Tag Archives: is my kid gifted

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.

Above Identity

So I walk. I walk right out of where I start.

The bad the good the stick

fills out the bottoms.

Heavy but taller. taller. Taller.

Up

I can see out now.

The far the real the point

untie my shoes.

floating up, floating up, Floating.

Up

We nearly drift away with every step.

Up

Gravity, understood, has no say in this flight.

There is such negativity surrounding the concept of being above something. This is especially true when one must rise above something of value. Still, above is exactly the direction in which our children who are the most difficult to identify as gifted or gifted and learning disabled need to travel.

The many factors which hinder identification, from poverty to cultural differences and learning disabilities to opportunity, don’t change the fact that a percentage of children are born every single day with an exceptional need.

They start, as we all must, wherever they are…  It’s not complicated. And it’s extremely complicated.

We honor those who have the fortitude and innate capabilities to collect enough unfortunate from their situation to build themselves tall and climb out.  We tsk tsk towards those whose feet are too heavy to take one more step in any direction and choose, instead, to lay back, make angels in their cast, and barely live with it.

Those with the lightest shoes have the greatest opportunities and my heart breaks for children who would soar but carry too much of a burden from where they have been forced to walk. These kids, they don’t see heavy as taller and they don’t see soaring as winning. To them, it’s just weight and escape.

Wait and escape.

What a great responsibility… but it is one we all must share!  We have a responsibility to reach beyond ourselves and our children’s schools, to reach within ourselves and our children’s souls, and help another gifted child

Up.

Silence is Platinum

A surgery in my early 20s to remove cysts from my vocal folds resulted in one side becoming permanently paralyzed. It took six months to learn to talk again and then another six months to feel confident in my voice.   I compensated by carrying a little notebook and writing my responses down when people needed me to talk. This was long before the cell phone, laptop computer, tablets, iPads, texting, and I found that I could never quite write what I was thinking fast enough to matter in the conversation.

The fact that I could not speak did not make my world silent. It did, however, give me a greater appreciation for silence and the ability to sit back, listen, and allow the world to mix with my soul and dance in my mind.  It was in these moments that I felt the most able to process and talk… the most ready to share and listen.

Now I can say with full clarity that there is never a time I am more creative, more aware, and more able than when I am silent.  When I am silent everything around me spins into words, words become imagery, and visualization becomes real possibility.  I can move from word to word infinitely and I can do so at my own pace and apply them to everything and anything.  And I can listen, really listen, to the world around me.

Being alone in your thoughts is often thought to be synonymous with being lonely, depressed, or unsocial.  I disagree.  I believe that when children, those who talk nonstop and those who are afraid to talk, are given the opportunity to be truly quiet and observant, they are actually being given the opportunity for real awareness.  They are observing the world from an unobstructed and secluded mindset that is so far removed from lonely that it actually resides in a place which gives forth joy and self-realization.

In their silence they can play and process and enjoy their world which breaks down into pictures and words in their mind.  These words have the power to identify who we believe we are and others believe us to be. They are subject to ridicule and perspective, they are enough and never enough all at the same time, and they know how to move, jive, relish, and hide as we muddle through our day.  While words are overwhelming when they are simply noise, they are breathtaking when they make sense and become relevant.

Words and silence go hand in hand and the sooner the world slows down enough to allow our kids to experience the beauty of silence and the happiness they can find in creating their own words at their own speed without having to share, the sooner we will realize that for us, the receiver, it doesn’t matter how this sentence ends.

The Pickle Premise

When I was young I was so hungry for information, so inept at social constructs, and so over-stimulated by the slightest nuance in my day, that by 8 years old I had dropped out of school emotionally, by 10 years old I had dropped out of school academically, and by 15 years old I had dropped out of school altogether. At the time, I reasoned with my sensible side on sleepless nights filled with insecurity, it wasn’t really dropping out because that would imply there was something in which I was intentionally, physically, or logically involved.

My mother, with much gnashing of teeth, would ultimately persuade me to take the G.E.D. exams and I acquiesced so long as it was on my terms: no studying, no classes, just drive me there, and I’ll take it, pass it, and Boom! Done. That’s just what we did. I would eventually thank my mother (thanks mom!) for insisting on this small bump in my road so that I could register for community college at 16 and then work my way to a private university, study abroad, and ultimately earn the degrees I always wanted but was too emotionally, intellectually, and academically gifted to achieve.

