Several hundred years ago, the truth was that the Earth was the center of the universe. Society knew this, it was the truth.
When I was a child, the truth was that Pluto was a planet. Society knew this, it was the truth.
Today, the truth is that every child is gifted, just waiting to open his or her packages. Society knows this, it is a load of horse shit.
I have seen at least two “all kids are gifted” posts in the last ten days. Both of them have aimed to cut down the tall poppies. Every child is gifted. No, every child is most certainly not gifted.
Let me spell it out very clearly.
EVERY CHILD IS A GIFT.
EVERY CHILD HAS TALENTS.
BUT NOT EVERY CHILD HAS THE NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL WIRING THAT IS THE PRIMARY CHARACTERISTIC OF A GIFTED CHILD.
Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, wrote in her book Giftedness 101:
While all children are a gift to the world, saying “all children are gifted,” robs the term of any meaning. It would be equally absurd to say, “We believe all our children are developmentally disabled.”
All children are special, but all children do not qualify for special education. Children who are significantly below the mean intellectually are entitled by law to special provisions. Children who are significantly above the mean intellectually need to be recognized as having special needs, too.
“All parents think their children are gifted.” This overworked saw completely discredits parents as a legitimate source of information about their children and it is untrue. It would be unthinkable to be this dismissive to a parent of a disabled child. (emphasis mine)
Dr. Silverman is also a member of The Columbus Group, which defines giftedness thusly:
“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.”
Continuing to spread the myth of “every child is gifted” insults and hurts the families of gifted children. It’s that simple. We are the ones doing the heavy lifting with these amazing kids, day in and day out. Momastery’s post today discredits that. With one post she cut down the tall poppies and made our job as parents and advocates harder. For a woman and writer who has made a name for herself on inclusion and love, she threw parents of gifted children under the bus today.
I’m tired of this fight. So, so tired. But, like parenting, I can’t give up and I will not give up. There are too many parents out there who are fighting for their amazing kids, thinking they are alone in their struggles because someone ignorantly told them “we think ALL kids are gifted.” But I burn with frustration every time this comes up, either online or in real life. If you are not raising a gifted child or not intimately familiar with the internal wiring that is giftedness, you do NOT get to define it. Period. Full stop.
I have a twice-exceptional son. Two, probably. And goddamn it is hard. As much as I love my sons for who they are and will always be, as much as I fight for them, as much as advocate and scream to the world for my astonishing boys, I envy parents who do not have gifted children. That is not easy to admit, but it is true. We’re the outliers here, why wouldn’t I envy the norm? I once had the mom of a developmentally disabled son pull me aside and confess that she thought I had it harder than she did. Pretty telling, that.
Glennon, you are wrong. You don’t know what you don’t know. Your truth, such as it is, is incomplete. You say you feel deep down in your bones that every child is gifted, but unless you’ve gotten down on those bones under your desk and sobbed because your child’s inborn, god-given wiring is misunderstood and shunned by teachers, peers, and society, you do not know what gifted is. You do not get to define it. Your post today hurt mothers, mothers who are fighting for the souls of their children against a world that believes that “every child is gifted and therefore yours needs no additional support,” when those children simply have different needs because of their particular wiring and makeup.
I hope your truth changes with time and understanding of what gifted really is. And I hope you tell the world when it does.
This post was part of a Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Rapid Response blog hop on Are All Children Gifted?
I think the heart of the matter is that what needs to change is the word “gifted.” We need some other description, something not as loaded. There are many words that have changed over time, especially of people groups who have decided how they want to be called. I think it’s time to come up with a new label, maybe someone should just make up a word. Perhaps then we could stop fighting the battle that we exist and spend more time figuring out what on earth to do with our kids. I’m am glad you do not give up.
It’s not the word used to describe it that needs to change, it’s the society-wide misunderstanding of what it is that needs to change.
The labels always have to shift. “Moron” was once a legal definition of a low mental capacity. More recently we’ve left behind “retarded” and I’d say the days of “disabled” are numbered. Anything that singles some people out as different will become a misused term in time.
I can relate to the idea of wanting to come up with a word that – well, people don’t find so ‘comparative’ – but then again, every other term is comparative “elite athlete” – compared with a regular one; dyslexic learner – compared to a typical one; heck even “rich” compared to “poor”. They all describe real differences; differences that carry implications for the people concerned.
