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Aug 29 2011

No wrong way to be gifted

As I was idly scrolling through Facebook this morning, as I tend to do as I suck down the remaining dregs of that life-giving brew, a post from 2e Newsletter came across my feed:

QUOTE OF THE WEEK. “These children truly are exceptional. Not only are they gifted, but they are also coping with learning challenges or disabilities. It is our responsibility to give these students the extra assistance they need to become successful.”−Tom Luna, Superintendent of Public Instruction Prologue to Students With Both Gifts and Challenges or Disabilities, published by the State of Idaho

Two things came to mind as I read this. One, if you have a twice-exceptional child and don’t have a subscription to this newsletter, hang your head in shame and toddle on over and get one. Yes, I have a subscription, and no, I don’t always read it. Why, you ask? Same reason as all my other gifted books/magazines/newsletters: by the time I finally duct-tape the boys into bed and collapse on the sofa for a few minutes of delicious silence before the stress of the day pulls me under for the third time, I just don’t have the mental stamina to read about what I just survived that day. Oh, and because they’ve all been packed up for the last eight months and I’ve been a wee bit busy to do more than scan status updates on Facebook. Where was I? Oh, yeah. And two, that this quote came from a superintendent not only stuns me, but delights me deeply and gives me hope that maybe someday 2e kids will be recognized as gifted AND as working a crapton harder than other kids merely to appear average.

I am fully aware that the previous paragraph meanders badly. Please forgive. My writing, it is rusty from lack of use. As the boys would say, it makes me “sad panda.”

A wasn’t accepted into the district’s GT program. (Psst…this is called burying the lead). Because his test scores weren’t high enough, the powers that be decided that at this time he would be best served in his community school and not the self-contained GT program at a separate elementary. Never mind that I have a full workup from the Gifted Development Center that states very clearly that A would best be served in a full-time gifted classroom. Unfortunately, I unexpectedly learned this from the principal as A was standing there, so not only did I not have the opportunity to argue effectively but I also had the added pleasure of talking my hysterical son off the ledge once we got into the car. Oh yes, that was a joyful afternoon. Thankfully it was a few weeks ago and we’ve since recovered. Kinda.

This tells me that the district’s GT program is more for high-achievers, and not exactly for gifted students. For while gifted students can be high-achievers, not all high-achievers are truly gifted. I swear I’ll say it til my lungs hurt, but gifted is wiring. Parents who desperately want gifted kids really want high-achieving kids, ’cause if they truly had gifted kids with the (hmmm…what descriptor shall I use this morning…let’s go with) interesting wiring they’d be rocking under their desks quivering like the rest of us. It ain’t all sunshine and roses, kids. Some days make me want to stab a rainbow.

There is no wrong way to be gifted. None. It just sticks in my craw (what is a craw, exactly?) that most gifted programs aren’t usually for the kids who truly need them. The ones with the asynchronous development, with the ones who struggle with basic math skills while easily grasping the properties of statistics, the ones who can mentally design elaborate projects but can’t get the ideas out on paper because they jam up on the way out. These issues, this wiring, is not easily accommodated in a traditional classroom. A’s beloved teacher last year (who I want to clone and keep forever and ever) even said something to the effect that traditional education isn’t set up for this kind of kid (rough quote). Not making excuses for it, but upset that this was the case and that he was nearly powerless to do anything about it. And twice-exceptional just janks everything up to the power of ten. Even I sometimes have a hard time believing my son is gifted/2e, and I live with him.

Tonight is curriculum night at school and we will finally meet A’s teachers. I’m not thrilled that we haven’t met them yet, but gonna let it go and move forward. The plan is to differentiate as best as possible within the classroom, and reevaluate in a few weeks (I’m assuming after A takes the mandatory ITBS and CoGAT tests–ooh, I love lurve that a test-phobic child with puke-poor processing speed gets to take these right at the beginning of the school year). My plan is to advocate for him as gently/loudly/persistently/non-crazy-mom-ly as possible and make sure he gets enough afterschooling to keep his mind active.

To recap: It’s wiring. Get a subscription to the 2e Newsletter. There’s no wrong way to be gifted…ever. My rusty writing skills make me sad panda. And I promise I won’t stab a rainbow today.