I feel I’ve suddenly caused a collective (sharp) intake of breath from people who read that last sentence and said, “Did she just say too gifted to achieve!?!”

Take out that pesky gifted term and you have a perfectly acceptable tale of woe and angst from a troubled child who overcame adversity and was able to thrive into her future. Add the G word and you’ve changed the trajectory of the conversation from empathy and admiration to contention and exasperation. I’m sure a few parents of gifted children can attest to this fact as well. “Yes, I understand it is very frustrating that Sally hasn’t slept in three days because she’s awaiting her tagless shirt order from Amazon, but she can do Algebra and she’s nine… so get over it!”

Imagine how it feels to be the child expressing the difficulties and frustrations. I can’t remember the last time I said over a cup of coffee, “I am exhausted after staying up last night trying to find a hole in Greg Craven’s viral video which presented global warming in a grid and I’m considering taking up karate or maybe opening a meditation studio after that Folger’s commercial last night.” No, it’s quite certain you would find very little in the way of empathy and understanding.

The term gifted implies smart and smart implies good decisions and good decisions beget success. To simplify: if all gifted students are smart and all smart students succeed, then all gifted students are successful. Is it safe to assume that only gifted adults, parents of gifted students, and gifted educators know this to be a faulty argument?

I realize that people expend a good deal of energy to demonstrate just how faulty and misleading this conclusion can be and it may seem like a losing battle. I propose that the fault lies not in the conclusion but in the premise. The premise that gifted and smart are synonymous in any form is false. It’s my experience that if you want to change a conclusion you must change the premise first.

The premise is where these children reside. They are planted and begin in premise and the message we send to them is that their lives have a forgone conclusion. We tell them to grow apples and when they produce pickles we say it’s not possible and tell them to try again. We remind them that all apple trees grow apples and all kids are apple trees; and therefore, all gifted kids should grow apples. We give them what we give all of the apple trees, we make sure they are in a nice straight line, but the conclusion is always the same: pickle.

Titles are the point which most segregates and stratify a child entering school. We call an intellectually-advanced, asynchronous, and overexcitable child gifted based on myriad criteria and test scores; that is, we use myriad criteria if we are presented with a child who is willing and able to show us his or her abilities. For every standard and measure, there is an equal or stronger counter within the child which presents as four possibilities: willing, able, unwilling, and unable. And in between feel free to gradate as much as possible and add as many subheadings as necessary to fit your particular circumstance.

Assuming we are able to identify the right criteria and offer a diagnosis or label of gifted, and we apply this to the child’s premise, what do we do then? Surely we can’t tell them that all of the amazing, frustrating, enlightening, emotional, intuitive, and downright awesome that makes them who they are in this world is a gift. It was a gift from whom? What sort of gift? Can I give it back? Can I regift it? What if I don’t want this gift? And so on and on and on and on (because let’s not forget, questions are the foundation for building a mind which can’t stop).

A gift implies something given to another without any exertion and my experience is that everything around us is absorbed, every shade, every idiosyncrasy, every variance, every success, and every single failure, and it takes such an amazing and resilient effort from the receiver that it insults the outcome to say it was a gift. It was not a gift I was given and I am not gifted; though it is safe to say I overcame a gifted childhood. My children are not gifted; they are are stretching out into the sky and growing in a world where they can’t help but absorb it in its entirety while trying desperately to self-regulate their responses to appear more normal within it.

So what can we do to change it? We have to allow a child’s premise to be whatever it is they need it to be so that they can come to a unique conclusion. Growing up under a faulty premise with a forgone conclusion is lonely and unnecessary. We have to reevaluate the way we identify these children with special needs and help people see the faulty logic which assumes that A equals B when you or your child are P. The funding for and education of those who are prepared to take on the challenge and allow these kids to grow without ceiling is the new argument which needs to be redefined and presented to everyone who will listen.

If you thought you were getting apples and find yourself in and with a pickle, there is so much to discuss, so many pickle pie recipes to swap, that this blog is for you and yours. But I really must go now… I have a meditation studio to think about.