Tag Archives: parents of gifted children

Overexcitablity Inferno: leading gifted/2e kids to writing

As a writer, I thought that my children would burst from the womb thinking in haiku, stretching for writing implement, and begging for more time to write.  The Von Trapp family of the pen, perhaps. The five of us giddy and spinning.  Rolling along on clover fields, somewhere near Dover, and southeast of Shakespeare’s birthplace.  Writing, writing, writing…

The reality looked very different.  They loved storytelling but they hated the act of writing. Much of the angst was due to a volatile mixture of giftedness, overexcitabilities, and learning disabilities.  Dante Alighieri says it best in Inferno, “In the middle of the journey… I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”

Exactly.

When it came to helping my gifted and twice-exceptional (gifted and learning disabled) children with their writing, we were lost.  We were in a very dark woods.  There was no straight way.

Inferno.

My children fought grammar, tantrumed convention, monstered punctuation, and nearly died when asked to practice their handwriting.  Seriously.  Death.  Nine circles of horrible, burning death.

I didn’t want to be Virgil leading my little Dantes through inferno. I wanted Von Trapp.  I wanted the clover.  I wanted the sunshine, smiles, and joyful which come from successful writing.  I wanted that for my children, too.

I suspect there are other Virgils out there, leading little Dantes, and searching for some Von-Trappiness.

So let’s find it.

C.S. Lewis said, “You can make anything by writing.”  If my children knew that, really understood that writing could “make anything,” how could they not want to write?

Writing isn’t easy.  It isn’t innate (even when it is).  So when I noticed that many of my children’s issues and hindrances when writing could be matched with Dabrowski’s five overexcitabilities, I started mapping out the connections and my responses to them.

Below are the connections I made to overexcitabilities and the solutions which worked for my children.  I hope they help to turn some Virgils into Von Trapps; or better yet, into C.S. Lewises!

Psychomotor overexcitability.

Even the gifted child who does not typically present as having an intense surplus of energy seems to hit the psychomotor overexcitability mark just about the time they sit down with pencil in hand.   Suddenly, movement seems enticing and talking incessantly becomes top priority. Focus is next to impossible and it seems that nothing you do will quiet them down, help them sit still, or finish the job at hand. So, how did I conquer this impulsive, bouncing, barking, snapping, humming, groaning semblance of my child and get him to write? The answer: I didn’t.

That’s right… my first piece of advice for parents and teachers who ask how to get their reluctant writers to write happily is: don’t. As a writer I can tell you there is nothing more frustrating than having to write when I don’t want to.

I sense protest coming on, so let me say that when it comes to your child’s homework you must ask yourself what the worst case scenario could truly be.  What I would say is something like, “I can see that writing is difficult for you right now. Let’s go outside and play for thirty minutes and try again and if you still can’t get the words you want out on the paper, we’ll come back to it tomorrow.” And if they still can’t get it done then try other options: let them type it out or let them tell you the story and you write it (trust me, this won’t last forever, but it will excite them).

Keep trying and allow them to fail a few assignments. If their bodies can’t stop moving, it might mean that their minds can’t slow down either. If their hands get too tired, they will eventually build endurance. Once their fine motor skills, keyboarding, and their desire to write catches up with their mind, and once they realize writing isn’t a battle to stop their movement, the writing will come. Breathe.

Sensual overexcitability.

A child with a sensual overexcitability seems like a writing dream child. After all, they appreciate the beauty around them, melt at the perfect tasting food, tear up at the softness of a kitten’s fur, and feel a connection to art, music, and the entire world. It sounds like a recipe for writing success! But the parent of a child with sensual overexcitability knows that writing can be an overwhelming task on multiple levels: their inability to express in words the depth of their feelings, their intense connection to their writing which makes it difficult to follow rubrics and prompts, and their physical responses to external stimuli which often gets in the way of their work, all lead to a giant brick wall with STOP written on it.

Help them to define and then understand their own writing process. It can be difficult for gifted children, who feel so connected to the world, to approach writing from a structured and organized perspective without feeling like something is lost along the way. This is especially true for those with heightened awareness of their senses. When you force structure into their writing they may feel detached. This leads to distraction by environmental factors (the hum of the light, the dog barking next door, the birds chirping, the tag on their shirt, the light hitting their paper just so). Make the environment quiet, pleasing, and child-led. Allow them to define their process and then help them use it each time until it becomes easier.

Finally, and this is a big one, praise their effort! Nothing feels better for these kids than seeing someone connect with their writing at an emotional level.  This is as relevant for the emerging writer as it is for the intermediate and high school writer.

Intellectual overexcitability.

While this overexcitability is the most recognizable in a gifted child, it seems like it is also the least understood when it comes to writing and producing materials. A child who is intellectually overexcitable may appear distracted when he sits down to write. He may start discussing his paper more than he writes it; or, he may show a greater interest in a related topic and want to focus on that instead. He may become so intensely focused on one aspect of the assignment that he misses the big picture or doesn’t get it done. It would be no surprise to find a IO fighting the validity of an assignment altogether.  So many of these kids are excellent writers but decide early on that writing is a waste of time.

Be careful not focus on handwriting or structure. My kids often become perfectionists when they write and can overthink that to the point of missing the gestalt, the overall point of the exercise. Next, and this is a big one: learn keyboarding. Fast thinking, analytical thinking, and problem solving happen fast.  Typing will ultimately help them express themselves better and faster. Finally, allow the concentration and fixation even if it means they don’t get the assignment done. I always gave my son a small notepad to jot down his ideas and thoughts, his questions and comments, while he was working on another assignment. The process of thinking during writing, even if it’s not on topic, will help them find a little happiness in it; and even though they may not ever become writers, knowing that they can use writing to solve their big questions, present their findings, and change the world will be useful in college and beyond.

Imaginational overexcitability.

If all the raindrops were metaphors and idioms, oh what a rain it would be!! Standing outside with my mouth open wide…. Ah yes, the imaginational overexcitability. There is nothing my imaginational kids love more than a good story; that said, they fight like gladiators fighting lions or knights slaying dragons when it comes to working on their writing homework. As someone who can relate to imagination, I assumed that my children’s imaginations would translate into delightful tales and magical meandering stories. Much to my chagrin, the act of learning to write was not enough to create little authors and homework was still a chore.

My best advice for the parent struggling to get an imaginative child to write is to read to them or allow them to stop working and read for themselves. There is never a time when reading doesn’t spark a desire to be in the story and there is no better way to be in a story than to write it. If you ask them, I bet they have ideas while you/they read.  Have them write those down (or write it down for them).  The ideas will probably mirror the story they are reading.  Imitation is the first step!   Praise them for it, don’t try to make it “original.”

Also, it always helped to let my child choose where he wanted to write. Your child may prefer a lapboard, the patio table outside, or they may even being under a table. The act of pretending while writing might just be the ideal unrestricted system they need to produce.

And don’t forget to read! If I could write a book at the same time that I was reading a book…oh what a rain that would be!

Emotional overexcitability.

A difficult evening spent doing homework can be an emotional roller coaster for child and parent alike. In my house, I’ve seen inanimate homework objects fly, tear, crumble, sail, and dissolve right before my eyes. I’ve watched a backwards P cause a meltdown which cannot be described in words without causing even more distress in this world.

P, oh P, oh, oh E.  OE, indeed!

This overexcitability creates anxiety.  It breeds insecurity in my children as they compare their work to others.  They question what they are able to produce.  This overexcitability often comes on the heels of another one, the intensities begetting intensity, until the entire household is braced for the deluge.

