where wildly different is perfectly normal
Those gifted code words
Those gifted code words

Those gifted code words

Those Gifted Code WordsSo how do you say gifted?

Once I know a person, or a situation, I say it with my talk hole. The one under my nose. I also eat with it, play flute with it, let loose the occasional whistle, test drive a new chapstick. I say gifted, I say twice-exceptional, I say it’s not achievement but wiring, I say it’s who a person is and not what they accomplish. I don’t stutter, I don’t use quotes (my god I hate seeing “gifted”), I say gifted without shame or embarrassment because I know it’s not anything resembling a gift most of the time. Or rather, if someone bought me a gift like this I’d have a hard time deciding if I should return it or shove it where the sun don’t shine.

But before I know a person, or if I’m new to a situation? Code words. Lots and lots of code words.

Challenging. Needed an educational situation other than the school could provide.
Very bright.
Deep thinker but doesn’t test well.
Easily overwhelmed by sensory input.
Makes unusual and profound connections.
Not like other kids.

If I’m talking to a parent, by then he/she has also used various code words, we both realize we’re talking to a kindred spirit, and we can drop the façade and go for wine. If I’m talking to a professional who is involved with my kid…well…that really depends on the professional. Some give off the “don’t talk to me about gifted” vibe, others are more open to the wide neuropsychological variety that is the human race. I read the other person as we talk and I choose my words based on the tone of the conversation.

And sometimes I just don’t give a damn and say whatever I like.

Gifted is a terrible word for these outlier kids and their outlier parents. It’s not a gift from the universe (and yes, I still have days when would send it back if I could). But it’s the only word we have, it’s the only word that’s recognized (however poorly) for this righthand side of the bell curve life, it’s an unfortunate word for what it describes. I think if more parents of gifted kids (not necessarily high-achieving kids) were open and honest about the struggles and complexities of raising gifted kids and flat-out owned that word…well, maybe there would be less stigma attached to it.

Probably not. So my talk hole will keep using the words gifted and twice-exceptional, loudly and proudly. Because it’s all we got and I refuse to be shamed out of using it. I’ll just keep my code words handy, you know, just in case.


Today’s post is part of February’s Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop. Please go read what other participants are saying this month!


  1. Each month I’m picking one GHF blog hop post to forward to the parents of my young grandchildren. I have to be selective, for I don’t want to overwhelm or injury those parents by opening the home planet firehose at full blast. At least not yet.

    You, my dear mother-of–laughing-chaos, are the WINNER this month. Thank you.

  2. Great post!! I often use all of the code words you have mentioned. In part i have done that because (until recently) none of my kids had been officially tested and as there was nothing concrete to back up a statement of gifted, i was uncomfortable using it, even though that was my belief.

  3. Kirsten

    I use “Asynchronous” a lot. One group that started out recently near me uses “Advanced Learners”. I’d love to see that more widely adopted, anything that didn’t get the dreaded “All children are gifted” reaction.

    I might adopt “outlier”. I even in desperation once used “Special needs” for my 2E kid to explain a school change. Of course there is also “Sprited” and “intense” and “relentless”,

    “I think if more parents of gifted kids (not necessarily high-achieving kids) were open and honest about the struggles and complexities of raising gifted kids and flat-out owned that word…well, maybe there would be less stigma attached to it.”

    Amen to that, although there is always that thing that happens to me when I am saying something that another parent (usually of a neurotypical kid) thinks I am bragging and I am really complaining. I don’t really think having to explain sub atomic particles to my pre-schooler before coffee on the way to drop off is fun and charming, I think it’s exhausting.

  4. Mary

    With the human propensity to think in binary terms, I’d argue that it’s reasonable to chafe at the term “gifted” as a noun, a label to describe a person on the whole (“my gifted child”) or to describe a sub-set of people as gifted (“gifted children”), when one characteristic of giftedness is asynchronous development and the group is SO heterogenous. I do think the unspoken implication is that if some children are labeled “gifted,” others naturally fall in a category of “not gifted.” It’s not intended as derogatory, perhaps, but it sets up a false dichotomy. It’s less problematic, however, when used as an adjective to refer to a *specific aspect* of the way a person learns, thinks, or their particular talents.

    I say this as a former “MGM” student, the child of a teacher for “the gifted”, a former classroom teacher, and the parent of two children who were assigned to self-contained GATE classes. I do use the term “gifted” as convenient shorthand, but I bristle at the term, especially when it is used in a way that feels like it’s a status symbol for parents. Many…if not most…parents recognize the challenges associated with asynchronous development, but in our town, where universal screening is used to place children in self-contained classrooms beginning in grade 4, there is a disturbing pressure to have your child placed in one of the classrooms, and kids pick up on the distinctions in an unhealthy way. They don’t see the nuance, and the cost of using the term may outweigh the benefit.

    Furthermore, there are so many misconceptions about giftedness as a synonym for high-achieving that I don’t always find the term to be useful. My son is able to align his gifts with school achievement more easily than our daughter (recently diagnosed with ADHD and who has a high degree of sensitivity). Her current teacher, despite teaching in the gifted program, has a very narrow concept of giftedness, and it has been a difficult year.

    When I’m discussing the issues with other parents, I tend not to use code, but I focus on specific strengths and challenges rather than the broad label. I used the term gifted when researching or speaking with educators/psychologists because it is shorthand for saying that my child (or another) has a strength or strengths that are outliers, and also that there are some challenges that are commonly associated with asynchronous development.

    I’m okay with other people embracing the term, however. I found this blog by searching for 2e sites, but I think the word’s limitations (the false dichotomy that it evokes, the lumping of a widely heterogenous group into one category) make it less appealing. It’s not that I’m ashamed or feel the need to appease the families of children with more typical development. It’s just that I find it misses the complexity, and when it comes to people — especially children — I feel that complexity is one of our most important features.

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  6. You hit the nail on the head, Mary. We are so binary in our thinking…of course when someone says her child is gifted, the others will think to themselves ‘Uh oh, I guess my child in NOT gifted.’ Just last night I told my brother that I was so excited to be meeting today with a Job and Life Coach who specializes in working with Gifted Adults. But I had to say it with delicacy and tact so that he wouldn’t feel bad. Or so I thought I needed to. I was the ‘really smart’ kid in my family and I constantly detected different shades of resentment from my siblings.

    Oops, veering off the topic somewhat. Sorry. Just wanted to say I appreciate your post!

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