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  1. Julie in KC

    I just noticed this new post as well. (The last one was new to me, too, because I hadn’t looked since last week.) Thank you again for all you do. I know you don’t know me personally, but your blog has just been a lifesaver for me whenever I question my life, my son and what we’re dealing with. When no one else understands what it’s like to raise a gifted child, you always hit the nail on the head. The wiring is so true. You just can’t explain it. Why are two weeks of school great, then the third starts with him running out of the back door to escape because he wants his class from last year instead. And while the principal and teachers at our school are great (although I wish we had gifted schools here), I still don’t think they really get my son or the wiring piece (not even the gifted teacher) and probably think there’s something else “wrong” with him. I’m in the rainbow stabbing mood today, but I’ll just take a deep breath and say thanks again for all of your blogs. 🙂

    1. Jen

      Oh hon. It’s comments on my posts that keep ME sane, knowing *I’M* not alone in this insanity. I start the advocating next week, with the first of what I’m sure will be several meetings with the 5th grade team. Thinking I should bake something…

  2. melissaz

    Yup. Wiring. Dealing with that a bit right now.

    Hugs. And leave the rainbows out of it. It’s not their fault. 🙂

    1. Jen

      You’ve been swearing to me for years that it gets easier and I’m holding you to that! 😉

  3. 2eMom

    I love this post 🙂 We have THREE 2e peeps in our house (myself included) and I get tired and disheartened by the fact that we’re constantly misunderstood. High achieving is not the same thing as gifted!! ARRGH. (sigh) Unless people experience gifted “alternative wiring” themselves, either personally, through family or through professional expertise, they just don’t get it. We’re lucky because the kids and I have each other, while my poor husband just rides the waves the best he can, lol 🙂

    1. Jen

      Three 2e in one house would kill me. Wait…counting…we’re close. 😉 A for sure, husband has his quirks, J would probably be considered ADHD if his brother wasn’t so over the top…I’m the only normal one! Bwahahahahahaha!!!!!
      I grew up with my brother (duh). In retrospect, he is probably also very 2e. I often laugh (half hysterically) that I’m raising my brother. They really are that much alike. I also laugh (more than half hysterically) that I got ten years of relative peace between moving out for college and having A.

  4. Corin Barsily Goodwin

    Two comments:

    1. TOTALLY agree that 2e Newsletter is a must for families with 2e kids.

    2. We addressed this very topic in the new book, _Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child_ You are exactly right: gifted programs are usually not aimed at kids who are truly gifted, and even if they were, there is no reasonable way to create a one-size-fits-all gifted classroom that will suit the needs of all gifted children. Hence the Bow Tie Model – because gifted kids are at least as different from each other as they are from NT kids.

    1. Jen

      I have to get that book. That one and several others. Will work for books! 😉

  5. Mona

    I so agree with you that giftedness is about wiring, not performance. My EG/PG DS11 isn’t high achieving at all – couldn’t care less what others think of his “performance” as long as he’s happy with it (fat chance, thank you perfectionism – which, instead of encouraging him forward, makes him stop trying). Our district’s “gifted” program was clearly a misfit from the beginning – I would look around at the children in the classroom and could pick out the one or two who were truly gifted out of a class of 29 students. And despite my son’s 99th percentile scores on all the tests to get into the program, his teacher kept telling me he wasn’t smart enough to be in her class. And, sadly, she told him that, too. He knew better, so he learned early that teachers cannot be trusted. And THAT, dear friends, has been the bane of our existence since first grade.

    1. Jen

      OY. We’ve been very lucky to avoid toxic teachers so far, which is why I’m sick thinking about him starting middle school next year. I suspect our sons would get along well, sounds like they have similar “whatevs” personalities regarding things they aren’t passionate about.

  6. Allie

    “For while gifted students can be high-achievers, not all high-achievers are truly gifted. I swear I’ll say it til my lungs hurt, but gifted is wiring.”

    Preach it!!! I have so many friends I would like to whack upside the head because they don’t get it. You are right, it’s high achieving kids they want…they just don’t know it because they assume gifted= high achieving.

    1. Jen

      Even I fall into the “gifted=high-achieving” mindset sometimes and I know better! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought to myself “you’re so damned gifted and you can’t do XYZ why exactly?” And then I step back away from the homework and smack myself back into reality.

  7. Accidental Expert

    That’s it! I’m moving to Idaho. This superintendent sounds like on in a million. Literally.

    Yes. Yes and double yes to everything you said. Unfortunately most gifted programs I’ve seen take an elitist view of accepting only profoundly gifted or gifted “without issues” — as if that even exists.

    Luckily we found a little charter school that gets that gifted kids don’t always test gifted — and certainly not in all areas.

    You kids sound very much like my son — processing speed, duct tape and all. Good luck to you.

    1. Jen

      Yeah, I’d head to Idaho too, but another move would put me six feet under right now.