Many writers have an emotional overexcitability.  It is this very thing that drives them to write.  It is what makes sharing so scary, pushing them into a lonely, quiet corner.

The most important way to help a child dealing with emotional overexcitability during a writing assignment is to take the focus off of achievement and place it on method. This is opposite from many of the situations above when I suggested encouraging writing by focusing on emotion because, at this moment, your child has that in spades.

I join my kids. This might mean helping them focus.  It could mean listening to what they have so far.  The next step is to give them one practical tip to move forward, such as make a tree map, create an outline, or go through and add one detail sentence to each paragraph. The final step is to sit there quietly and allow them to work next to you but not through you. I have found that eventually, if not that very session, they will ask you to move so they can get their work done. This is especially important in a classroom.  Good writing takes space.  It can be next to impossible when you are elbow to elbow, face to face, with friends.

Virgil, Von Trapp, and Lewis.

Gifted kids are funneling so much information at every moment. They are absorbing the world and determining their responses to it all of the time. Asking them to WRITE that response down can be overwhelming.

Writing asks us to give something of ourselves. Writing asks us to take an idea and expand on it using finite space, time, and structure. Writing asks us to open up our souls but to do so with formatting, rules, and guidelines. Writing is abstract and concrete all at once.

Lewis said writers can “make anything” when they write.

That’s true, Clive. But not when it comes to my children’s writing.  I can’t make my children write when they don’t want to.

Maybe they don’t want to write because the moon is in Neptune, the sun is in willows, the tide is in ceiling fans, or because all of this is nonsense.  Bottom line: they don’t want to.  And, sorry to say, I have no advice for Neptune, willows, and ceiling fans…

Wait, yes I do… write that down!

It is at moments like that one, when nothing makes sense, when words are warriors, when the kids have set up a fort with pencil projectiles and paper targets, that the best stories will be told.

Embrace that moment and “make anything.”

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Irene Hila lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. She blogs and publishes under a pseudonym as an alternative voice for gifted and twice-exceptional children.  Her alter-ego earned her MA in Creative Writing and is completing her MFA in Creative Writing. She is currently working on a collection of poetry as well as two young adult novels. Her work has been published or will appear in 2e, University Press, and f(online). 

 

 

Of Cannonballs and Memories

Conversations, crazy sounds, and classroom odds n’ ends.  They all have a funny way of turning into pirate memories in the oceans of my mind.  Last week I ran into a book which instantly reminded me of a particular instance when all three of those things collided.  I wondered if telling the story would help an exhausted and frustrated parent who might, at this very  moment, feel as though they are watching their gifted or twice-exceptional student sail off into an unknown sunset (while hanging like a monkey from the mast, and howling like a Maned Wolf).  Perhaps my story will allow them to see asynchrony in practice.  Perhaps it will illustrate that achievement and cognitive ability are not interchangeable.  Perhaps.  So long as they apply themselves.  Happy Sails!  – IH

I had no business in a classroom, considering I was not able to learn according to those who were qualified to give the able-to-learn distinction to students; and every time I was reminded of that fact, the determinations settled like cannon balls in my stern and hull breaking through my exterior. It was only a matter of time until I sank.

Once math was off my academic table for good (if only she would apply herself in math… well, perhaps she is not able-to-learn math… ah, yes, that’s it…. she hasn’t been designated), the largest and heaviest cannonballs came in the form of Hebrew vocabulary. By Second Grade, it was obvious that I would not be participating in the Scripps Hebrew Spelling Bee (if one existed, which it did not, but that didn’t stop Jessica and Alana and Rivka from acting as though they already had a trophy on their bed stand).

It also did not stop the world from telling me to apply myself. The fundamental principle of success in the 1970s and 1980s: apply yourself. And if one does not apply applicable applications when said applications are applicable then one is most likely doomed. (Say that fast five times. I could. But I couldn’t write it in Hebrew).

Words running left to right and right to left, up and down and over and out. I understood everything I heard but my brain took the lessons, all of which needed to be read and written, threw them up in the air and let them fall. Standing at center, I’d spin helpless while frog and fence, rainbow and rabbit tracks, pregnant woman and upside down cup, and my favorite unicorn swarm around below, a jumble in my mind of letters, symbols, and nonsense.

Apply myself. I was too busy reading to apply myself in Hebrew or Math or Really Anything. The contradiction my reading presented was lost on me. I was not-able-to-see-it.

I was too busy reading.  Reading.  Reading.

I don’t mean I stumbled through a few words here or a Richard Scarry city scene there; no, at the Hebrew and Math Breaking Point of Second Grade I was reading my sister’s books: Watership Down, Big Red, Nancy Drew, and Madeline L’Engle. When her books ran out or when she wanted to punish me, I read my mother’s books: V.C. Andrews, Jean Auel, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Irving. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to the local library and secretly devoured Cormac McCarthy, Douglas Adams, and any cover which was not turned face forward by the librarian and would not, I was sure, find its way into my mother’s hands.

By day I was inept, unable, and sinking; but by night, by recess, and by nobody was looking (which was most of the time), there were plenty of signs that my mind was seeking more stimulation, more information, and more input. This was all despite being completely closed to growth in a classroom. And classrooms looked very different at that time.

“I would just tell her to do the work,” said my second grade teacher with his left hand in the waistline of his pants which were pulled up to ribcage.

My parents nodded. Of course, tell her to do the work.

“She isn’t studying and so she’s failing.”

My parents nodded. Of course, she isn’t studying so she’s failing.

“I mean, look at her,” he said gesturing to me.

They looked at me.

I was sitting in my seat; last seat in the row nearest the cubbies. The rest of the seats were empty because this meeting was special. He didn’t say I was special. Sometimes you can be too weird for special. (In that un-specialness possessed, I suppose I was, ironically, very special, very singular, very exceptional, and very distinctive… sorry, I digress… we are talking about my serious inability to handle vocabulary).

They were all looking at me. I was not looking at them; instead, I watched my fingers poking up like a squid seeking sailor through the ink hole in my desk.

My parents nodded.

“I’m sure you’ve done all that can be done,” Teacher said, “Not everyone is wired to learn.”

He leaned back in his wooden chair, which moaned in protest to his teaching style, and his left hand resumed position to indicate the meeting was over.

My parents nodded.

Lying across the back seat, I looked up at the streetlights through the back window. I squinted opened squinted opened squinted opened. At squinted opened fifty two, I looked toward the front seat and saw my mother’s face staring back at me, her frown palpable, as she wondered at her blinking, squid-fingered, Hebrew failing daughter who was not wired to learn anything at all.

I went back to squint open squint open squint open and thought about Kafka. Waiting to help me change and to give me a new distinction of able-to-learn, Kafka’s words (secretly) buzzed between mattress and wall. Frustrated and exhausted parents nodded in the front seat, hoping tomorrow I would apply myself; while I, strange and peculiar, singular and exceptional, weird beyond special, dreamed of Kafka while I blinked my large, bulging eyes over and over and over in some sensory-seeking mission to understand my instinctive pull toward streetlights.

Play on Words: discover the poet in your gifted/2e child

Bang. Thud. Thump. Crack. Ono. Mato. Poeia.

Head. Hit. Wall. Hard. One-ah. Two-ah. three-ah.

Ah, the sounds of cranium meeting the gentle-energy, yellow wall after a mere fifteen minutes (who am I kidding? It was more like 34 seconds!) into a homework session with my child. On the agenda: writing.

