where wildly different is perfectly normal
Why does my child’s giftedness bother you so?
Why does my child’s giftedness bother you so?

Why does my child’s giftedness bother you so?

Another “giftedness doesn’t matter” blog post has surfaced, this time on HuffPo, and until this morning I wasn’t sure I had the energy or stamina to respond. Eleven years of shouting into the gale-force wind that is the willfully ignorant and you get a bit tired, with a sore throat (and frustrated psyche) that no amount of scotch can soothe. I’m tired of it. I can see, quite vividly, why parents of gifted kids fall off the advocacy radar when their kids are older. They’re exhausted from the battles, they’re sick of the willfully ignorant, and they just want their lives back. I get it. Boy howdy, do I get it. But before I tumble into that “screw it, I’m done, I want my own life” abyss, I have some questions I’d like the willfully ignorant to attempt to answer:


How do my twice-exceptional sons, my gifted household, threaten you? How? Please, I really do want to know, because I cannot see it and I am trying. It’s not as though my boys are breaking into your house at night, tying you up, and talking at you about quantum physics, programming languages, and computer servers. They save that for me.

Are you alarmed by children who have a thirst for knowledge that is rarely quenched by the traditional school system? Does it keep you awake at night in horror that humans are all wired differently, and thus there are children who are quicker and deeper learners, who advance far faster than their age peers? Is it disturbing to you that a young child might be able to read and reason like an adult? Do you worry that giftedness is not what you have been led your whole life to believe?

What are you afraid of?

Are you afraid of giftedness?

Think about that, really think.

If you do not have a gifted child at home, why are you so dismissive of the experiences of the families who do? It’s no skin off your nose. Why is it necessary to belittle and demean parents and children who are struggling with wiring that is significantly different from the status quo? Do you feel better about yourself when you do? Is it a way to feel superior to those you quietly believe are superior to you? Knock ’em down a peg, cut those tall poppies down? My family and I are superior to no one, we are just different.

It’s not as though gifted programs in schools are sucking away precious resources. Last I checked (five minutes ago) there is no federal mandate for gifted education, so it gets bumped down to the states and school districts to fund. More often than not it’s not funded at all. My home state of Illinois has zero dollars allocated to gifted ed. No identification or services mandate, no required training for teachers, no budget, no policies, no nuttin’. Does that seem right to you? That the needs of children…and I am talking about children here, not their parents who are too often seen as humblebragging…who are wired differently and require academic accommodations different from the norm, are left to the whims of a local school district? Would it be ok with you if it were developmentally or intellectually delayed children? Because we’re talking about the mirror images of the bell curve here. Kids on the far right of the curve require academic interventions every bit as intense and personal as those on the other side. Yes, really.

Or are you afraid that you’ll have to teach your own children that everyone is wired differently? Yes, we as humanity have so much in common, but take a long, hard look. Deep down you also know that we as humanity have inherent differences that are not attributable to hard work, mindset, and grit. How does cutting down my tall poppy make parenting yours easier?

I’m going to repeat that again for the folks in the back:


What do you hope to accomplish? What is your end goal? Why is it necessary? You’re not harming your child with your willful ignorance, but you sure as hell are harming mine. You may not think so, but by chattering on about “all kids are gifted” (which they most certainly are not), or “giftedness doesn’t matter” or “giftedness is just parents thinking they have a special snowflake,” you are perpetuating the myth that these differently-wired kids will be just fine on their own. That cream always rises to the top. That early ripen, early rot. They will not be just fine on their own. SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) was founded after the suicide of a gifted young man. I’ve seen many kids and adults who were thought to be “just fine” struggle mightily throughout their lives, and last week I was unable to travel to the memorial service for one of them, a friend who’d had enough of the struggle. Because gifted doesn’t mean you have it easy, it means you have it different, and that difference needs to be acknowledged and supported, and not ignored or patronized or mocked.

So. Once again I have to ask why. Why is it important to you, those of you who remain willfully ignorant about giftedness and its impact on lives, why is it important to you to remain so willfully ignorant? To ignore and dismiss the experiences of those who live this life?

Why does the giftedness in my family disturb you so?



  1. Thank you, Jen. In that tired, anguished, parental “WHY?!” I hear echoes of my middle school self also asking why.
    Why do they want to hurt me? Why do they enjoy humiliating me? Why doesn’t any authority acknowledge?
    Maybe the answers–ignorance, jealousy, bullying, self-aggrandizement–are the same. Because middle-school bullies grow up and become parents.

  2. What I find odd is that, as a child who had been accelerated, I might have had to endure one or two annoying fellow students regarding my youth and/or ability, but most were protective of me. (Even though high school–I might have gotten crap for being a Goth, and did, but not for being gifted. It wasn’t much comfort being 13 in a class with 16 and 17 year olds, though.)

    I think those parents parse it this way:

    If your child is gifted and mine is not
    And gifted children are special
    Then my child isn’t special.