  8. Benoit

    Sorry Jen, I read you in diagonals tonight. And I have just to tell that there’s no gifted program here…and my sons survive…as I’ve survived. Just to remind you that life is possible for gifted outside GT programs.
    Take all this with ease. If your sons are clever, they’ll stay clever.
    Peace my friend !

  9. ljconrad

    It’s like so many other things … if you haven’t lived through it, you probably don’t ‘get it’. I will never forget sitting in the psychologist’s office and hearing these words, “Mrs. Conrad, you just have to understand that his brain is wired differently.” Really? How does one understand that? Those are pretty biting words; especially when you are not given any strategies beyond an out-of-date textbook … strategies that don’t work.
    Jen, don’t beat yourself up over the gifted program. It they aren’t geared to 2E, they rarely help and can even make things worse.
    I am a firm believer in do-it-yourself gifted parenting. It would be nice to have the support of the school, but when you don’t – make lemonade!
    BTW, I highly reccommend Corin and Mika’s book … Making the Choice. It is one of the best books I’ve read about gifted children!

    1. Jen

      I have to get that book, it’s on a long list of books I need to get and inhale.
      Yeah, I’ve pretty much decided that the district’s GT program would probably not be a good fit for him. And now that I’ve decided that they’ll come back saying they’ve reevaluated and he’s eligible. Sigh… Our best hope right now is to get help through the three classroom teachers (they’re switching classes now in preparation for middle school next year) and the new ADHD clinic. The kid is bringing home As (last school didn’t use letter grades, so he’s thrilled), he just needs significant help with executive function issues.

  10. Ingrid

    I don’t agree that they will survive if there’s no gifted program (or at the very least, someone who “gets” them). They may stay clever, but they may get anxious, sad, depressed, angry, frustrated and generally hate school and even worse, life.

    Surely we need to support these clever ones, no matter the disability? We took the “plunge” and homeschooled. But not everyone can do that, and for many, many 2e kids, school is something to be suffered and endured.

    1. Jen

      Yeah, suffered and endured is sadly the best way to describe it. School should be more than achievement but it’s not at this time.

  11. P Price

    I was “afterschooled” in late elementary school thanks to encouragement by a 3rd grade teacher. It saved my soul–especially when two years later I was “dismissed” by the G/T program because my math scores were at grade level. This was before anyone talked about asynchronous development. Coincidentally, age 10 is when a lot of G/T gals go into hiding, esp, with math. I was so shaken up that I decided that I was “dumb” at math and still suffer for that–even though in 1-4 I scored in the upper 90%. I also became test phobic. Go figure.

    To say it was a letdown–being kicked out–is an understatement. Fortunately, my parents already had me in an afterschool theatre program.
    I recall vividly my father saying: “Tests can’t fully determine your intelligence or your worth. And you’re great at theatre and writing!”

    Like I said, the performing arts were my salvation. It got me through high school. Then I stopped performing. Why? Because in college it was okay to geek out on my one true academic love: history.

    We homeschool because of a peanut allergy, but my son is gifted–a spontaneous reader, intense, etc. People other than us pointed it out. We just figured he was bright and we were, like lots of parents, just really proud.

    Although we use assessment techniques to guide our curriculum choices (we’re DIY), we won’t be testing formally for g/t any time soon.

    1. Jen

      You know, you make an interesting point. I was in the GT pullout program in 4th and 5th grade and the upper level classes in middle school. I barely hung onto math but aced everything in language and the arts and science. In high school an ass of a counselor told me I couldn’t do advanced science because I refused to do advanced math. I never considered asynchrony for myself. Hm. To this day math is the bane of my existence (thank GOD for computers and calculators), but my brain thrives on science, my soul on writing and music. Hm.

  12. Doreen DeVore

    I thought that I was going to split from laughing. Our adult 2E daughter posted the link to her Facebook page. This is all too true. There was no concept of twice exceptional when my children were growing up. I could never figure out why I was more exhausted with only two children when some of my friends had 4 or 5 normal children and seemed to breeze through life. It wasn’t until our daughter started taking education courses in college that she realized that both she and her brother were twice exceptional. She came one summer and told me that we had actually raised 4 children in two bodies and had done a good job despite not having a clue what we were really doing. We made lots of mistakes. The schools sometimes made bad choices and we didn’t know enough to fight. But they both grew up and became 2E adults. Parents now days have a lot more information, tools and support systems. However, sometimes the parental “gut” is the best guide in dealing with differently wired children.