How could I fail? How could she? How could we? How couldn’t we not? Ugh. Fragment much?

Are you, like me, shocked and awed that the yellow wall lovingly and painstakingly and researchedly painted wasn’t enough to promote happy learning? Have you finally done it? Have you messed up your child forever by not choosing the mathy, sciencey think-clearly-blue or empowering, earthy, go-for-it-green?

Perhaps, like me, you have a gifted or twice-exceptional child who loves to be expressive and extravagant with his or her word choices (at bedtime, hair-brush time, quiet time, and now) but can’t seem to focus on writing, can’t seem to complete a sentence, and can’t seem to breathe when the assignment calls for details in the form of words.

Egad! What to do?

Take a deep breath. Find your center. Let the gentle-energy yellow bring you back to your happy place.

At some point our children must learn to read and write, to use many good grammar, and to communicate, explicate, and punctuate. None of these can (or should) be avoided. As I said in my previous blog post, I will leave that to their wonderful teachers- my words like to PLAY!

Think of this series as recess. Think of verb use as retired rubber tires bolted to a chain, spinning four nearly-vomitus children to sheer glee. Think of writing prompts as the rules to a competitive game of foursquare: I’ll be the princess, you can be the king, but Sarah gets to be the kangaroo. Think of writing blocks as scraped knees: nothing serious, just a few crumbs of concrete that need to be brushed away (if you don’t look at the block, it won’t hurt as much).

So here we are, on the playground, and the first ball I’d like to throw in is POETRY.  How doth she expect us to wanteth to doeth thith… (too far… possibly too far).

At a writing workshop in 1994, Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks told a group of young writers that poetry is like wine, that it is meant to be sipped, meant to be savored, and meant to be shared; but if you drink too much at once, you will just get a headache and wake up with regrets. If poetry to an adult writer is like a gentle and fruity wine like Maison Roche de Bellene Savigny les Beaune 2011, then surely structured writing to a child is like fire-breathing and burn-your-throat Spirytus Polish Vodka 192 Proof. 

The only conclusion I can reach is that exposing our children to a long sit-down with poetry is akin to getting our dear children drunk- fall on the floor, fall in love, fall back out, and lean on a friend or two drunk. 

So why would I choose poetry as my first recess game, you ask?

Because poetry is full of rules, structure, and (shhh!) grammar, but it is also full of musicality, cadence, and rhythm. Poetry doesn’t say mop the floor, it says dump out a bucket of soapy water, strap sponges onto your feet and go for a skate.  It is true that all creative writing is flavored by poetic diction, but poetry just seems to reach children in a way that is inviting, invigorating, and yes, a little intoxicating.

Here are five poetry games and activities I came up with to cater to the various moods, abilities, and desires in my household.  All three of my children are gifted; but as you know, no two gifts are the same and no two gifted kids need the same thing.  I hope you find one or more which work for your kids. Give them a try and share your creations, your successes, or your failures in the comments section below.

Read

Imitation is key when it comes to clever, capable, and go-get-‘em writing. I could fill space with the arguments for and against imitation as a form of learning poetry; but since this is for our kids (and for our sanity), I will leave the analysis, theory, and rhetoric to the experts. For me, as a twice-exceptional gifted child, reading was everything. All of the movements my mouth, my body, and my brain couldn’t make were transferred into the words I read. They waltzed, gallivanted, and galloped across the page. Without reading, I can say with absolute certainty, I would not have become a writer.

Read greeting cards, signs, menus, and captions. Read picture books, chapter books, any books, and every books. For this exercise read a ton of poetry. Get very drunk. You don’t have to read poetry to write poetry, but reading poetry to children helps to emphasize form. Whether or not they want to discuss the author’s reason for using a particular method (another plus!), gifted children seem crazily giddy when reading or listening to poetry. From a very early age many gifted kids will notice things such as assonance, word play, rhyme, onomatopoeia, alliteration, and metaphor. It doesn’t mean they can name it, recreate it, or analyze it, but they light up. I love lights.

Read to them, let them read to you, let them read alone, whatever it takes. Just READ.

Pick a word, any word (even orange, silver, month and bulb)

My oldest is twice exceptional and completely asynchronous. The spread between his processing speed and his next score is 40+ points (apple –> tree, you say?). Still, he was a voracious talker (why should it only apply to reading??) who had an impressive vocabulary by two and a half, memorized whole books we read to him, could play guitar and write a song at the same time by three years old, and he would, just for fun, change letters in words, say them backwards, rhyme them, or give them a rhythm. Yet, he was never a good reader, choosing instead to talk. Even now, in high school, the kid will talk his way out of reading every time.

When he was little I created a game and it has survived through the ages. We called it Pick a word, any word. The rules: my son would pick a word first (kids are always first, second, and third so that the game sticks before they give up!) and I had to rhyme it. Then I would pick a word (or not). It is simple, but it often became very challenging. Ask a gifted child to give you any word to rhyme… and the skies open up! But as his skill grew, so did the game: we added sentences. So what once was cat/sat and road/toad, for example, eventually became Once there was a little cat/Upon his bed he always sat and Looking out at the road/I worry for the green-eyed toad. When this type of word play became too easy, we would put together whole stories in that couplet style. Nothing made him happier than my writing out our collaborative creations and I can recall writing many road trip games on envelopes, scraps, and receipts.

Remember that every child is different. This game was fun for two of my three children. The middle child would burn this file if she saw this game included in my list.

Sonnets, Villanelles, and Sestinas, Oh My

Meters, feet, counting, structure, structure, STRUCTURE… my oldest goes running from all of these. He finds poetry stupid and makes no qualms about it (more on that fix later). My middle child loves rules, so for her a poem with a structure makes sense and is easier to stomach. This game is simple (and the most difficult). Take the time to look up poets, poetry, and some of the most eloquent forms of the art, and then sit down with your child and both of you try your hand at it.

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Courtesy of Commons.Wikipedia

Right now I am in love with sestinas. I wrote my first sestina at twelve years old after reading Rudyard Kipling’s Sestina of the Tramp Royal. It wasn’t a keeper. But remember, this isn’t about becoming the next Dickenson. This game is about getting out of our rooms, getting out of our heads, and getting past our stuck points to explore everything lyrical and poetic.Only you know if this is appropriate for your child and age/grade has very little to do with poetic ability, so I won’t give it an age or grade range.

There are many ways to adapt this to all levels and styles. If your daughter is a processor, try a Haiku… if your son loves music, try a sonnet… if nothing sounds good, give an acrostic poem a spin.

Freedom

After such rigorous word play it is time to go Braveheart on this thing. That’s right- free verse. If you dig, you will find rules, but there are no rules here. This is your bucket of words, your pouring of all things odd, great, and fantastic. This is when my youngest two look at me and say, “What are we supposed to do?” because they want rules and structure. And this is when I paint their faces blue and say, “No rules, girls, no rules! Only FREEDOM!”

I’m not saying it is easy. Free writing is one of the most difficult things you can ask your child to do. And if they don’t feel like free writing- don’t. You can’t write and create when you are forced to do so. That said, you can make choices to help them feel the groove. I like lapboards, unique writing spots (under a table, next to a tree, in a closet, whatever makes them smile), and colorful pens, pencils, or markers.   I always let them know they can share or not share; it is their choice. Some kids must share or they do not want to create and others are not able to create if they know they will have to share. That is okay. Let me repeat that thought- it is okay not to share. In fact, not sharing may bring out much more in the way of real, emotional writing.

