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Sep 15 2014

Let me tell you about…why gifted identification matters

Why gifted identification mattersWhen a good(ish) idea hits you, run with it. It might be a slow jog, even a rambling shuffle, but run with it. So today I’m starting a “whenever I feel like it…or remember” blog series I’m calling Let Me Tell You About… I figure that’ll let me rant about damned near anything, from giftedness to lifelong learning to life to whatever I feel like at the moment, all wrapped up in a cohesive little bow.

Kinda like a blog, Jen?

Yes, kinda like a blog. You’re very smart. Hush. (This is what one does when one is pulling oneself out of a bad case of writers’ block wrapped in blog drift topped with chaos-flavored life sprinkles).

So. Gifted identification. When we first had Andy evaluated, he was four years old. We had no earthly idea what was going on with him, just that something was noticeably different between him and every other kid I had ever taught, babysat, or daycared. We were just looking for answers, so that we could maybe, somehow, figure out how to parent him and stay sane, because the sanity, it was teetering. A friend suggested evaluation, we had him tested, and whoa what a crazy road it’s been these last nine years.

If he hadn’t been ID’d twice-exceptional when he was four (and confirmed when he was tested again at age eight), I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that schools would have seen only disability and he would have fallen through the cracks. Wait a sec, that did happen! The saving grace was that we had documentation indicating that he was gifted, required specific academic interventions that some schools were unable and unwilling to provide, and we could advocate for his needs all the way up to and through homeschooling. If we had not listened to our parental guts, or had trusted the overwhelmed education system to know what was best and find the giftedness that was being smothered by the other exceptionalities, his giftedness never would have been uncovered and his bright spark would have gone dim. I have seen that with so, so many kids, and so many adults as well. It’s heartbreaking to talk to an adult who is so very obviously gifted, but thinks he/she is dumb as a post because schools (and trusting parents that support them) spent so much time and money focused on the problems that there was nothing left for the bright child that was there too.

I’ve heard parents state they do not want to have their child tested for giftedness because they don’t want their child labeled. Well, it’s not a label unless you print it up on your handy-dandy Dymo and slap it on your kid. It’s a way to better understand how your child observes and interprets and responds to the world. Giftedness is not a badge of honor, nor is it a mark of shame. It just is. I feel we fail our kids when we don’t help them learn what makes them tick, and how to work with that. They know they’re different, they just don’t know why or how or what to do about it.

Yes, it can be expensive. Trust me, I know this on a very personal level. One kid has been evaluated twice, with the other we did the preliminary interview only because our budget laughed at our request (result: based on family history, parental questionnaires, and that siblings tend to have IQ results 5-13 points of each other…we have another 2e son. And just for shits and giggles, a 2e son who is about as different from his brother as possible. Um, yay?). Yes, society tends to think gifted = elitism. Eh, pfft to society, we’re raising these kids; anyone else can go blow. My sons will know the hows and whys of themselves. And yes, knowledge is frightening because then you have to do something with it. Well, that’s the unspoken deal we made with the universe when we had kids. There’s a lot I wish I didn’t know, that’s for sure, because while knowledge is power…with great power comes great responsibility. Boom, mashup of Schoolhouse Rock and SpiderMan. <drops mic>

If you can’t tell, I’m a huge proponent of evaluating kids for giftedness, if there are concerns (of the “uh, do other kids do this?” type) about the child. Parents are, by far, the best estimator of their child’s ability, and if a kid shows signs of giftedness, I say go for it. It’s not easy, it’s not cheap, it’s just like every other aspect of parenting. I believe that “know thyself (and your kid’s self)” is half the battle; the easy part of the battle, if truth be told.

I have regrets upon regrets from the last dozen years, but nowhere in that list is having Andy evaluated. It was probably one of the best decisions we made for him.

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10661821_10204240729565749_4628241033220783722_oToday’s post was part of Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s September Blog Hop, on why giftedness matters. I chose to focus on identification. Please go check out some of the other fantastic writers!

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  1. qH

    This is a hard one for me. I want my kid tested (because I want her in the magnet gifted school blocks from my house, where they are used to personality quirks like hers), but can’t afford private testing and won’t put her in the (bottom 15% performing) neighborhood school (which requires busing over 30 blocks) in the hopes the teacher will see her shutting down in a large class of low performing students and maybe, just might recommend an evaluation next year.

    At the same time–I’ve always known my number and I wish I didn’t. I didn’t develop a dynamic learning philosophy about working for success until college (when I declared a science minor and had to learn in a hurry). So to the extent pH has asked why she is different (and she doesn’t phrase it that way) I explain that people have brains that are wired in different ways. (She interacts with a lot of 2e kids because of her music group.) I also explain that because hers is wired in a way that she can learn quickly, she is fortunately–and her job is to do something to make the world a better place. There are times when I wish I could hang my hat on a theist framework, but I don’t and can’t.