    1. Jen

      Doreen, thank you so much for commenting. Gives me hope that I/we will survive this. I have often wondered why I could barely manage my crew while others with many more kids had a handle on their lives. I finally realized A was worth probably 2 1/2 kids alone. LOL!
      Four children in two bodies. Yes. That is absolutely correct.

  13. Leah

    I like your favourite quote of the week. Here’s mine – from your post:

    “For while gifted students can be high-achievers, not all high-achievers are truly gifted. I swear I’ll say it til my lungs hurt, but gifted is wiring. Parents who desperately want gifted kids really want high-achieving kids, ’cause if they truly had gifted kids with the (hmmm…what descriptor shall I use this morning…let’s go with) interesting wiring they’d be rocking under their desks quivering like the rest of us. It ain’t all sunshine and roses, kids. Some days make me want to stab a rainbow.”

    1. Jen

      LOL! You rock. : )
      Hm. Think I could anonymously print your favorite quote and hand it to the teachers this week at our meeting? 😉

  14. Terri Griest

    I am so glad I followed the 2e Newsletter link to your blog! I’ve been coming back to it all day, as often as my two 2e children and Irene would “allow.” I’ve chuckled, fist pumped, and even guffawed a time or two — thanks for that! I’ll be back…

    1. Jen

      My 2e child plus a hurricane equals me finally going over into that deep dark cavern at the edge of my psyche. He doesn’t handle bad storms well and neither does my husband. He lost his house to a tornado when he was 12, huddled in the basement. So I’d be the only one not freaking the freak out by the storm…until I finally lost my mind.
      So glad you came by, and do return! 🙂

  15. Kelly

    Wow! I just found your blog (via the 2e newsletter!) and I love it.

    I too have a gifted child with poor processing speed (plus ADHD) and she didn’t qualify for the gifted program either. It’s crazy…

    I look forward to reading more!

    1. Jen

      We are raising the same child methinks. 😉 Ticks me off that GT kids are more likely to have these quirks and yet they’re not recognized in schools. Sigh…

  16. Brainhugger

    So true… too busy surviving it to read about it AND, most of the time, write about it.

    So sorry you’re starting from scratch in a new school district. Hoping you find some 2E allies to help you through.

    I’ll worry when you start kicking unicorns.

    1. Jen

      I only kick unicorns that won’t fart rainbows for me. 😉

  17. Leo

    Great post!

    I’ve been fortunate. While my daughter is not in a gifted class (she didn’t pass the qualification test, likely due to the testing method), she is in a very small class of six kids with a teacher and two aides. They recognize where she is struggling (social and slightly on math) and where she excels. She has some Asperger’s traits, and we’re working with that as a basis. Good team of people, and it’s been good progress the last year. We’ll see how third grade goes as she goes back on Wednesday.

    The folks I wish would get the whole concept of “wiring” are what I refer to as WMF – Well Meaning Folks.

    These folks, many of them family, just don’t get the wiring. We had just such an experience today. I know how long my daughter can handle a high-stimulus situation, especially with other kids around that are younger and don’t want to play *her* way. I call that point where things start turning south her “expiration date”. She stops listening, starts to make poor choices. I can see it coming.

    We were at a family gathering, and when I saw things starting to turn, I told her grandmother – who rode along with us – that the expiration date was approaching and that we needed to go. Not long after that, my daughter made a choice that her grandmother frowned on. I looked at her and told her “We’ve hit the expiration date”.

    Her grandmother just doesn’t want to believe that waning attention, poor choices and difficulty grasping what’s around her are anything other than willful disobedience and my failure as a dad. This comes because my daughter is highly verbal, off the charts. To many WMF, this means she should excel at EVERYTHING. They don’t get that the super verbal skills quite often mean that there is something else that isn’t as developed. In my daughter that’s self control and spatial awareness.

    It’s a challenge, but I’ve had to learn to accept that the WMF really think they’re helping. And then try to reverse the unwitting damage they sometimes do.

    1. Jen

      Your daughter has a 2:1 ratio in class? My envy knows no bounds. That would be beyond ideal for A. He has some Aspie traits too (and I’m wondering what to do next), and that much personal attention would help him so, so much.
      WMF. Yes. There are more than enough of those to go around, they don’t realize what they’re doing, and they are turning me grey. ARGH.
      Your daughter sounds a great deal like my son. He’s extremely verbal, but lacks self control, and anything resembling executive function skills. Hitting the expiration date is a wonderful code phrase to use; I’ve always used hitting the wall and the fallout being what occurs after bounced off it. :/ Sometimes we can see it coming, sometimes it just explodes like a baking soda/vinegar volcano. Either way it’s exhausting to the extreme.

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