So why the hostility towards the word gifted? I think because people compare themselves (or their kids) to what the word means – to them; they don’t see it as an objective term or diagnosis; which it is. They see it as a value judgement. Totally inaccurate, but that’s how they see it. This causes an emotional reaction – defensiveness.
To be honest, if I found myself in a room full of profoundly gifted people I would feel scared. I’d be scared of looking dumb. I’d be scared of making a fool of myself or them rolling their eyes behind my back. But that is my insecurity and self-judgement. In reality they would likely be the quite philosophical, understanding and tolerant of differences – or at least way too preoccupied with what they were thinking to bother judging me! My point is I can understand the term “gifted” being scary to people.
But it’s a real challenge coming up with a word that encapsulates all that it means to have gifted type wiring – I mean – I’ve really wracked my brains and can’t think of a word that does the job. And then also, we are asking ourselves to coin a word that somehow skirts around exceptional abilities – so that people aren’t highly offended at the suggestion that their brains can’t perform at a certain level. BUT hang on – no-one tells professional sports people or Olympians that they can’t be called “elite athletes” ! It doesn’t result in the same fear or comparison. But why? Why are intelligent people *not allowed* to suggest they might be fricken intelligent?!
At the end of the day, if we try and change how we define ourselves so that other people don’t object – I’m pretty sure we’ll learn the hard way that; a) we can’t win – someone won’t like it; and b) we have handed the reigns of this whole journey over to people with less knowledge about it – which doesn’t make any sense at all.
The one reason I would genuinely vote for a new word is that it certainly doesn’t feel like a gift. If someone ever gave me a gift that caused this much trouble and heartache, I’d probably want to have them killed.
i absolutely agree. if a parent dislikes how misused the term is, then use the clinical definition. in fact, the one this author cited above works quite well: developmentally asynchronous. as another poster said, we no longer label students the r word, we now describe them as developmentally delayed.
i know changing the label does not change the services our kids need and too often don’t receive, but i don’t think clinging to an outdated term is going to help our cause either.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! That momastery post had me seeing red and you expressed so wonderfully what I have been thinking a feeling. These people that don’t have gifted kids do not get it. It was so easy to get my 4 th kiddo into speech therapy through the school. But we had to fight tooth and nail, with blood and sweat and multiple 99th percentile test scores to get kiddo #2 advanced in math. Argh! Sure, some of it is the “word”. But our society is not comfortable with intellectually advanced kids, no matter what we call them.
Thanks for speaking out. Momastery’s post came across my facebook feed last night, via one my dear colleagues in gifted ed. I was shocked when I read it and that my colleague had not spoken out. I agree that all children are gifts and have gifts (gifts = strengths), but all children are not gifted. The symantics matter.
We all have to keep up the advocacy – no matter how tired we get. These waves help up reconnect with one another and renew our advocacy for our beloved children and students.
Maybe it is time find a new word. Gifted and talented is fairly inclusive – as I see similar characteristics in the gifted no matter whether it’s athletic, creative, leadership, or intellectual. Asynchronous development is one piece of that, but not as inclusive. Intensely capable doesn’t quite get it either. And does changing the label really change people’s reaction when their children don’t qualify?
BeckyG hit the nail on the head. The problem is the word gifted. It implies that those who are gifted are better — because those who are not gifted have no gifts. That may not be what it means — but it carries that connotation. A lot of energy could be saved and bitterness could be avoided if there were a more accurate term were used. We label EVERYONE; surely we can do a better job with this one. Momastery wasn’t trying to make parents’ lives harder — she was reacting to a word that carries a big burden.
Well said. Keep fighting, there are others beside you in the trenches pitching in too! And BTW – I don’t think it would matter what the word for gifted was changed to – it would still be misunderstood and used to discriminate. I think we need to do what Jen does here and what minority groups who are facing discrimination have done successfully – take ownership of the word – and change society’s perception of what it means, One darn, slow, hard fought step at a time.
