitive sweat break out in my soul.  Not only do I have to answer the trivia question, I must answer it correctly, and I must answer it first.

“I have the answer!!!!”  screams my sweaty soul in response to every question asked.

I don’t care if it is Jeopardy or Juicy-Juice juice boxes… if there is a trivia question involved, I am a poised Answer Puma ready to pounce.

There’s just one problem: all of this happens inside.  On the outside, it is usually about the time when Answer Puma thinks she is poised to pounce, when she truly believes the answer is coming, that

(I’m visualizing myself as the sleek black jungle cat, a Puma, meow, meow! Still I worry at the loss of my habitat.  Perhaps the recent positive-step initiatives for localized farming will lessen logging destruction.  Oh good.  If I were a Puma.  And there are so many names for Puma.  Their habitat range is so large and encompasses so many countries and continents.  I shouldn’t capitalize Puma, now that I think about it, but I suppose I’m using it as a title)

three people call out the answer to the question, the contest is over, and I have not yet answered.

“Wait! What just happened???” 

Ugh.

Now that is a question I can answer quickly: I have never enjoyed trivia.  Never.

So why do I focus all of my attention on trivia?  Why can’t I play trivia (and by play, I mean win, of course)?

The trivia me, the Answer Puma (if you will indulge, dear reader) reminds me of every gifted and twice-exceptional child I’ve ever met.  Why is it that kids who are so astonishingly amazing and have so much to offer the world expend so much of their energy and focus so much of their attention on the one thing, whatever it may be, which makes them feel less than someone else?

Have you ever witnessed a gifted and twice-exceptional child -perhaps your child- in a traditional classroom or on a traditional playground or on any given traditional afternoon?

I have.  It went like this:

“What can I do for you?” asks World.

“Please, please see my child,” pleads Parent.

So World looks at your child so that it can assign brilliance from what your child does and says.

“I don’t see it,” says World.

“No, you can’t look; you have to see!”

World points out what it needs to see the child do and say.  Parent points out the child who seeks brilliance from what he or she is unable to do and unable to say.

The World just shrugs.

Ah yes, the sticky wicket we face as parents of gifted and 2e children.  How can you possibly explain that the very thing which causes kicking, screaming, shutdown, turn up, and face down is the perfect example of how your child is gifted?  How can you explain that your sweet (kicking, screaming, shut down, turned up, faced down) child’s inability to do and say shows the very real need for accommodation in order to meet his social, emotional, and academic needs?

Back to trivia.  “I’d like Things I Hate for $800, Alex.”

When I was unable to talk, my parents tried speech therapy.  I remember the therapist very well: she chain-smoked and fed me peanut butter when I answered any question (right or wrong). I remember spending the entire session trying to get the peanut butter from my palette as she asked me question after question.

“Is this a tree or is this a tree?”

“Will you say tree?”

“Do you like trees?”

“Have you seen a tree?”

“Have you heard of a tree?”

“Does a tree make a sound if you run from my office and bang your head against it?”

I still hate peanut butter, but not as much as I hate trivia.

How can we help our gifted and 2e kids focus on their strengths?  Are the strengths simply too easy for our kids and so they seek out a challenge in their failures?

So there I was, Answer Puma, giving my friend the evil eye for saying, “Gene Wilder’s character is from Poland,” while I was still processing

(Wilder really does resemble my father.  He is Hungarian. Still, Poland is more common and Wilder is, himself, of Polish decent.  Wilder played a Rabbi in the role and it reminds me of Young Frankenstein and Igor’s hunch.  I hunch when I sit and my shoulders have been bothering me.  I’m hunched now.  The chair is too wooden.  My grandmother hunched.  She was from Hungary, not Poland)

“Wait, what was the question?” 

Running dialogues make answering questions quickly seem like a trivia game for some gifted kids (and for Answer Pumas).  And then there are the abstract questions.  As a parent, I ask abstract questions and expect quick answers daily.  I don’t mean to, but sometimes:

“Is that a good choice?”

“Do spoons belong in your pockets?”

“Do you need to keep all of the paper scraps?”

“Did you tell your sister the ocean was crying and dying because she accidentally put cardboard in the trashcan?”

I imagine, to children, all classrooms and all kitchen tables feel like trivia contests.

I wish someone had told me long ago that answers are answers.  They are not wrong just because they are not produced fast enough.  I wish someone had put an answer box under the question and said, “Drop in your answer whenever you are ready!”

Slow answers do not equate slow thinking. 

When the feeling of trivia is removed, Answer Pumas answer quite quickly.  Add back in competition and speed, and it still isn’t slow, I would explain it as roundabout, rotating, angled, encompassing, imaginative, and possibly digress-y.

If the World could see the beauty of the maze rather than the confusion of the turns, it might help them see our kids more clearly.

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