    In any case, I got a ration of shit from my pediatrician Friday about homeschooling; she honestly doesn’t understand what the problem is. She’s faculty. She’s otherwise awesome. But I don’t think she has a gifted kid or she would have gotten it.
    qH recently posted…Two day migraineMy Profile

    1. Jen

      Our pediatrician grills Andy whenever we go in. I’m so sick of it and yet too tired to hunt down a new doc. :p

  2. Gail Post, Ph.D.

    Really enjoyed your post – you make it SOOO clear how important it is to get your child identified. It is unfortunate that you had to pay so much and the schools did not offer testing. Either way, though, the information is so helpful, not only for advocacy, but in terms of providing parents and teachers with an understanding of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. Thanks.
    Gail Post/ http://www.giftedchallenges.com

    1. Jen

      I don’t regret paying for the testing. It gave us knowledge that we desperately needed. I almost compare it to getting a degree: I paid that money so I could earn that knowledge. Paying for testing got us the degree in our son’s wiring.

  3. Pamela @RedWhiteandGrew

    Yes. This: ” I have seen that with so, so many kids, and so many adults as well. It’s heartbreaking to talk to an adult who is so very obviously gifted, but thinks he/she is dumb as a post . . .” The WORST. Because that means the work of coming to terms with it must take place simultaneously within two generations. Phew. I get tired just thinking about it.

    Great post.
    Pamela @RedWhiteandGrew recently posted…Why the Word “Gifted” Still MattersMy Profile

    1. Jen

      Or three generations, if one is in a sandwich situation. Learning about giftedness throughout the generations while living it.

  4. Jade

    It’s too cool that we incorporated the same historical quote into both our blog hop posts! It’s so great to hear your perspective on testing. I often hear a lot of talk about how it doesn’t really matter, and I don’t like that. Every family has a unique constellation of needs and if testing helps a family meets those needs, then thank goodness.
    Jade recently posted…{GHF Blog Hop} Giftedness: Why it MattersMy Profile

    1. Jen

      It does matter. I have a problem with parents saying they don’t want to know; I see that as a head-in-the-sand response. 🙁

      1. Leslie

        I couldn’t agree more. I think some of the parents who don’t want to know agree with the idea that gifted education falls under elitism, and they don’t “want to be a part of that.” Yet, I think identification is the first step in better serving and educating students who are gifted.

        1. Jen

          I really believe in knowledge is power. Identification is the start of that.

  5. Paula Prober

    I love reading your posts, Jen. Your humor and honesty are so refreshing. Thank you!
    Paula Prober recently posted…The Most Unnecessary BlogMy Profile

    1. Jen

      Thanks Paula!

  6. The Cardinal House

    Thank you for your post. I don’t know what I think about testing yet… Nice to read both viewpoints in this GHF
    blog hop. Thank you.

  7. Care

    Oh, goodness, yes. On several fronts, actually.

    First, the one Pamela commented on above: coming to terms with giftedness across two generations. It sounds tiring. It *is* tiring. I thought I was broken. I thought something was wrong with me. I didn’t understand why I was so weird, why everyone hated me, why nobody understood, why it seemed like people deliberately MISunderstood me. I have been married twice. Once to a man who was tested with an IQ in the 180-200+ arena, the other identified, but never given the number, but given similarities across informal testing methods is approximately 10-ish points below what my own number would be. I was never identified. Finding out about Mad Natter means I not only have to reconcile what this means for my parenting, and how to best meet his needs, but I have to pull that together while simultaneously making sense of my own life-to-date. I think I’ve suddenly realized why I’ve resembled a raccoon for the last few years, complete with dark circles and foul morning temper. ^_^

    The other… the testing. I need to have Mad Natter tested. The hard part is that there is only one time we have anywhere near the money it would cost to have the testing done – there are no psychs specializing in Gifted Children anywhere within six hours of me, and even those that are within eight or ten are in the US, which doesn’t help us Mooselandia folks much. None of it would be covered for more than $300 by insurance, leaving us with an out of pocket cost over four digits. We’re working on it, and we’ll get there. But in the meantime, I’m fighting an uphill battle with people expecting me to “prove” my suspicions on his rough range and abilities and challenges, with not one single person willing to offer us any assistance on either the GT issues or the 2E issues until he reaches 7yo. It is a mess. But it’s SO important. Even to me, the homeschooling mama – I need those assessments to tell me where he needs help, where he would shine if he had the support for the OE of LD masking some ability… We just have to get there. And I wish there was more help available for families who would be looking at dropping two months rent just to get the assessment run in the first place.
    Care recently posted…Giftedness: Why Does it Matter?My Profile

  8. Celi Trepanier

    Jen, you are absolutely right to have no regrets about having the testing/identification done! For the entire family’s sanity and well-being, identification is essential. I understand parents not wanting their children to be pounded with the compliment, “you are so smart”, but since “smart” and “gifted” are not always the same thing, letting your child know about their giftedness is the right thing to do! Thanks for another brilliant post, Jen!

  9. Brenda Bush

    At 1st grade the school wanted my son held back and put on add meds. Our health insurance, kaiser, did a very thorough exam and said that he was functioning above grade level! Yep the kid was bored! I did homeschooling and by 7th grade he was reading college level history and literature books! I sent him to public school because he was thinking that he could make all his own rules. After 2 weeks he thanked me for the home schooling.
    I should have taken him back out and put into an advanced program, but he did great for one semester, then got lazy and fell behind. He is now 18 and in continuation school. I feel like I dropped the ball halfway through his education.

