Here we go again. Someone else is writing about how every child is gifted. Which, of course, means no child is gifted. I’m referring to the clinical definition of gifted, which is usually testable and defined by certain characteristics.
Farrah Alexander’s article in HuffPo is based on her experience with her three-year-old son, who certainly sounds bright and inquisitive. The point of her post is that every child is unique and special, and that, as she puts it, “hard work is a more important factor than intelligence.”
She writes “Frankly it would seem unfair to me to treat one kid differently than the other based on any perceived notion of intelligence and “giftedness.”
At first I got upset when I read her comment about “special snowflakes.” Then I was saddened to read that she thinks that gifted kids (and their parents) think gifted means somehow better than everyone else.
They’re not. Perhaps she met one of those parents: the ones who have to prove their kid is so much better than everyone else. Perhaps the term “gifted” was used as a bludgeon in some warped goal towards social dominance when she was a kid. I don’t know.
I’m not an expert, any more than Farah Alexander is. I don’t have articles or studies to quote, and I’ll leave that to someone with more time on their hands and more brain cells to work with. All I can say is that gifted kids are different.
In this day and age, pointing someone out as different gets you the stink-eye from every authority around. The problem is, you have to define difference in order to teach effectively. What else do you think an IEP is? To define the differences of kids with learning disabilities and figure out ways to help them succeed in school.
Why can’t gifted kids have something like that? An individualized education plan to help them function, help them learn, help them stay challenged in a teach-to-the-middle environment?
If you’ve ever met a truly gifted kid you’ll know there’s a difference. Their mind works differently than neurotypical kids. Gifted kids are more: more intense, more emotional, more intellectual, more … difficult. Yup, I said it.
Being gifted isn’t easy. Asynchronous development means that gifted kids can struggle to relate to their peers. They may be behind socially, ahead of the curve academically, and all over the grades in different subjects. They just don’t fit in.
And that’s ok. I’m fine with teaching my 5-year-old that you can be unique, that you can stand out in a good way without being an insufferable brat about it. Who really wants a homogenous mix of kids anyway? Difference makes us unique, makes us interesting.
So yes, defining giftedness matters. It’s not about being better, it’s about different needs. You might not think that it matters or you might be offended by the term. But you’re not the one dealing with the gifted kid who wants to know everything about everything under the sun, not to mention space and beyond. The kid who can’t go to sleep at night because his brain just won’t shut down. The kid who is so worried about death (at age 3) that she’s terrified her parents will die before she sees them again in the morning.
If labeling my kid as gifted means people understand his challenges even a little bit, I’m for it. If I can mention asynchronous development and his therapist gets it without an explanation, that’s wonderful. If calling him gifted helps the online teacher in the electronics course understand why my 5-year-old wants to take his (middle school) course, that’s helpful.
Just understand this: gifted isn’t better. It’s just different.
And most days, I’d gladly trade gifted for average. Because you have NO IDEA what our life is like, and trust me, you don’t want to!