    It isn’t logically sound (it caused me pain to type). It doesn’t make any sense. But I think they are so afraid that their child isn’t special (but really, that THEY aren’t special) that they hate anyone who objectively is.

    1. Susan

      This made me want to cry. You totally get it. People, as a whole, have a had time celebrating others differences. It is easier to tear someone down to make they feel better. I love your logic and I am going to use that with my teachers at school to help them understand that teaching the gifted students doesn’t mean you get the “easy” class. It means you get the joys and tears and craziness that comes with need a challenging curriculum to thrive. And as teachers and parents and just humans in general, shouldn’t we WANT everyone to thrive?! It would make our society a much happier place!

  3. Kirk

    Thank you! This blog is phenomenal. I currently teaching 6-8th grade gifted students in math in Illinois. I am quite lucky to work in a public school district that supports gifted students so much so that we have an entire different math program that I teach for them. I currently have 90 students all day who stay with me all 3 years for math in grades 6-8. I can’t tell you how many times I have to argue with naysayers who say there shouldn’t be gifted or “tracking.” I try my hardest to say we aren’t tracking. We are providing accommodations to those who are exceptional learners and often bring up the other end of the bell curve. Just as we provide resources for students with SPED needs, these students need accommodations as well. They are different and that is wonderful! Thank you!

  4. Cathy

    I have to tell you that as someone who has been a gifted child advocate for over thirty years you actually make it easy for people to answer the very question you ask. Why does my child’s giftedness bother you so? Could it possibly be that it isn’t your child’s giftedness that bothers people? Is it possible that your attitude conveys YOUR belief that somehow others are lesser and you are more? Your writing could be offensive and dismissive to the very people who you want to support your child. Why would anyone support the child of a person who refers to them as, “willfully ignorant?” How will name calling help your cause or that of your child?

    1. Jeff


      I think you might have missed the part where she says, “My family and I are superior to no one, we are just different.”

      I also think you might have missed the overall point, which is that the Huffington Post article is reflective of societal attitudes that directly harm the gifted.

      You call yourself a “gifted child advocate,” but I find it alarming that you do not even see the problem.

    2. EH

      Intelligence is a measure of the difficulty of questions a person can answer. People differ dramatically in intelligence, and some children are better at answering difficult questions than their teachers. (a 145 IQ 8 y.o. or 130 IQ 10.5 y.o have absolute intelligence greater than the 105 IQ average teacher. [Chart].) Since intelligence is highly heritable, such students’ parents are also usually extremely intelligent; the difference in absolute intelligence between a 145 IQ parent and a 105 IQ teacher is the same as between that teacher and an five year-old child with the same 105 IQ .

      When less intelligent people assume control of more intelligent people, they will make more bad decisions, therefore letting less intelligent people have authority over their betters is wrong. The jealous feelings that some people of normal intelligence have towards more intelligent people should be given no more weight than a five year-old’s snit.

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  6. Susan

    I hear you! As the mother of 3 older pg/eg and 1x2e, whom I homeschooled, I am so tired of the fight.
    However I am now doing it all over again with my sweet 6 year old.
    I know what is ahead, I pray for strength, patience and thick skin.
    I pray for a friend or 2 for my little one and understanding/secure parents who will let their child be friends with a younger child.
    I too get so sick of the ignorant garbage that pops up in my news feeds.
    Ignorance coming from homeschooling people. They have homeschooled their own kids for a couple of years and they think it makes them an expert on everything including both ends of special needs!
    And sometimes the ignorance comes from the gifted community too- those that have or work with moderately gifted children-they often have no idea about extreme giftedness.
    It is exhausting, heartbreaking and lonely.

  7. Terri Tyson

    I totally agree. However, we are not in a position to home school. Our son tested into Walter Payton which has programming to address the specific needs of kids on the spectrum who are gifted. It’s out there, just hard to find. As for judgement from others, f**k them. They haven’t lived our story.

  8. I think that parents may feel that the “gifted”label makes that child sound more special, valued, revered than their “normal” “average” child. They possibly want to say MY child is special and valuable too! When I was growing up “gifted” class just meant “the smart kids”. I will NEVER forget the testing for the gifted program. In 5th grade I once again was tested and lost my gifted status!!! I felt humiliated, I was pulled from my peer group, I lost my special status, I felt like I had failed and I was somehow now less than all my peers that got to stay in the gifted program. I watched with sad lonliness from afar as the “gifted” kids got to leave boring history class and go do neat innovative things! I was left behind…..with the “normal” kids. Fast forward to today, I am a mother of child whonos wired very different. Sure he is smart, he has also been very existential since he was THREE, he is highly sensitive with sensory proceaaing issues. He cycles through sleep and eating anxieties. Inconsistencies in rule structures add anxiety. His mind races with ideas far beyond those I even come close to thinking of. He doesnt enjoy school…even homeschool..learning in a box annoys him to no end. My child is “gifted” and insecure and sensitive and lovely. I think possibly those that balk at the gifted title see it as claiming a status….after all thats what it was when we were kids….everyone knew the gifted kids were the shining stars and pride of the school….. <=== until of course you were retested and lost your gifted status…then you were back to being normal nancy. I know both sides experientially…I craved that "gifted status" as a kid because it meant I was special….my son craves nothing more than to be "normal" which would mean he would fit in, be accepted have friends, be special. ♡♡ Love to all the "normal" kids ♡♡ And Love to all the 2e kids. And ♡♡♡♡ to all of the mommas out there that love their kids feircly!