This game is intentionally vague. I think it is important to sit and write without rules.  For those kids who are older and resist, this is when I bring up my child who decided he hated poetry and the five minutes I made him sit and watch Billy Collins read his poem The Lanyard.  Poetry is for everyone, by everyone, and it is so important to remind young adults that poetry is not mind death; that, my dear teenager, is Drama.

Lexicon (my new pet dragon)

I always loved the word Lexicon. My daughter said it sounded like the name of a dragon and it stuck. The Lexicon Dragon Game. It is relatively new in our house and it is a favorite for everyone. The rules: pick an article, a website, a book, a menu, an advertisement, a bill, a textbook, anything you have nearby, and pick out twenty (or more) words. Write the words in list style (numbered 1-20), underline them, or write them on a white board. Using these words, create a story verbally or in writing. There are no rules. You can use two or three of the words in one sentence and none in the next or one in each. Let your child guide their own piece. To start, make sure you choose a lexicon your child can read and understand or it won’t be as much fun; alternately, you can use something over-the-top difficult and foreign (figuratively or literally) for your child and giggle away.

For older kids, have them use one of their own pieces. Underlining the words that jump out at them will be an exercise which helps them write better and with more intention. This game is whimsical, interesting, funny, enlightening; and for our word-loving kids, it seriously feels like drinking, absorbing, and swimming in words.

We have expanded this game to classics, such as Homer and Shakespeare with fantastic results.  Choosing a lexicon from poetry begets poetry.

Are you excited to start writing poetry with your child? Are you feeling a bit sick and nauseous at the prospect? Both of these are normal and expected.  Sip each of these tips slowly. These tools are not meant to be implemented overnight and not every game will be a fit for every child.

Sharing the gift of poetry is about so much more than writing. It is about the love for and the appreciation of words. They will stumble away from poetry feeling lightheaded and woozy, spinning happily into their world, a world which is labeled, laid out, and loaded with more and more and more words.

So where should we spin next? Why, writing without punctuation, of course. (Yeah, she be crazy!)

Spinz, whooz, craz. Grab onto a base word, hold tight to a root, connect yourself to something synonymous with those things.  Words be spinning out of control ’round here.

 

——

“A Selection of poems by Billy Collins.” Fora TV. .City Arts & Lectures, San Francisco, Califonia (2008).  http://fora.tv/2008/04/07/A_Selection_of_Poems_by_Billy_Collins

And the winner is…. Nobody.

Talk.  Chat.  Orate.  Lecture.  Mumble.  Whisper.  Share.  Whatever the method… I love words.  I especially love when words spark conversations.  I think that all things good come from open and frank discussions about the tough issues of parenting, educating, and serving the needs of our gifted and twice-exceptional children.  That said, I am worried about contests, competitions, and reality shows which seek to start a discussion using a better than or faster than or more gifted than mentality.

I am referring to America’s Junior Mind Challenge currently being casted by Shed Media Casting (link below).  First, let’s talk….

I am more than a little skeptical that a show like this, one which clearly wants to find the best, fastest, brightest, quickest apples in the barrel, will be able to represent a fully accurate face of the gifted child, let alone the face of the special-needs gifted child. I am also more than a little skeptical that the parents represented with a show like this will be representative of the majority of parents of gifted and 2e kids.

The first thing I asked myself (and now I ask you): How do they plan to start a good dialogue about the social, emotional, psychological, and academic needs (demands!) of our gifted and 2e kids by showcasing, and exploiting, the one aspect of giftedness which we, the gifted, have dogged for years upon years?

How will they keep it from turning into a Dance Moms moment when they are looking for kids who answer quickly, answer brightly, answer bestly… when those of us who really, really know giftedness are aware that none of those things define what it means to be gifted?

Suppose one were to make the argument that the show is about entertainment; just as all reality shows which seek to minimize, exploit, or showcase the oddities and extremes in society are about entertainment?

Yes, let’s suppose.  Okay, I’ve supposed.

To that I say that I believe giftedness and twice-exceptionality are both diagnosis which require specialized treatment, care, understanding, and support. I would no sooner think of this show as a valid way to teach the country about giftedness in children than I would consider Rain Man a valid movie to teach the world about my son’s giftedness and Autism.

I welcome talk. I talk all the time. I love words. Let’s keep the talk going, moving, and flowing… and the more the words flow out to the public and bring much-deserved and much-needed attention, funding, and understanding to the realm of gifted and twice-exceptional parenting and education, the better off we will be.

But all I see here is dancing elephants and I much prefer my elephants on safari.  What do you think?

(Here is a link which shares the Shed Media link but also illustrates my point about it causing a stir and creating excitement in all the wrong ways:  http://gscoblog.org/2015/02/americas-junior-mind-challenge-tv-casting-opportunity-for-7-12-year-olds/).

Profound Giftedness (and all that jazz)

Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may I wish I might, accelerate a grade tonight.

When I looked down into the big beautiful eyes of my newborn baby girl, I did not whisper a prayer of acceleration. When she wrapped her little fingers around mine for the first time, I did not wish upon a star that she would have the gift of missing out on some of the most beloved moments of being a toddler and a preschooler. That first long night full of snuggles and tiredness, I did not identify the first star and wish upon it so that my daughter could skip right over the next few years.

No, I didn’t do any of those things; and yet, as the parent of a profoundly gifted child I am constantly made to feel as though I push and prod, I live vicariously through her, and I want a trophy for the best and brightest child and parent of the century- no, the best and brightest child and parent EVER.

The truth looks much different. Parenting a profoundly gifted child can be an exhausting and uphill battle overflowing with anxiety, guilt, fear, and frustration. The extreme highs and pride which come from travelling alongside these glorious and vibrant souls are often offset by difficult decisions and uncertainty.

It often feels as though there is no place for the profoundly gifted child; and as a parent, I find myself constantly in a position where I have to choose between two equally wrong options: push to move forward or try to hold back. Neither option sits well in your stomach and you spend many sleepless nights discussing it with loved ones, reading reading reading, researching online, and thinking thinking thinking.

Not many people hear the term profoundly gifted and ask what I would wish for her; because, really, I have it all, don’t I? I should feel proud, blessed, and happy at all times. They hear that I accelerated my daughter, first entering Kindergarten a full year early, and then midway through the year accelerating again into First Grade, and they immediately assume either I have found the answer or I am pushing to make something happen. Either way, it’s all figured out. They say, “What more could she wish for? The moon!?”

But I do have a wish for my profoundly gifted little girl and it is not as unusual or crazy as one might expect: I want her to be happy.

All profound giftedness is not the same. For my daughter, it came with a speech delay and impediment. Speech therapists were quite intrigued and called it “twin-speak”, sans the twin, as they tried to figure out her language. It consisted of very odd replacements and sounds. I was her most trusted translator for many years. I always knew what she wanted to say and she was happy to let me help her say it.

Okay, let’s say it together now: en-ab-ler. True. But keep in mind I just wanted her to be happy- and she was happy when I translated. Enabling happiness, I like to say.

Still, it was not a shock when Kindergarten started and it became a traumatic and excruciating experience every morning as she begged me to go with her. It became such a struggle that I took a job working in the classroom to ease her anxiety and help her feel heard. I quickly blamed myself (see the above paragraph) and administration did the same. Let her cry it out, they said, let her find independence.

I have two older children, one with special needs, so I am no stranger to the idea that parents can get in the way of their children’s success at school. And so I stepped back and watched it unfold for a while.

