Jen Torbeck Merrill is an Illinois-based writer and gifted family advocate. The mom of two teen sons, she homeschools one while happily sending the other off to public school every morning. She is a music educator by trade, with degrees in music education and flute performance. Long before she picked up a flute as a child, however, Jen wanted to be a writer, something that didn’t happen until she opened a Blogger account in 2006 and never looked back. Since that time, her writing has focused more on gifted families and advocacy. Her book, If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional, struck a nerve with families who suspected Jen was living in their closet. Her second book, on the needs of gifted parents and self-care, is in progress; it is taking significantly longer than anticipated because the author herself struggles mightily with self-care and has been spending a lot of time banging her head on the keyboard and hyperventilating in writerly frustration. In the meantime she continues to blog at Laughing at Chaos.
From writing, Jen has branched out into greater advocacy in gifted issues, particularly the needs of parents, personalized learning for gifted and twice-exceptional kids, and giftedness as wiring throughout life. She has partnered with Kate Arms of Signal Fire Coaching to develop an online class on self-care for parents of complex kids, and with Kate and Dr. Chris Wells of the Gifted Development Center to present a series of webinars on Thriving With Complexity.
Jen is a Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Ambassador and has presented at the National Association for Gifted Children conference (2013), the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children conference (2013), the Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted conference (2016, 2017, 2018), the Illinois Association for Gifted Children Parents’ Day (2017, 2018), and was the keynote speaker for the Twice-Exceptional Children’s Advocacy conference (2016). She is slated to be one of the SENG keynote speakers at the annual convention in Houston, July 2019. Her intention is to support the parents of gifted and twice-exceptional kids, because they are the ones doing the heavy lifting and are too often ignored, patronized, and discredited. It is her hope that her sons never have to deal with these issues when they raise their own likely gifted children.
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