Thanks. Love, A mom who struggles every day. xoxo
I completely agree with you. It is so misguided, and unfortunately, appeals to people who feel hurt when their child is not labeled as “gifted.” Many see it as a badge to wear, and confuse the term “gifted, the descriptor of individuals whose intellectual skills, asynchronous development and social/emotional needs are well above the norm, with the concept of a gift. Too much debate over a term, and not enough understanding of the meaning behind it.
Gail Post/ http://www.giftedchallenges.com
I agree completely. We’ve all heard “Don’t worry, Mom, they’re smart. They’ll do fine.” As if being “smart” is all you need to succeed in life. As if the “ability” to do well academically automatically means you will. As if these are the kids the teachers can ignore and not worry about because “they get it.”
And your comment about envy? I get it. You talk to the parents who say their child is “gifted” because they score a perfect on every spelling test (because they practice an hour a day). You think “Wow, was I supposed to help my kid study those spelling words?” You hear the parent think their kid is “gifted” because they spent two hours at a museum studying dinosaurs, while your kid talks about dinosaurs 24/7 for months until you just want to scream.
When gifted parents talk to each other about our kids, we’re not bragging and saying “My kid is smart.” We’re trying to connect with another parent who understands when we say “My kid is can do math three grade levels up but he has a meltdown if I tell him to brush his teeth again because I could see food between his teeth.”
We need to fight for our kids because we see how bored they are in school doing the same assignment over and over when we know they could be actually LEARNING. We see them having trouble making friends because they’re different from the other kids in their class and they know it. We see their potential going down the drain because they’re forced to learn at a pace that doesn’t fit their needs.
As gifted parents, we know our kids are “wired different.” But it’s difficult to explain what that really means to someone who doesn’t get it. We just have to keep trying to connect to other parents and teachers until they realize that our “special needs” kids need as much attention and support as the kids on the other end of the spectrum.
You know what I’ve been thinking today reading the backlash to our responses?
I think the word “gifted” is wrong, too. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
But that is a cheap cop-out when it comes “consensus.”
Acknowledging that it’s wrong lets people feel that they haven’t done any wrong and then go on their merry way.
First we gotta reclaim the word, I think.
As much as I hate to admit it, I, also, have moments of insane jealousy of friends with neuro-typical kids. Wouldn’t change my kid for anything, but goshgollygee he’s challenging to parent. And I know as hard as it is to parent him, it’s even harder to be him.
I didn’t read all of Momastery’s post, but the part I read seemed reactionary to me – her kid came home from school feeling less *whatever*, because someone didn’t explain giftedness to their classroom before handing out letters of invitation to the secret rites of initiation (or whatever it was). It’s the same feeling, I imagine, as having your kid say to you, “everyone else was invited to the birthday party, except me.” It cuts your heart out to see your child feel less than everyone else. With some good understanding and explanation of the difference between giftedness and gifts, all of that headache could have been alleviated.
Keep fighting the good fight.
Thank you for your well written response to this ongoing issue. I too am the parent of a 2E daughter, now 13 in the 9th grade at a STEM Magnet HS. Advocating for your child is a non – stop process to ensure the most appropriate education possible. Parenting a constant challenge while struggling with ADHD especially.
I always have believed that I have had some personal insight into my daughter’s advanced intellectual capabilities, and the challenges, frustrations, etc. That are inherent since I too was in what was in the 1950′ called the “Academically Talented Program” designed for kids who tested with IQ’S higher than 135.
The scary part still to come…. Adulthood! Sadly, you still often are the same ” square peg in a world that only accepts round holes”. You still are left with many of the same existential questions of how you can do so many things (mentally) yet others look at you like you are so vastly different.
I was fortunate, an innate leadership ability propelled me to success, however not all gifted children posses this trait. Even with this trait, others will still always “spot you as different” and some attempt to use against even in adulthood. Our children need strong emotional support as they develop throughout their entire life, to better prepare them to deal with the intrinsic qualities of giftedness that frequently actually dwell and sometimes hang heavily on the mind of our gifted youth, to help better prepare them for a lifetime of the same ongoing, internal questioning, frequently perfectionist and high drive that propels their giftedness.
Thank you Jen for giving me such a great birthday present! 🙂 I feel genuine pain that despite such eloquent and well referenced explanation; these issues are still contradicted by some as though you said “blah blah blah”…
It’s painful because the rejection of the reality that I am living through is a cognitive and emotional door-slam to the face.