Her behavior was quickly misunderstood by her Kindergarten teachers. Her unwillingness to learn was attributed to immaturity and she was able to hide in the classroom, regress in her learning, and internalize her fears. She would perform high sometimes and other times she would do less than everybody else. She was either the first one done or wouldn’t work at all. I was told that a gifted child can do more than she could do and if she didn’t produce they couldn’t help her in the classroom. Okay star, I wish for her to produce -whatever that means– produce so they can help you!

I spent my mornings trying to cajole, bribe, or force her to attend while I spent the afternoons trying to rein in the crazed outpouring of frustrations as she sought to fulfill her insatiable need to learn and work. She started pulling out her hair, chewing on it, and having accidents both during the day and at night. She would wake us every evening with night terrors or nightmares. I would put her to bed and then cry myself to sleep in a flurry of uncertainty.

I thought accelerating her was a good idea. She is in the 99th plus percentile in every area, she could read and write, she would do her sister’s math homework, it was academically the right move, wasn’t it? All of her friends were older than her and she played in extremely advanced circles of imagination, so it was socially the right move, right? I thought acceleration was more clear cut, that it would be something a parent understood innately, that the child who could do would do when put in the right situation.

And that’s when it hit me. Maybe it wasn’t my daughter. Maybe it was the situation.

This decision did not come easy. They never do. I considered pulling her out of school altogether, starting again fresh the next year, homeschooling, unschooling, reschooling, deschooling… There were many tearful advocacy meetings which ultimately led to a move to first grade in January.

The thing about acceleration is that it always starts so clear but then as you walk to the door to put your little girl in a class three years too old for her the air becomes thin, the view becomes hazy, and you are left wanting to turn and run, very fast, in the opposite direction, your profoundly gifted little gem on your shoulders giggling wildly as she yells, “Weeee haaa! Now THIS is how I want to spend my days!”

Alas, I did not run. Instead I gave it a try.

Wouldn’t you know she found happiness in First Grade? She asked me to stop walking her in so she could wait in line outside with the others. Of course! She asked me to let her pack her own lunch and backpack. You got it! She asked if she could write a letter to her teacher so she could tell her how much she loves her. Heart melts!

Academically she was still pretty quiet and her speech still got in her way, but she blossomed nonetheless. She still does more at home than at school, but so long as she finished happy, I was happy. Next year she will join first graders in a center gifted and talented program and I wish upon the same star that the second grade curriculum is a great fit.

I wish for a good fit because I want her to be happy. I wish for it because despite how it looks to the outside world, profoundly gifted children are, first and foremost, children. They want to run and play, explore and discover, love and be loved. They want to feel similarities with their friends rather than constantly understanding their differences. They want to giggle as much as they want to absorb.

If I get to the next step and she is not happy, I will do what it takes to slough off the parental anxiety and judgments, and I will fumble my way through another advocacy meeting. You see, it never gets easier and it never is clear and planned out for you. It’s a little change here and a little wish there.

When I looked at the first star on my daughter’s first night on this earth I wished for her to be happy. I did not wish for her life’s speed to be set on accelerate… but since it is already happening, I figure I’ll just go for it and wish for the moon. Why not? It’s what everyone is expecting and my daughter is headed straight for it.

** Around this time every year parents are faced with all of the difficult decisions revolving around the following school year’s game plan.  Do we accelerate?  Do we change?  Do we continue on?  It seemed like a good time to repost this post about PG kids and acceleration from June 9, 2014.**

A Sink Ronie

A Sink Ronie.  Asinkronie.  Asynchronous.  Asynchronous Learners.

Asynchronous is my new favorite word for gifted. Asynchronous Learner is, simply put, a child who develops in different things at different speeds and at varying abilities. For instance, a child who does Algebra at seven years old may lag over a year behind in handwriting. Where is that love button on Facebook when we need it? Asynchronous Learners. LOVE!

Such a simple change.  And I am ready to make it stick.

A word like asynchronous removes the image of elitism and replaces it with accuracy in definition. Asynchronous removes the anxiety-ridden expectations on both parents of gifted children and the gifted children themselves, and replaces them all with clearer understanding. Ultimately, asynchronous has the potential to remove the one-size-fits-all gifted child solution and replace it with the desperately needed individualized assessment which best fits each particular child.

Isn’t that what all of us have been asking for since we started this journey? Isn’t that what’s written on the sign you’re dangling over the freeway bridge?

I was most definitely asynchronous. I understood and remembered everything I heard, but couldn’t process my words to express age-appropriate emotions, needs, and responses. I could tap my pencil, my finger, my foot, my mind, all incessantly, but I couldn’t dribble a ball, play hopscotch, or keep the volleyball in the air. I could read anything, and did, but I couldn’t complete textbook reading and homework. I played with numbers in my head, but they did their own thing; and trust me when I say, they were not nice playmates and seldom listened to me. Still, I was just as gifted as any other gifted child.

So let me ask you parents: does your gifted or twice-exceptional child teeter between ages, totter between abilities, and stumble upon perfection sometimes and anxiety a lot of times?

It’s a double edged sword, snarling beast, use-our-best-imagination monster that is the gifted child’s needs. It breathes fire in the form of passion for something as often as it hides away in caves protecting its treasure from the world.

But we love our dragons, don’t we?

We want what’s best for them. We want to stand with parents of kids who are not gifted and feel accepted, understood, and maybe even commiserate with them about the issues, yes the issues, we have as parents of gifted children.  Yes, my children have been accelerated, treated, medicated, non-medicated, homeschooled, deschooled, unschooled, reschooled, old-schooled, and basically just loved and learned and hugged and appreciated. Just like them, just like you… I’ve tried it all to identify their needs and nurture their unique qualities. I have succeeded in some ways and of course I have missed the target altogether at other times.

Yet, schools are tasked with immediately and accurately determining their needs based upon scores and a few observations. A daunting task with very little budget provided to them.

Let’s start 2015 with something big, shall we?

Let’s start calling ourselves and our children Asynchronous Learners. Then, the rest of what you would say, the rest of your coffee chat, the moments you laugh about, cry about, and generally exhaust yourself thinking about… well, those moments can be told exactly as they would be anyway without that feeling that they stopped listening right after you said, “My child is gifted and….”

We have to make a change. I believe that. Children with unique needs at the other end of the spectrum have, in most cases though I’m sure it’s not perfect, been given the funding, attention, and specialized training they deserve to meet their needs. That’s all I ask the world for my child. And for yours.

Asynchronous Learners. Learners with areas of strength, areas of severe lack of strength, learning disabilities, need for acceleration, need for remedial support, and all the above. Learners who require a nod from the national education and special education budgets to boast public awareness, train specialists and individualize as needed, and fund each kid’s future the way so many others are funded.   How about this…. Let’s move forward in 2015 acknowledging our children’s very special needs rather than the special wants everyone on the outside seems to think we’re requesting.

Of course, this is all just my opinion. The opinion of a very lopsided, very profoundly gifted, and very prolific writer who was told she would never hold a pencil or form a cohesive thought.

So what says you?? Share, talk, redefine!

Of Wool and Wisdom

I need a little light.

Things on this blog have gotten heavy.  Let’s continue down the path to a story of taking what you have, gathering your small but useful resources and benefiting yourself, your family, and your community. It’s a story of great bravery, extreme courage, and steadfast determination.

And it begins with a little old lady in a tweed skirt and her folding dinner tray.

