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Sep 29 2010

Talking to your kids about their giftedness

Talking to your kids about their giftednessIf there is a book about teaching kids about their giftedness, I’ve missed it. Or it’s in the pile of books threatening to topple over and smother me as I work. Either way, I need it in my life because we’ve hit that point here at the House of Chaos.

How on earth do you teach your kid to advocate for himself when he doesn’t believe he is gifted?

A and I just had an interesting conversation in the car. “Just” as in thirty minutes ago, as we drove to his Cub Scout meeting, so I’m still reeling. Out of the blue:

A: “Mom, Mrs. <Redacted> threatened to throw me out of GT today.”
Me {klaxon horns blaring}: “Uh, wha’?”
A: “Yeah, she threatened to throw me out of GT today if I didn’t do my work, so I quit.”
Me {mother effin’ MORE BAD WORDS I CAN’T PRINT HERE}: “Ok, for starters, you’re not quitting GT. Why did she threaten to throw you out?”
A: “I wasn’t working on my invention and she doesn’t know I have trouble with writing and Mrs. <Last Year’s Teacher He Adored> knew that and she threatened to throw me out so I quit. I’m not gifted anyway.”

It was about that point that I started fantasizing about a full barrel of red wine living in my house, connected to a dispenser/aerator in the kitchen wall. I can’t have a kegerator, I want a vat of wine on call. Or Bacchus as my love slave.

After all this, after all the testing and the advocating and the supporting and the parenting classes and and and…my son doesn’t believe he is gifted.

And I realized I have failed him.

Besides the obvious fact that I will be contacting Mrs. <Redacted> about this little matter, I’m reeling as to what to do. He and I had a quick conversation in the car where I tried to convince him that giftedness is not super-smart, it’s wiring, but I’m not so sure it made any difference. For starters, it’s damned hard to have a conversation with a boy carrying a large walking stick, excited to go on a night hike. No, lemme break that down further. It’s damned hard to have a conversation with a boy. Period.

A thinks that because school is much harder for him than other kids that he’s not smart. That he’s not gifted. I didn’t realize until tonight that this was the case, and I’m horrified to learn all this. I’ve seen his testing; there is no doubt he is highly gifted and no doubt that he is twice-exceptional. If I’d ever doubted the validity of getting him tested, I don’t now. I have the testing as proof, for God and the whole world and my son to see. And now I’m wondering if we should test J too, for the same reason. I’ll eat my sandals if he’s 2e, but I can see this popping up when school ceases to be so easy for him.

Like Hermione Grainger, I believe that answers are somewhere out there in books. Surely there is a book out there for a nine year old boy about giftedness and what it truly is. That gifted kids observe, interpret, and react to the world around them differently. That it’s wiring. That it’s ok. That anyone who tries to tell you that it’s only super-smart is wrong wrong wrong.

Damn. And school was going so well.

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  1. Lisa Conrad

    Mom, he’s 9. He’s still working on self-awareness.
    The teacher on the other hand is certainly self-aware, but obviously in need of an attitude adjustment with some professional development thrown it for good measure.
    This is why we advocate.
    Just sayin’ …
    Lisa Conrad recently posted…Things TED Taught Me …My Profile

    1. Jen

      True, he is still working on self-awareness, and I need to remember that he is living, breathing asynchrony. I just realized that *I* had done him wrong, that by not focusing on his giftedness at all, that he seemed to think that he wasn’t smart. After emailing the teacher, I got more details to the story and discovered that she was talking to the group at large, not him, and he took a molehill and created Everest. She said HE was doing great work that day! Sigh…she knows what she’s doing and is quite good at it. Just wish teachers knew more about the whole intensity thing.

  2. Susanne

    Poor guy. There is a book out there called “Archibald Frisby” he’s not 2E but he is gifted and kinda set apart from other kids for a bit. Good story. Beneath a 9 year old in reading level, but mine never really mind that so maybe yours won’t either.

    I think it’s hard for kids to realize that not understanding something and not knowing the answers is not a bad thing. It’s okay to not know things. Because if you knew everything you wouldn’t have to learn it.

    Poor guy.
    Susanne recently posted…Wonderful Wednesday- Fall is on the way!My Profile

    1. Jen

      Archibald Frisby…that seems to ring a bell. Don’t know why, but it sounds familiar. I’ll check to see if our library has it. Might be something I could read to both boys together. Thanks!

  3. JenC

    Oh, hon, that had to be heartbreaking and infuriating all at once! Drop me a line if you want to talk. I’d be happy to pass along what my parents did. It worked, at least for me.

