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Aug 09 2012

What could YOU do?

It’s the International Week of the Gifted 2012 and with the corresponding blog tour I’ve seen one amazing blogpost after another this week. Me? End of summer stress-induced writer’s block. I always seem to forget to set things up for the boys in August and so we all suffer. Badly. I’ve been meaning to sit down all week and write something deep and important anything, but the laps the boys do on the main level, riling up the dog, topped with the endless bickering alternating with whining…well, my attention has been nil and my irritation has been high.

But the truth is, I’ve been struggling of late, trying to figure out what exactly my future role will be in gifted advocacy. My 2e son is now homeschooled, and his younger brother has not yet been identified. Bear with me as I try to explain this, as it’s hard for me to put into words, plus as I type I’m half watching the Broncos bury the Bears in preseason play. At this time in Illinois there is no funding for gifted education. None. Zip, zero, zilch. Colorado, with considerably less spent per student, funds gifted ed. Priorities, people. At this time, the prevailing winds indicate that (sigh) giftedness is indicated by achievement, and apparently that achievement is most evident in schools. So while I could advocate for gifted funding in the state, 1) I’m not too keen on pushing a rope, 2) it no longer affects us directly, as A has been very clear that he does not wish to return to public school, and 3) the state is not only broke but very broke and there’s just no funding for anything so I might as well save my breath for telling my child for the umpteenth freaking time to quit chasing the damn dog and making her bark because my office is in the corner of the living room and it’s too loud to think OH MY GOD QUIT MAKING HER BARK!

Ahem. As you were.

So I will leave that area of gifted advocacy to others. My focus is a little off the beaten path. If there is to be any change in gifted education and awareness (for example, if I hear or read another freaking anything that leans towards gifted education being elitist, my head is going to do a little spinny thing and I don’t have a massage therapist to fix that), it has to come from parents. Parents can move mountains when it comes to their kids, but when they are ignored, vilified, or put down because they are not “the experts,” it’s hard. Really, really hard. Parenting is already full of self-doubt and guilt; raising an outlier just ups that by a magnitude of infinity.

So I think my area of advocacy is in parental support.

Seriously, don’t ask me what that might look like, I’m still trying to figure that out. But I’ll tell you, over the last few years of writing here, and now with my book out in the wild, I have gotten some heartbreaking comments and emails from parents raising gifted and twice-exceptional kids. They…we…feel so alone, fighting an educational system and societal opinion that thinks we’re elitist, when really, we’re just exhausted parents trying to help, and oftentimes protect, our kids. Gifted education isn’t elitist, it’s an academic intervention for kids on the far right hand side of the bell curve, and it needs to include kids who may flirt with the left hand side of the curve too. Talking about our kids isn’t bragging, it’s talking about our kids. So I want to support parents, give them the strength to not only find each other, but band together and move mountains. Because they will and the change will change the future.

As part of International Week of the Gifted 2012, I have two copies of my book If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional to give away. To enter, just leave a comment here stating what you might do to advance gifted advocacy. On Wednesday August 15th I will pull one of the boys from the daily Chase Rosie And Make Her Bark Until Mom Turns Purple race and he will draw two winners. Tell your friends and family to come here and enter as well. Then tweet, share, scream it to the skies. Good luck!

It may be a week recognizing gifted individuals around the world, but it’s something for which we need to advocate every day of every week. What might you do?

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  1. Corin Goodwin

    I don’t need a free copy of your book (you know, because I already have several 😉 but I do want to say how proud of you I am. Those “thank yous” and comments from parents are a big part of what drove us to create Gifted Homeschoolers Forum and what keeps me going personally, in my writing and presenting and advocating.

    Parents of kids who are different need to know they are not alone. They need to know that someone else is living in chaos, too, and understands. I got so tired of people telling me I must be overdramatizing, because it couldn’t be that bad so I was probably just looking for attention. Now I can hand them your book and say, “See? I told you it wasn’t just me!”

    You did good. Thank you. 🙂

  2. Kasi

    I already have a copy of your book and devoured it, actually, to the neglect of my 2 kids. But, you have inspired me. I was already spinning my wheels about starting a parent support group in my area, but now I am going to put the wheels in motion. I recently asked a professional in the field where all the families are because they seem to be in hiding. He said they are in hiding. I’m gonna find ’em! Thank you!

  3. Eva Palacios

    I love everything you write. I already bought a copy of your book, and read it cover to cover the same day. Thank you so much for writing it, and keeping this blog, and helping other parents as myself, to not feel so alone. Well, I just wanted to than you 🙂

  4. JD

    I honestly don’t know what to do to advocate for my child. Other parents seem to think I’m crazy for fighting for my sons and when I try at the school, I feel like I hit dead end after dead end. We have an exceptional teacher last year but next year our options for 4th grade are someone whose experience has been as a PE teacher or another teacher who has been in administration. Needless to say, I am very nervous. I have a feeling I may end up pulling him part way through the year to homeschool, yet I have no idea where to start with that either.