It was 1995 and I was studying English Literature at the University of Central England. During break a few friends and I decided to rent a car and drive through Wales. We mapped out various back roads, eager to hike the most remote areas.

Being as we were from the United States, Germany, Sweden, and Norway, none of us felt comfortable driving. Thank goodness for the Swedes’ love of cars. He drove while we navigated poorly. The large white words on the road, all in Welsh, did little to help us find our way. Still, we pushed forward and around and right and left and so on.

“What is that in the road?” Asked Sweden.

Norway sat in the front and he said it appeared to be some sort of animal. Germany and I stared at the map upside down, laughed at the lack of squiggly lines pinpointing where we were, and said nothing. We figured it was another sheep. There had been only us, rocks, and sheep for quite a while.

“No wait, it’s a person!” Norway exclaimed. After a few moments he added, “It’s a little old lady!”

Of course all of us became intrigued, leaning forward as we inched toward her.   Sweden only knew one speed when he drove: fast. But now, as we inched toward the woman, he had slowed down to a crawl.

It was, indeed, an old woman. She was, of all places, sitting right in the middle of the road.

She sat on a wooden folding chair wearing a grey tweed skirt and wool coat, buttoned to the chin, with a small knit hat resting on her head. Her hands were closed on her lap as if awaiting a sermon and her ankles were crossed, encased in proper hosiery, and they were finished off with well-worn brown loafers. Next to her was a metal folding dinner tray and on it was a small metal box.

Sweden came to a stop and the four of us regarded the one of her.

Her lips moved slightly in what one might call a smile and after what seemed like many hours we realized she would not be getting up.  When Sweden put the car in park, the four of us exited the car in unison and silently walked over.

“’Allo,” she said politely, “there’s a toll for passin here. Twelve pence, please”

She placed a hand on the box protectively and awaited our next move. She was a librarian, a grandmother, a churchgoer, a sewing circle member, a quilter… she was many things. But a toll booth? This we did not expect.

We looked at one another and back to the woman. We dug in our pockets, turned them inside out, realized we were a bit short, and looked back at the car as if it would magically produce some change or perhaps blink lights twice as our queue to run, jump in, and crash through this steel-willed barricade.

“It’s not enough,” said Sweden once we had handed him all of our loose change. Twelve pence wasn’t much, but we did not have it.   His hand, which held eight pence, extended toward the woman. In his most apologetic voice he pleaded, “I’m sorry, this is all we have.”

The woman remained unmoved.

We must have looked comical as we dove headfirst into the rental car, digging around for the missing four pence while cursing in four languages. We whispered plans to confront her; after all, we reasoned, she must be a con-artist, a scammer, a local beggar, and we were sure she was wanted by the local authorities. True, none of us had ever seen a criminal in such a well-starched outfit, but that was most likely the brilliance of her façade.

We considered our options.  The road was quite narrow and there was a stone wall on one side and a bit of a drop off on the other, so going around was not an option.  Going through- well, that one was out for obvious reasons.  We were poor; not crazy.

By a stroke of luck, we found the four pence.  We walked over together, paid the woman, and ignored the million questions hanging on our lips.

She reached into her pocket, pulled out a small key, and unlocked the small metal box.  After counting the money twice, she dropped it into the box and stood up.  She smoothed her coat and folded her chair. She took the box with her to the side of the road and she leaned it up against the stone wall. She returned with the box and did the same thing with the table. She stood on the side of the road, the box held with both hands in front of her, and said only, “’Ave a nice day.”

We stood there unsure and then hustled to our car, jumped in, and off we sped. Sweden was happy to be going fast again. Germany and I watched through the back window as she carried her small table back to the center of the road, set it up, and then took the box with her to get the chair. She set it up next to the table, set down the box, smoothed her coat, and sat down.

So curious, this moment.

We had seen maybe two vehicles on that particular road. Certainly the community wouldn’t expect an old woman to sit in the road for such a small amount of money. Perhaps she lived nearby and took it upon herself. Perhaps she collected the money and took it to a local charity. Maybe she drank it away or gambled it or stuffed a mattress with it. Perhaps she was crazy and hid it very well other than her habit of sitting in the road and collecting loose change from motorists.

The possibilities were endless. We couldn’t wait to drive back on the same road so that we could see her again; but alas, it was not to be.  We were not the best navigators and we never again passed her or any other elderly woman in tweed collecting tolls.

The story of this woman, this proper and orderly woman, is absolutely true. All of it happened in the span of five, maybe ten, minutes.  And since we were never given more information, I have let every moment become magnified in my memory.

The old woman in this story has become, in my mind, a representative of the calm and persistent qualities one needs to turn a sometimes isolated opportunity into some sort of purpose. She is a reminder that not all things are grand, not all things are exciting, and not all things make sense.  It is difficult, sometimes, to do something monotonous and droning. It can be aggravating to stick to something with such a small result. I feel it is in the gifted person’s nature to complicate a project, to expand all parameters, and to accelerate the speed at which we move.

My little toll lady story reminds me, and in turn I remind my gifted children, that sometimes sticking to one thing, one slow and ordinary thing, can have big results.

After all, if only ten cars pass a day and she collected from all of them, steadfast in her stance and brave in her placement, she would have over four hundred pounds, or over six hundred U.S. dollars, in just one year!  And that, truth be told, is worthy of her small and unwavering effort.

“Your hand is never the worse for doing its own work.”  ~ Welsh Proverb

Little 6c

What is gifted and talented supposed to look like? What face is on the ideal lifetime of gifted contribution? Which pieces of the puzzle do learning disability, life circumstance, and opportunity support or hinder?

It is no secret that I made poor choices when I was younger and I’m sure many, and I do mean many, gifted adults would commiserate with me. They would shake their heads in wonder at some of the things that they have done. We would all wish for a gigantic broom and rug so that we could sweep, sweep, sweep some of those pesky little details underneath and out of truth.

As for me, most of my time was spent in the world of addiction. Addicts and I had a lot in common and there was comfort in their chemical-induced extremes. I never liked to do anything that took away my ability to retreat into my mind and I suppose that tiny fact saved my life.

Observer. That was the face behind which you’d find me. It was a great hiding place. No one thought to look for me there; and if they did, I’d see them coming.

I sat back and watched the beautiful and passionate people around me turn their passions and their ideas into spaces to fill with more drugs. I was their note taker. I was the person who wrote it all down in a brain not too damaged by addiction. I observed. But I did nothing.   That was my addiction, I suppose, an addiction to feeling like I could not say, I could not be, and I could not do. Observer, for me, was just as strong as their drug.

Now, I am out spreading the word.  The words we tell kids is that life is all about choices. We make good and bad choices all the time and our futures are driven by them. The Bad Kid fears that his or her choices make them bad people and the Good Kid fears that his or her choices are the hinge upon which their entire universe is balanced.

There is no need for hindsight. Let’s tell our gifted kids that their method of overthinking decisions is truth. That’s right; it is my belief that the truth is both and neither. Both choices are right, both choices are wrong, and neither choice is right, and neither choice is wrong. Choices are infinity-fold and the gifted teen knows this innately. They were born knowing it and they breathe it in daily. Telling a gifted teen to make that one and only good choice… telling them to choose right or left, right or wrong, good or bad… it can become an external struggle for the ages and an internal struggle from which they may never recover.

Infinity-fold choices.  No right.  No wrong.  All right.  All wrong.  This is what I would tell them.