But I console myself with the fact that to many, Climate Change is still rubbish. That is despite global scientific consensus and profuse mountains of research data from many disciplines.
It takes a lot of courage to be flexible – to adjust your frames of reference for the whole world. It takes trust to be able to explore and connect rather than assume and judge. It takes humility to accept that a scientist understands more about climate – and a psychologist understands more about giftedness, or whatever you’d prefer to call it – than you do. Courage, trust and humility are all exercised by choice. Many will choose not to.
People are confusing name-calling / pigeon holing / ‘labelling’ with – diagnosing – too by the way. Big difference.
I – like you, could come up with several persuasive counter-points to people’s various assertions. But the information is all on the internet, or in books, or on YouTube seminars and in-person conferences. The information is there if they really want it. Truth is they don’t.
Like any other marginalised group, we just need to support each other and choose our battles. BIG HUG. Oh…
I just thought of a quote from Dr Martin Luther King Jnr…
“The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody”.
You may be pleased to know, Glennon heard you, and did some asking to be educated. . Check out her response post on Facebook. I thought it was very classy of her.
I’m right there with you!
I was so disappointed by the Momastery post. It hurt my heart. I think we parents of the gifted understand where parents of neuro-typical children are coming from. It must seem great to be able to “prove” how special your child is by waving an IQ test around. And unless you have been in the trenches to see how the challenges increase as those IQ scores creep higher, the cut-off for gifted programs must seem arbitrary. I can also see how unfair it may seem that the gifted kids are “rewarded” with skipping out on “boring” classes to participate in “fun” activities in a gifted education classroom. I wish I was able to convince these parents that our kids need these enrichment activities like they need the air they breathe. You do not see any parents complaining that their children are no able to toss a ball around in the name of physical therapy. Why? I think because the special treatment is not the issue, but the connotation that smarter means better. Until the masses understand that being born with gifted wiring is no different in predicting success in life than being born tall is in predicting success on a basketball court.
If her child had an ear for music and picked up piano like most kids can’t, no one would blink an eye if she said her child was gifted on the piano or had a talent for music. But, put that same label in the academic realm and suddenly people want to freak out and either get rid of that distinction or make sure everyone is told they fit the label. My question is then, should I tell my child who can’t carry a tune in a bucket that he has an ear for music and is the most talented piano player there is simply because another child fits that description? No? Gee, you say that would be lying and we shouldn’t cheapen the talents of the other child? Yeah, well, same goes for children with a giftedness in academics.
I spent my pregnancy praying to the God I don’t believe in to get a smart, hardworking, non-gifted kid. My husband thought I was nuts.
But I find it bizarre that there’s this public “letter going home” event. It was never that obvious when I was a kid (the pull-out program, albeit pretty useless, didn’t have the words “gifted” or “talented” in it). Grouping by ability was the norm, and while it helped a little bit, I wasn’t with people I could really talk to until college.
So much frustration for kids, and it’s unnecessary if the resources are there.
Pingback: On being “gifted” | unchained faith
Pingback: The Grayson School | The Myth That Hurts Gifted Learners
I don’t know if this is the right place to say so, but, speaking of “adulthood, still to come,” I didn’t learn about the concept of giftedness till I was in my 30s (I was homeschooled till high school because, I dunno, I didn’t like public school? My brother and sister both did public school by choice).
Anyway, I started seeing a counselor b/c of unexplained depression, dug through the internet on my own time and found this amazing explanation for my reality (giftedness). I’m still wonky (emotionally), trying to sort it out, but the epiphany was so huge, the relief so great, I brought it to my counselor. She had this exact response you’re describing in this post: my using the word ‘gifted’ had no meaning because everyone is gifted.
That’s when I knew she wasn’t the right counselor for me.
I still wrestle with the concept, and how (or whether I need) to be “sure,” and how this effects my parenting (and homeschooling) my own kids.
I definitely feel isolated. The mixed messages are befuddling: too much and not enough, and this odd sense of warring between trying to prove something, or just living while (essentially) shutting out the rest of the world.
Thanks for talking about this. It’s not just the kids that get put done and invisibled.
Pingback: I Have a Gifted Kid and I Will No Longer Be Ashamed | Crushing Tall Poppies