    1. Jen

      We make the best decisions we can at the time we make them. I have to remind myself of this daily.

      1. Leslie

        I may have to print this out as a reminder and tape it around the house because I often struggle with where we are in this gifted journey with one of our children.

        1. Jen

          You have no idea how many times my husband has to remind me of this.

  10. Caitie

    “Well, it’s not a label unless you print it up on your handy-dandy Dymo and slap it on your kid. It’s a way to better understand how your child observes and interprets and responds to the world. Giftedness is not a badge of honor, nor is it a mark of shame. It just is. I feel we fail our kids when we don’t help them learn what makes them tick, and how to work with that. They know they’re different, they just don’t know why or how or what to do about it.”

    YES. Thank you so much for this.

  11. Jo Freitag

    Thank you, Jen! I love ” it’s not a label unless you print it up on your handy-dandy Dymo and slap it on your kid. It’s a way to better understand how your child observes and interprets and responds to the world. Giftedness is not a badge of honor, nor is it a mark of shame.” That sums it up so well!
    Jo Freitag recently posted…Giftedness: Why Does It Matter?My Profile

  12. Danielle

    I am curious to know how the author knew his son was falling through the cracks before reevaluating at age eight. What were the signs in school? My son is 2e and he is complaining a lot lately about waiting on other kids to “catch up” in class before he can start working. He is highly motivated but gets in trouble for not having social graces. I think he needs gifted instruction. But I know that NY state does not mandate gifted education. Just trying to get my son what he needs.

    1. Jen

      We knew he was falling through the cracks because he was miserable. He’d come home in April all excited because he finally learned something that year.

  13. Robin at OurOwnFlavor

    I’m loving your statement about labels as much as everyone else! I think it’s so important that everyone understand why our children behave as they do… We’re always telling our kids how important it is to understand someone’s intentions and reasons for what they do (did he run into me on purpose or by accident?)… Shouldn’t we do the same for our children?

    And speaking as a former gifted child, knowing why I was such a weird outcast was one of the things that got me through. I grew up knowing that I came from a family of misfits and when I grew up I’d find friends with similar interests and a passion that I’d be allowed to follow, if I could just get through school. It helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel and really advocate for myself. I’m sure I was really obnoxious for my teachers to deal with, but I started asking for and receiving alternative activities by about third grade and continued to do this through college. I also had a habit of refusing to do the standard activity in addition, arguing that if I had to do something harder or more creative, I shouldn’t have to do something “stupid”. I still didn’t get what I could have from school but it turned out so much better for me than it did for my husband, who was not identified and barely graduated.

    My mom has told me a few times she wished she’d homeschooled us. But there weren’t the resources and support then that there are now so I totally understand why she didn’t… But based on our own school experiences, my husband and I have definitely decided to homeschool our kids.

    1. Jen

      I don’t regret homeschooling him…except when I do. :/ It’s not easy and sometimes I wish we didn’t have to do it. Other times I wish we had started off homeschooling. And while I often felt like no one quite “got” me in high school, I found my peeps in band and thrived there. Still do. 🙂

  14. Brona

    Hi, thanks for your blog it’s great.
    Im in Ireland where we are very behind on all this. Im interested to know what tests were done and by what professional type?

    1. Jen

      I can’t remember exactly what tests were done, but it was the full battery of test by the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado.

  15. Overwhelmed momma

    How did I not know the sibling facts? I have a highly gifted daughter…who the evaluator actually thinks is higher than tested due to improper eye glass script (long story). Her older sister struggles with school in the most gut wrenching way. Specifically math and spelling. But that kids memory is dumbfounding outside of school. Then there is the creative 6 year old that can perform and dance like no one’s business but her teacher tells me she is average. If the middle kiddo is highly gifted….what the heck? Testing for the whole household?

    1. Jen

      You can find more about siblings (and other family members) here: http://www.gifteddevelopment.com/articles/what-we-have-learned-about-gifted-children

  16. Lisa Swaboda

    Thanks for this, Jen!

    How did I miss it back in 2014? Oh….that’s right, I was only 48 years old and didn’t realize that my kids AND I were gifted! How could I not know? I was a teacher for 20+ years and an underachiever. My kids attended a parochial school and gifted kids are invisible there.

    The standardization and mandates actually helped me realize. They made me quit teaching. Then, I was able to have the time and energy to research and not just dismiss my kids and myself as weird.

    We are missing SOOO many kids and adults. It took me 49 years to wear the badge I’m so proud of!

    Thanks for reminding people!

  1. On the Blog Hop – Giftedness: Why Does It Matter? | Sprite's Site

    […] Why Gifted Identification Matters ~ Laughing at Chaos (Jen Merrill) ” It’s not a label unless you print it up on your handy-dandy Dymo and slap it on your kid. It’s a way to better understand how your child observes and interprets and responds to the world.” […]

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