As I said, I was knee deep in a group of addictions. I played the role of Observer. But there was a moment –a singular choice I made – which removed me from that scene indefinitely. It is a story, one of the million stories which stay with me, that seeps into my dreams like heroin finds its way into a former addict’s nightmares. I wonder, always wonder, what I would change if I could. There are so many moments to choose from.

This change would come first.

It was cold outside and I had moved back home with my mother. She and I had just fought over my refusal to take the GED. She desperately wanted me to go and take the test, she had set the appointment; and I, foolish daughter, was too scared to go.  I hid that fear behind refusal and apathy.  After all- who wants to take and fail the GED?

I ran to my friends for moral support.   Please tell me it’s okay to be, to say, to do nothing… and I received that support in spades.

We ended up at a friend of a friend of a friend’s apartment.  We sat around a card table smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. It wasn’t long before the hard stuff came out. I wasn’t in the mood to drink and I never did like the hard stuff.

As usual, I was well hidden in my role as Observer.

Late into the night I observed.  Leaning back, smiling where appropriate, smoking cigarette after cigarette, and secretly worrying about the GED.   I mean, really, how hard could it be? I had read the GRE study guide. Surely this had to be easier than the GRE? But what if there are bubbles to fill in…. what if there are –gulp- multiple choice math problems?

It was past midnight when I heard the sound.

It was quiet at first. My ears pushed through the hot, the smoke, the noise, and the lifeless conversation… it sounded like a kitten mewling. Was it trapped somewhere? Was it outside in the cold? Did it need help? As soon as I started to pinpoint the direction- it was gone. I tried to brush it off.

There it was again.

I stared at the door. Outside I knew there was a long hallway with ten similar doors.  I followed the sound with my ears, visualizing the hall, the dirty carpet, and each door. I tried to find the door behind which the sound was most intense.

The sound was constant now. It wasn’t a kitten.

From somewhere deep in the building it was howling. Like a train mournfully tearing across a wheat field covered in snow, muffled yet intense, and as keen as it was distant. The sound was as sad as it was driven by purpose.

Laughter pulled me from my thoughts. A girl I didn’t know was laughing. Too loudly.

She covered up the sounds I was so desperately trying to locate. Her head was pale and exposed by a recent buzz cut. She had left her bangs long and blonde with hot pink ends which covered one eye.   She had as many piercings as she had volume and both flashed too loudly for my senses. It was time to go.

I stood up just as she did. We looked across the table at one another.

“I’m going to head out.” I said and started towards the door without saying goodbye.

“Wait, I’ll go with you!” buzz girl said, grabbing her cigarette and bouncing towards the door.

We opened the door and the intensity of the noise hit me square in the chest. It was coming from the left. Buzz girl went left.  The exit was right.  I went left.

The noise from our party was nearly erased by the sound of wailing in the hallway. With only two lights, both encased in 1970s amber-colored glass, I could barely see; but I could hear. I could hear the cry, the scream, the whimper, the fear…

I could hear the baby.

Buzz girl stumbled back and forth, cigarette in her mouth, a ping pong ball on her way down a urine-soaked hallway to her innocent child. I walked steadily behind her.  My stomach grew heavy.  I could turn and run. I should. I was going in the wrong direction.

When she arrived at 6c she opened the door. It wasn’t locked.

Inside a small metal lamp offered the only light. Centered in the room was a dirty square playpen. A small child was sitting against the netting, too tired to stand any longer, wearing only a very full diaper. The acrid smell in the apartment was hard to mistake: a mixture of human waste, heroin, booze, and filth. The heat, which was regulated by the superintendent, was on full blast and made the small room an oven.

I stood in the doorway. I wasn’t sure what to do.

Buzz girl stumbled into the small studio kitchen, opened a dirty bottle, and filled it with water. She opened a cupboard and took out a bag of white sugar. Reaching into the bag, she closed her fist around as much sugar as it would hold. I watched as sugar fell through her fingers on its way to her other hand holding the bottle. She opened her hand and grains of sugar fell all over, some landing in the liquid, others landing on the counter, the floor, and her clothes.

She closed the lid, shook it twice, and looked over at me.  When she saw my quizzical look she just shrugged, “Milk is expensive. This baby gonna eat me out of house and home.”

She leaned over the playpen, her silver piercings catching the light, as she handed it to the baby who took it eagerly and fell over backwards in eagerness for that first useless sip.

Buzz girl hurried out of the apartment and shoved me out of the way of the door. She slammed it shut without locking it and leaned back. She looked at me as if to say, “There, we did it.”

She wiped the sugar off of her hands and headed back towards the party.

I stood there.

She opened the party door, the noise intensified, and then it was closed. I heard her annoying laughter once more.

I stood there.

The baby had quieted but I could hear small sobs. The door was unlocked.

I stood there.

At the far end of the hall an exit sign buzzed, on and off, the letters had broken so that it read E IT.

I stood there.

The sobbing finally stopped. I was certain the baby had fallen asleep.

I stood there.

I was so tired. So tired of not knowing who I was capable of becoming.  So tired of pretending.  So tired of watching it all go down.  But most of all, I was tired of who I was allowing myself to be.

I walked to the party door. I kept walking. I walked to the E IT sign. I kept walking.  That night I walked out of that hallway and into a new life. I walked into a life in which I was an active participant who needed to act worthy of the opportunities she had been given to achieve something.

It all sounds so majestic, but the fact remains- I never opened that door. I walked away and into my own life without opening the door and doing something. I observed.  I observed to my and an innocent life’s detriment.

What I would tell gifted teens and lost teens and young kids and all kids is that addiction, of any kind, does just that. It walks away when it shouldn’t. It is selfish, unkind, and unrelenting. Walking away from that apartment building was the best and worst decision I’ve ever had to make; and even now, twenty-five years later, I cry for Little 6c and wonder if anyone ever opened the door.

We can’t sweep it all under the rug. Gifted doesn’t look like me and gifted doesn’t look like you. Gifted doesn’t look like anything at all. It is not perfect and shiny, quiet and capable, beautiful and prepared. It is, just like all things, something from which we start; and from there, we can go in any number of directions. Infinity-fold. That’s the truth, that’s the dust, that’s the rug, and that’s the sound I was following.

Little 6c, I’m sorry I never opened your door. I should have. I could have. But I walked away instead. Ever the Observer. The best and worst decision I ever made. It’s what my gifted looks like; it’s what my gifted feels like; and that, dear readers, dear gifted teens, dear gifted adults, dear unidentified gifted child locked behind the proverbial door, is what my gifted sounds like when I close my eyes.

Stop. Motion.

My two youngest children discovered stop motion filmmaking in the same way they discovered volcanos, dolphins, making pies, cartooning, and weaving. It burst upon them in an unstoppable force which had to be carried out right at that very moment and was to continue until such time that the passion ebbed and the excitement flow ran out of steam.

While I, exhausted mother, went fetal in their wake, mumbling incoherently as I rocked back and forth amongst bits of discarded lighting, torn backdrops, and plush and Lego film stars awaiting their directions.

We try so hard- don’t we?

Look, I absolutely love passion. I have a passion for passion, as it were. But let’s face it, these gifted gems fell from gifted trees, if trees grew gems that is, and even as parents we are still just as prone to overexcitabilities of our own. We all get just as jazzed about the new passion as they do, but we do it on older knees and with the same load of wash going through the washer three times.

Still, the last thing I want to do is stifle that passion.