  9. Sarah Flesher

    Thank you! I would not wish my experiences dealing with the public schools on anyone, not even my worst enemy. Not an easy road. Throw 2E into the mix and it just gets worse.

    I craved normalness. My kids tried to fit in, until they couldn’t. I tried to work with the schools, but the excuses… I became an educator so my lack of training could not be used against me.

  10. Lindsay

    I really do think that the prevailing thought is that being gifted, especially in the stereotypical “smart and understands things quickly” way, makes life easier.

    Tell that to me twice gifted eight year old, who is in some ways an intellectual twelve year old, is physically and emotionally eight, and whose executive functioning is closer to six, or even five, depending on the task. I have a terrible time remembering that I can’t treat him like a twelve year old.

    He (and I, as a kid) has to actually be taught that not everything is easy to understand or master. Why is that a handicap? Ask that question when he is punching and berating himself for missing a single spelling word ON HIS PRE-TEST (non studied words) because normally he doesn’t miss any…. The counselor is helping, but it is just as terrifying even though it’s rarer now.

    1. N

      Do you mean “twice exceptional”? Twice gifted isn’t a term, but it’s often mistakenly used to refer to students who have both gifted needs and needs for an iEP or 504 for an area of difficulty- two exceptionalities to typical learning.

  11. Sharon

    I once knew a homeschool mom who was homeschooling her gifted daughter; her daughter was the same age as mine, so they were playmates. The school system wasn’t adequate to give the daughter what she needed to thrive. I knew and was friends with this woman for several years before I saw her at a library program with her daughter and another girl. I asked whether she was there with a friend. It turns out the other girl was her other “non-gifted” daughter. The one she NEVER talked about.


    If this is the way she feels about HER OWN KID, that she can’t even mention her in three years, I can only imagine her feelings about other, non-related, non-gifted children. So I don’t have an issue with giftedness (the girl was lovely) but with the parents, like this one, who equate gifted with “better than yours.”

    We aren’t friends anymore.

  12. Rebecca

    Hi, I think it is the word, in part…I want my kid to have gifts if yours “gets gifts”. Partly people want to be able to join a club and not feel totally out of it, forever. Sports teams include others by letting us identify with and root for them. We might consider defining the group with less loaded words than gifted. Maybe a few slots for kids who do not meet the crieria could be included for diversity in some prpgrams? Partly it is simple discrimination.

  13. Anna

    I’m fairly new on this ‘gifted’ journey and it took me two seconds to figure out it is the label that does it. Who the hell dreamed up ‘gifted’ to cover all this? It has an automatic definition in the minds of 99.5% of the population of ‘super smart’. My kids weren’t even being included in the GATE programmes at school that they looked at longingly, because, thanks to their 2E Slow Processing Speed, they were testing at levels under the criterion and no test result ever has had them looking super smart. I have never and will never refer to my son (two out of three sons I found out a week ago) as Gifted because it is the WRONG label. Initially I described him as having Asynchronous Development (people nod and murmur with sympathy whilst hiding the fact they have no idea what it means) and lately I have taken to using Neuro-Atypical. Gifted doesn’t convey the anxiety, the depression, the physical symptoms, the stress, the counselling that has been our lives for the last 18 months. Yes, all children are gifts and have gifts. But quite frankly, this Gifted with a capital G is one I’d have happily not had to unwrap.

  14. Sarah

    The only concern that I had and continue to have is the use of the word “gifted.” I remember growing up and watching my friends be selected for the “Gifted and Talented” program and it would make me question my own intelligence and gifts. There is no doubt that each human being has gifts. I believe that we just need to be careful with how we use terminology…we all know are children are gifted in their own way, so it may be time to consider using new language. This might help all parents feel more inclined to be more compassionate and understanding!

      1. It’s funny because we keep running across this word “gifted” as though it’s a gift. However it can be a tremendous burden. A gifted person struggles to find themselves and develop relationships. They wonder all the time why their schools that are there to teach can’t challenge them and then they give up. No one wants to be truly “gifted” It’s not a state of elitism. Sarah, your teachers should have talked to you and the rest of your class that EVERY child needs different things. This should be established from the day kids enter school. Kids need enrichment in different ways. Kids need support in different ways. I was never in a gifted program and I had plenty of friends who were but I found myself to be challenged to the best of my ability. If you people don’t feel challenged then the teachers need to advocate better for differentiation so all kids feel challenged and when someone enters a class they know they belong without judgement.

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