    1. Jen

      Well, it was all HIM, not the teacher. I’ll reply to your email in a bit…

  4. melissaz

    Poor little guy. Should I still come up there, or will you be in jail for having killed Mrs. Redacted? I’m going to think on this one and come up with some suggestions. In the meantime, give him a big giant hug.
    melissaz recently posted…Maybe later…My Profile

    1. Jen

      Mrs. Redacted was apparently talking to the whole group, not him, and he went all mental on it. Sigh… She said he was doing great work that day. I think *I* just need to work with the boys on exactly what giftedness IS, so they don’t believe the myth that it’s just super-smart. I already see J giving up on a few things because they’re hard. Uh…you’re in first grade, dude!

  5. Carolyn K.

    And there are some other 2e novels and books out there for him to read, too. Try the On Being Gifted reading list, one of the Hot Topics reading lists I keep: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/being_gifted.htm

    I hope this helps you! I’m still working on it with my 2e young lady here… so I’m not sure what the best answer is. If you find it, please share!

    1. Jen

      Thanks Carolyn! I’ll check out the list you have; I think we need to do more kid-educating in my house right now more than anything. I don’t want the boys falling into the myth that giftedness is JUST super-smart and nothing else. I spoke with the teacher; she was talking to the entire group, and my emotionally intense kid heard it as “shape up or ship out.” Gah…

  6. Fiona

    Maybe he needs to be allowed to drop out of GT.

    I can empathise with where you’re at. I’m also a solve the problem person. Much to my surprise though, I’ve also had some amazing success with letting go of the ‘normal’ way of fixing problems. I battled with swimming lessons for years and eventually just let daughter drop out. I figured I’d give it a year. Six months later an eleven yr old taught her the skill she just couldn’t grasp and all of a sudden we were back on track. She had fun learning to swim. I realised I needed to find ways to allow her to love learning, not just focus on the learning.

    I wonder to what extent kids associate the activities with defining themselves. ‘I am gifted because I’m in GT. If I get kicked out of GT then I’m not gifted.’

    What would happen if you played it cool and said – ok, you don’t have to do GT, we can support your giftedness in other ways?

    1. Jen

      I dunno, Fiona. I think he really needs the program. The focus this year is on inventions, and the kid desperately wants to be an inventor when he grows up. He’ll be a great one, too. I’ve done the exact thing you’ve described with activities, swimming in particular. He eventually grew into learning it, after having epic meltdowns over the aeration jets, and now swims like a fish. If were any other activity, I’d likely let him drop. But this one…I think he needs it, simply because he struggles in so many areas and shines here. I spoke to the teacher and she was speaking to the whole class; he heard “do your work or get out.” He’s pretty intense that way. Sigh…somehow I just.keep.forgetting this. LOL!

  7. Kelly

    (saw your post on the Hoagie’s fb feed)

    When I finally got my hands on “Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner,”
    by Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D. it was like reading the story of my daughter. I had a sense about what was going on, but hadn’t really read about this kind of kid. My son was straightforward gifted and not difficult to peg. He tests extremely well. But my daughter, who will do great hands-on work and loves to delve into things, just struggles with the “performance” side of academics – mainly testing. I was sad that I only found this information when she was 12, but it was great to know that my instincts have been correct, and it gave me a roadmap for the future with her.

    ISBN: 1-932186-00-X

    -Kelly

    1. Jen

      Oy, Kelly. I’m embarrassed to say I have this book. I think I got one of the last copies in the States last summer, from the Gifted Development Center in Denver when A was tested. Got to meet Dr. Silverman too; wanted to beg that she take him home because I’m convinced I’m screwing him up. LOL! Like most of the GT books I have, I’ve gotten through the introduction and then the next crisis pulled me away, and there the book still sits. A is very most definitely a VSL and thankfully his teacher this year recognizes this and allows him to do a lot of his work on the computer. Methinks I gotta go read this one. Thanks.

  8. cocobean

    A – use Harry Potter – who is THE wizard, so powerful that he’s the chosen one, but nothing really comes easy to him. He still does poorly in some classes (especially when his effort/interest doesn’t match up with the expectation) – but Hermione, who is not a pureblood, does exceptionally well at things because of the time & work she’s willing to put into it. Sometimes in the world, people aren’t looking at your ability but your effort…

    B – my DD is definitely aware of her “giftedness” – but she still smacks right up against things that are HARD and has the negative self-image. When Math got “hard” she all of a sudden said she was “bad at math” – and she’s not. Spelling used to be torture for her – she never believed us that practice would make it easier. Now that spelling is easier for her, she says “sure, now when I don’t have spelling class, I can spell” – she doesn’t understand that all that work (even when it wasn’t easy and she didn’t do well) paid off and she DID learn it.