Stifling the gift of passion is truly and literally the last thing I would do on this earth. And since I’m reasonably sure their next passion won’t be who can proceed the calmest through a Monday or 1001 ways to solve problems without jumping up and down on mom and dad’s bed at 5:00 a.m., I will have to deal with the laundry later and find every moment, every insatiable and enchanting moment, as an absolute gift to my soul.

I remind myself that exhaustion can be repaired in a night but the loss of passion for learning may never be restored.

Even when it’s not so easy.

Stop motion filmmaking was easy and fun. There were not too many tears and all in all the day was a success.  But there are times they can’t ebb that passion in a day.

When my daughter decided she would learn to ride without training wheels, she left the house thrilled at the prospect and then stormed back into the house in tears twenty minutes later when her ability was not up to par with her imagination.

I held her while she cried.  I said, “Not all things happen in a day.”  Which brought her to the next grief level: anger.  It’s time to teach mom all of the things that DO happen in a day!  (I share because I know you have all been there!  But oh, the worrisome stares from the public we could collectively claim!)

Gifted kids are passionate about everything and they expect everything to flow at the same rate.

Take, for example, writing.  If I had a quarter for every writing woe I have felt or stories of writing woes friends have shared with me, I’d have… well, if you’ve read my blog you know I’ll never count them; suffice it to say, I’d have a lot of quarters.

Kids are passionate about writing.  They are passionate about stories and thoughts and words and learning letters and a particular pencil and lines and pictures and the view outside their window and…. the list goes on and on.  Putting that all together and producing the work necessary at the moment and in that moment? That’s another thing altogether.

This journey can be exhausting or it can be exhilarating.   It’s really all about perspective.  If we refuse the passion for today’s obsession, we risk removing the passion for tomorrow’s lesson. Worse, we might add anxiety to passion that can’t be helped and can’t be controlled.

I say, let them go with their passion, whether it is filmmaking or rubber ducky racing, and try to understand how they feel when they just can’t get it quick enough and they have to cry.  They will need to learn how to function through that passion, but we can be there to listen, to enjoy, to support, and to set up the camera.  After all, your child will learn to ride a bike, hold a pencil, write a story, and maybe even put together a short stop motion film.  It might not happen in a day, most things don’t, but it will happen.

All of this sounds great on paper—but I am just like you, a parent who is just trying her best and finding myself at times unable to come up with the right answer.  For every blissful moment, there is a counter moment during which I run out of the room screaming, crying, and pulling out my hair.  And that might have been a good day!

I just remind myself as often as possible that an object in motion stays that way unless… you know the rest.  I don’t want to be that external object which causes them to. Stop.

(So long as I’m going there…. oh, to be an object at rest!)

6576

Somewhere out there is a locker.  In it is a jean jacket, a copy of Cat’s Cradle, a paper-bag covered textbook which was never opened, and a slip of paper. On that slip of paper is the code which opens the lock holding the items hostage.

Memories like this one further validate my need to carry everything on my person.

But I digress. Back to my locker. In theory, of course. I’ll never go back. And anyway, I can’t.

Leaving the code inside the locker was a rookie mistake. I went to the office and said I needed a new locker. I said that I had not been assigned a locker the week before. The staff was flustered, as they always were when I abused the system to cover my mistakes; after all, they were certain that the locker assignment had happened, as planned, a week prior.

Are you certain, dear?

Here’s the thing: I changed high schools nine times and in the one and a half years I attended high school in total, I learned little in the way of curriculum. The changes did provide me with loads of experience in Office Speak. I was fluent. I could talk my way into, out of, and around any high school front office.

This was cake.

After a few bewildered and impatient moments during which we both looked at each other, the form, each other, the form, the truth, the clock… she acquiesced, mainly to get me out of there, and she gave me a new locker.

I was never worried.

Before I left, she showed me a map of lockers and hallways which made the school look like a primary game of Tetris and I tried, very hard, to look like I got it all while secretly sweating. I knew I’d remember the color blocks and the exits, clearly labeled as they were, but…. Dear God, what was it with all of those tiny numbers?  There were so, so many of them. Laughing and pointing, reminding me that only a fool leaves her locker code inside the locker.

Off I went. Blue 32 steps, red 14 steps, yellow staircase no need to count, past the funny-looking Dalmatian portrait, and… 6574, 6573, 6572, 6571… almost there. No, wait. The numbers are going down. I turned around. 6572, 6573, 6574, 6575, Biology 301, Mr. Hastings. 6589, 6590, 6591. Wait, what?!

I crossed the hall, looking for the missing numbers, checked the map, and then –suddenly- I was in the 6300s. I was lost and tired and the bell decided right at that moment that it would add some humor to the situation. Doors opened, kids rushed out of classrooms, and my sense of space was invaded by noise and chaos. There would be no numbers found that day.

Maybe the next school would use a better system? Maybe it could fix this.

I realized that I had better hurry and beat the truancy officer. I ran towards the exit sign –green- my favorite color on the map! I pushed hard and the door flew open sending a rush of cold air into my soul. It snatched the slip of paper from my hand. Up, up, up it flew. It floated a moment and then rushed towards the ground and landed in my path. I rushed to pick it up.

Locker Number: 7566

Not even close. Ah well, maybe lucky school number ten will fix it. Fix this.

Recently I had a conversation with an amazing group of parents trying their best at this parenting-the-gifted-child thing we keep talking about. They expressed the anxiety, the extreme anxiety, we have all experienced along the way. We all fret over the what-if-they-do’s as much as we fret over the what-if-they-don’t’s. We compare their journeys to our own and to other children’s even though we know we shouldn’t.

What’s the worst that could happen, we wondered?

I expressed it was on this very blog that I, for the first time in my life, shared the stories of my high school experience, of dropping out, getting a GED, and hiding disabilities –and abilities- for years upon years.

A friend smiled and said, “Look at you now! See, it doesn’t even matter!”

This is a sentiment I would have loved to hear 25 years ago. Now, however, I realize it does matter. It matters a lot. I thought the degrees and the successes were top. They were my sundae, my toppings, my icing, and my cherry. I thought they made me who I had become and by sheer effort of forceful ignoring the bad stuff my childhood would just — disappear.

Nothing disappears. Especially for the gifted person who has the gift of memory.

People ask me if the stories I tell are true. Absolutely. My Nagymama was a real light, a beautiful light, who unintentionally tripped into a bad decade and dealt with it the only way a brilliant mind can. Billy was a real kid, a great kid, a truly gifted kid who fought a battle against ignorance, poverty, and abuse, and lost. Cassie was a real friend, a great friend, a truly messed up, addicted, and disillusioned kind of friend, who I secretly hoped would read my blog and email me, “Is that you!?” Yes, yes it is.

This story is real.  Very real.  There is a lucky jean jacket wearing winner of a Vonnegut book somewhere in this universe.  The real… the real about being gifted and learning disabled is that even if you don’t know about either one… you still know.  You just do.  And it doesn’t always make it feel any better.

Sometimes it just feels like bits and pieces of memory locked away with their codes in places you will never find.  You can easily feel lost.  You can easily learn to pretend.  But it’s real.

My failures are real.  My failures matter. They matter to all of those kids who we have a responsibility to change the method of testing to identify. They matter because they were not really failures at all and I believe the parents who are anxiously raising their twice-exceptional kids and the kids who are daily struggling with their own truths need to hear that failure is just a comparison to an antiquated notion of success.

I will keep telling my stories and I will never again hide those things which went wrong.  I will work hard to make it real, to make it raw, and to make it matter.

That’s how we’ll fix this.