    I cried reading Corin’s comment above. Just like I felt when I took my son to his first chess tournament and called my husband to say our son had finally found “his people”, I think I need to find “my people” too to figure out how to work through this and help my kids be able to work to their potential.

    I know I didn’t answer your question, but mainly I just wanted to thank you and to thank Corin and Kasi who posted before me. It helps to know I am not alone in this battle. We just have to find each other hiding in our own little holes.

  5. KD

    I agree that parents need to know they are not alone and it is okay to talk about their kids. I work with my kids’ private school to help put activities and programs in place to help the kids who don’t fit I the box.

  6. Amy Simko

    I finished your fantastic book in just 3 days! Amazing really…given the needs of my 2E son! Loved every word. Completely understand we’re you are coming from with the above blog post. I homeschool my son and he has never/will never go to public school, so advocating to the degree necessary to make real change is less of a passion for a parent who is not directly negatively impacted. I do co-lead a group for gifted children with the mom of two gifted boys one of who is 2E and they do go to school. Our group is about getting together to find peers for our quirky kids and thanks to my co-leader includs a fair amount of advocating for them. Without her, I would be less motivated to take an interest in advocating for all gifted children.

    Having said all that…I hope you continue to blog (and maybe write another book because I need you too)! Your ability to put my daily life into words is so helpful. Now that I’ve finished the book, I plan to pass it around the family as a means of education about my life and why unlike my sister who has perfectly manicured nails and although older then me looks 20 still, I feel like I’ve managed a miracle to fit in a hair cut once every two years.

  7. Jan

    Well I am miles behind on the gifted advocacy as I am one of those parents in hiding…well I was until one of our daughters fall off the school wagon for a few months earlier this year. We have managed to climb back on (at her request) and are making headway with it..(southern hemisphere so a few months left in the year)
    Where I am going with this, is that we climbed back on and laid down the law with the school (very small and rural) on how we wanted it to work and they are finally listening as they see that I mean business (and that I was actually right about our daughter being so stressed out) I suggested that the principal and her teacher come with me to listen to a seminar on perfectionism in a city 2 hours away given by a well known educational psycologist. Well whatdoyaknow they actually came away with lots and over the long drive home we talked over the strategies discussed and other gifted issues.
    Their idea of giftedness had been high achieving etc etc…and I finally managed to get them to realise that all I really want is to have my children happy in their classrooms.
    It was the first time I had spent time with these 2 ladies in a positive situation where it wasn’t discussing daughter A,B or C and their school issues. I was pushing the gifted barrow in general. It was a great feeling making that small step and progress for the school!!!
    Jan. PS I don’t have a copy of your book 🙂

  8. Kate Arms-Roberts

    Go you. I have been trying to get my brain around the challenge of finding parents of 2e kids in my area to start a support group. Your writing and the community of parents I have met through #gtchat have been inspirational.

    (and I can use every copy of your book I can get my hands on)

    Kate

  9. Cristy S.

    This was such an encouraging read to me this morning. Thank you for your transparency.

    Right now, I’m just trying to see “the forest for the trees,” but I believe the best advocacy for gifted education is successfully educating my gifted daughter. I’d love to win a copy of your book, because it seems (from what I’ve read of it) another possible way to advocate positively!

  10. Beth D.

    It’s not just being “vilified, ignored, and put down” or “being full of guilt and self-doubt. As you so eloquently demonstrate in your blog posts and book, it’s being maxed out in every way, drained dry past exhaustion trying to keep up with (or catch up to or mitigate the damage from or…) our 2e kiddos. I keep an eye out for clueless parents of “kids like ours” (whatever that might be) and point them in the direction of Hoagies, SENG, and the like. But with a hormone poisoned, hyper intense-perfectionistic-oppositional-nuclear-hurricane brain running 20 hours a day, I got nuttin’ left. The change needs more than the dregs some parents have left over. I think we need to tap into the professionals that get it and who are educating more (like SENG), the parents on “the other side”, and the young adults who were the kids and aren’t yet on their own parenting roller-coasters.
    If I could afford it, I’d give a copy of your book to everyone who has ever said to me, “Oh, he’s so smart!” I would love to share a pot of coffee with you some day.

  11. My Kids Mom

    I’m still working on Christine Fonseca’s book, which has been my introduction to the topic (via your blog I must add). I am concerned about my intense, exuberant and gifted 8 yo this year. He’s been given the most boring, planned-my-lessons-in-1980 teacher in the school and I’m afraid she’s going to squash all the awesome out of him. I’m still working on my plan to talk to her. (She also taught my more run-of-the-mill gifted son who was able to roll with it.)

    At the same time, our school says there are too many “gifted” kids (65% of our 3rd grade?!?!) to use a pull out method for their gifted class time, so the teachers are going to use “differentiated education” this year to provide those hours in the room. Not good.

    So, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve been sharing info from Christine’s book, and I can start handing out the name of your book too, to see if I can get help and advice from any other parents. Since I’ve only just realized what is going on in my kid, I’m at the start. I wish I was at advocacy but I need to learn what he needs first.