    When a child just somehow KNOWS things, the process of learning is going to be foreign whether they are 2e or just 1e… In a way, giftedness in and of itself is a learning disability.

    1. Jen

      Ooh! Good idea! A looooves Harry Potter, so that would be a great analogy for him!!! Thanks!

  9. abbadabba

    Once gifted, always gifted. Mrs. Redacted should be reprimanded. Teachers and administrators also need more education re twice exceptional children. Good luck.

    1. Jen

      I talked to the teacher and found out that a lot of the kids were goofing off and she was speaking to the class as a whole. My “molehill into Everest” child heard “do your work, A, or get out!” She said he had been doing great work that day! So I think what I need to do is more educating here at home, teaching my boys that they’re just wired differently and that’s ok. I think, in trying not to focus on their giftedness with them, that I’ve done them a disservice and gone too far the other way. The boys are in their public school, but it’s the district’s GT focus elementary school, so there is a great deal of continuing education for the teachers on giftedness. On 2e…ehhhh….I dunno yet. I just know the teachers and administrators know how these kids can be, and while we’re blessed with that, sometimes it still isn’t a great fit.

  10. Jeanine

    Best wishes to you and your family! You can kick the child out of class but you can’t kick the “wiring” out of the child. If you haven’t already, get a copy of ” “Mellow Out” They Say, If Only I Could”. This is from the kids perspective. It really helps in understanding what they may be thinking about.
    I continue to struggle with supporting my child in the school environment where the attitude is the child can’t be 2e if he/she is gifted.

    1. Jen

      Jeanine, sadly, this is another book I own and have only read the intro. Sigh…someday I’ll learn that the intro plus putting it under my pillow will NOT make me learn it. For A it’s alllll wiring, and sometimes it sparks. Trust me, it’s in the queue.
      Oh, 2e IS gifted. Some studies have indicated that the higher the giftedness, the higher the possibility of funky wiring. But I agree, it’s soooo tough getting that across to folks who want numbers and believe giftedness is ONLY super-smart.
      Thanks!

  11. Andrea Harman-Mondeau

    Thank you for sharing that! My sons are both 2E. I had similar problems with some teachers (worked around) and one administrator in particular. My Aspie son had a breakdown and became suicidal… hitting himself over the head with a dictionary and saying “I’m so stupid,” because he couldn’t keep up with his writing. The administrator thought it was a “family problem!!!!” Why is it that there are no places in the public schools for 2E kids?!?!

    1. Jen

      Holy CRAP! Unfortunately, I kinda know where you’re coming from on this one. A isn’t Aspie, but we went through a stretch this winter when he was truly struggling and saying he wished he’d never been born, that he was stupid, that he wanted to die. Support from the school and family therapy really did help get us through that. But a school administrator saying it was a “family problem?!?!” Wow. Ass. Public schools, IMHO, don’t know how to classify these kids, so they just pass them along and call it a family problem. They’re smart, but how can they be gifted if they have all these other issues? A has an ALP for the GT program, but no IEP for his struggles. Drives me insane.

  12. David

    Two recommendations:

    1. For a book, try The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide – (there’s also a Teens and Adults version, my 11 year old son just reminded me). A book written specifically for kids, including a great deal of quotes directly from kids.

    2. NAGC’s Gifted Children’s Bill of Rights. Included are reminders that “it’s ok to make mistakes” and “it’s ok not to be gifted at everything.”

    1. Jen

      {hanging head in shame}
      David, I have the book (have read only part) and have the Bill of Rights on our blackboard (though haven’t really talked about it with the boys). The book is near the top of my queue, and as soon as I’m done I’m passing it along to A and he and I are going to have some deep conversations. I think what we need right now is some education on giftedness here at home.

  13. Michelle

    My daughter really loved this book for gifted children. ‘The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide: For Ages 10 & Under’ by Judy Galbraith M.A.

    You could offer to read it with him if he doesn’t enjoy reading on his own. It’s been a great resource for me as well.

    1. Jen

      {mumble} I have the book, haven’t read much {mumble} Seriously, it’s embarrassing how many books I own and have only read a part. πŸ™ I’ve started it up again (have a few others I need to finish up first), and then A and I will read it together. I think it’ll really help things with him. I hope…

  14. RoseT

    There’s a book called The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide: For Ages 10 & Under by Judy Galbraith. My son loved the Teen version.

    1. Jen

      Yup. Have it. πŸ™‚ Nope, haven’t read much of it. πŸ™ Yeah, I’ll be digging back into it and then reading with A. Thanks for the reminder of it!

  15. Me

    No! No! No! You have NOT failed him. I could name another young man who would scoff if you told him he is gifted! And he’s a great success. And a young woman we both know and love!A big part of the problem is low self-esteem. Keep trying to “heap” it on him.

    1. Jen

      Yeah, that other young man did indeed scoff at me this weekend. LOL! But I do feel I’ve failed A in some respects. Just hard to get through to him sometimes, and exhausting to boot. Gah.

  16. Lessa Scherrer

    There’s a picture book about Einstein called “Odd Boy Out.” If anyone is 2e, it’s Einstein.

    1. Jen

      We…I think we might have this one. A adores Einstein. His main man. πŸ˜‰ So we have several different kid-focused biographies of Einstein floating around the house. Einstein is totally 2e, which is how A relates to him so well. Thanks!

  17. Linda

    Sounds like you’ve got a writing project on your hands. πŸ™‚

    1. Jen

      Linda, I might. Still tossing ideas around in my brain. πŸ™‚

  18. Just Margaret

    …That it’s wiring. That it’s ok. That anyone who tries to tell you that it’s only super-smart is wrong wrong wrong.

    My boy is a bit younger than your son…but I have been looking for that same elusive book for a while now.
    Just Margaret recently posted…How I fought Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD and lost 45 pounds in the process- Part 2My Profile

    1. Jen

      If I find it, I’ll let you know. If I write it, I’ll scream it to the skies. LOL πŸ˜‰

  19. Robin from Israel

    Can I just say ditto to everything your very wise friends have already said? (Sorry to be late to the party – and to your birthday (happy birthday my much younger than me friend!) – I was away until late last night.)

    Nine year olds are by definition self-centered and often clueless, not to mention alternately adorable and utterly exasperating.

    Sending a virtual margaritasicle (’cause it just sounds like such a perfect idea) your way.

    xox

    ———————————–
    My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!
    Robin from Israel recently posted…Summer Stock Sunday 2010 – Grand FinaleMy Profile

    1. Jen

      When does the self-centeredness end? Ever? LOL How about the cluelessness? πŸ˜‰

  20. Lori

    As you know, my guy is also twice exceptional.. you are right, that doesn’t always look like “super smart”.. it looks like “super different!” We went through a big period of time last year when my guy was convinced he was stupid. All I can say it open, honest, lots of walks helped. We actually went on a big walk at the beginning of the school year where I explained to him what he does well and what he doesn’t do well and why that makes him twice exceptional. He seemed to grab onto that. I also told him when he gets older he can concentrate on the “do wells”.. I think he liked that. It’s so hard!
    Lori recently posted…why- why- whyMy Profile

    1. Jen

      Yeah, it is so hard. I’m tired of hard. It’s been hard for 9 years. A came out as Advanced Parenting and just got harder from there. I think more talks will help. More educating him and his brother about giftedness and what it really is. More wine. πŸ˜‰

  21. Benoit

    Hello,
    First pass here…I come from Christine’s blog.

    There seems to be a lot of struggle in your life
    πŸ™

    I think that giftedness is about being different, divergent, but also clever. That does not mean that gifted people know everything…they just learn and understand faster; they think further…and differently.
    Sometimes little GT boys could be discouraged by difficulties…believing he SHOULD have no difficulties, a sacred myth for the GT.
    Maybe your

  22. Benoit

    Sorry…iPhone and fingers conflict!

    Maybe your boy just try ease himself and just wish to be normal !

    When I was around 10, I decided not to be smart anymore and tried to become “normal”.
    So I am, not smart…but never normal πŸ˜‰

    Regards
    Benoit

  23. Amy

    I use the book “Gifted Kids Survival Guide” by Judy Galbraith with my third grade gifted students. It is written for kids up through maybe age 10 in good kid language.

  1. You are not Alone! « Waikato Association for Gifted Children

    […] exceptional child, you are not alone. In the Laughing at Chaos blog, a new post appeared today on Talking to your kids about their giftedness. The author’s child is causing concern, on this occasion, by not believing he is gifted […]

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