  12. innreach

    Thank.you.for.being… is.all from one very frazzeled chaos household to another.. To say what I am going to do… hmm well, help both parents and concerned educators be seen and heard through initiatives like this .. (am I in the pot now?? would love a copy Jen.. teehee). Thanks for all your help to make this IWG12 happpen (three p’s!..lucky you… )

  13. Susanne

    I think, and this is just my opinion, that we need more talking about the kids…and maybe about ourselves. I want your book like woah because I think it’s part of what ‘we’ as parents need.

    Cause I think the more balanced the stories we tell (the brainy and the zany) the more we make it seem less like we’re all talking about the 13 year old who invented x (which needs to be celebrated just not held up as the stereotype of what a parent of a gifted kid is working with) And even if you’re talking super-kid in school, letting out the ‘and this other part also happens’ is not what makes it into the news and I think that’s a problem for a lot of us. Why would someone ‘get it’ if they’ve never been shown it?

  14. Susanne

    Also I write entirely too much…

  15. Mona

    I’ve got my copy of your book (which I read, cover to cover, the day I got it) sitting on my coffee table. It is now the first stop for every person who walks in our front door. “Here, read this, then we’ll talk…” The FedEx guy didn’t appreciate it too much, but he was gracious enough to put the book down before bolting for his truck.

    The book made me weep – because it is funny and it is true and it is such a relief when you find others who “get it.” And it is for this very reason that what you are doing is sooooo important. You give hope to the rest of us – hope that we are not alone.

  16. Lonna

    I am an expert. I have a doctorate in typical child development, and I am still not able to advocate for my son. It’s amazing the condescension that I receive when I’m dealing with my son’s principal. The teachers just keep talking at me without responding to my comments. I bring in research and they counter with what “their gut” says. I am so exhausted between advocating for my own child and then having to advocate for my community college students (who get ignored in their own way) that I can’t even think of how I would advocate on a greater level than that. I would love someone else to create a local place for gifted kids and gifted adults to find each other. The isolation has been a big energy suck here too.

  17. Nancy M

    I’ll do what comes naturally to me: talk, and then talk some more. Talking about the lovely and not-so-lovely reality of gifted and 2e kids doesn’t necessarily “normalize” our experiences, but legitimizes them (to the degree that people are willing to understand). Putting it out there sets things straight. I keep advocating, but have become less invested in others’ ability to “get it.” I have used the law to make sure my daughter’s needs are met (yay, 504), and have been lucky to be in a district that has the willingness and resources to address giftedness (even if incompletely).

  18. Annie Vititoe

    Thanks for writing! I would love a copy of your book!!! I’m a social worker and I advocate for clients all the time. I think once you have the group or person you will advocate for, you will know which approach to take. As every child (or person) is different.
    Our household is so mixed, I feel as if I’m being pulled in all directions advocating. My 11 yr old daughter, is almost average. Maybe slight slow learning. My 9 yr old son is gifted. Just tested alittle over a yr ago. Now I can tell you everything I missed seeing before. My almost 2 yr old daughter is special needs, not even sure what I’m in for yet when she starts school.
    I just ended a 11 month battle with our school district to get the two older ones in the same school. Happy to report I won and now everyone from the Superintendent down knows my name! But in the end, why does it have to take that long. Why can’t the people that get paid to do it advocate in the best interest of EVERY child????

  19. Samantha

    As a parent of a child who was ID in February ’12 I am still devouring every tid bit of information I can find! I have friends who think I should be proud and stop complaining because “your kid is going to have it easy”. If only they could see the anxiety, melt downs, tears over all the questions from other kids, tears over being bored, not being perfect, not being fast enough on timed test…. all of this from a Kindy kiddo. We are paying a fortune for independent school year, huge hardship, I am splitting up my girls who area only 17 month apart to try to accommodate one… that causes tears from the other one. A gift? We should be proud? While I am proud of her academic accomplishments I am beyond exhausted an!

  20. Jennifer Minicucci

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post about your experiences. I’ve often thought of doing it, but shy away from going “public.” You do more than just think about it and it’s been invaluable to your readers.

    I am in the process of doing something to advocate for gifted children that, because of your question, I thought I would share. NH also has no funding – zero, zip, zilch, nada – for gifted education. Why? Because in NH, it no longer exists (it used to but the definition was erased from the books); according to the Department of Education, those children are “already getting all of their needs met”, there is “no such thing as asynchrony”, none of the research in the last 30 years is “conclusive” and “parents aren’t educators, they don’t know what’s best for their kids.” Yup.

    They set me straight when I dared to submit an application for a charter school that would support the needs of gifted children. Silly me, I thought they would be happy to have a way – at no cost or inconvenience to the district schools – to reach those children from whom funding to meet their needs had been eliminated. Everyone is entitled to a free and appropriate education. Except gifted kids. I’ve heard dozens of stories where parents of gifted students were told to find another “educational alternative.” I’ve never heard one where the public school told a parent of a traditional, delayed, or any other type of learner they need to homeschool or shell out for private education because they weren’t “required” to meet a child’s needs.

    Hence, the charter school. Rather than becoming defeated, our group of co-founders became energized by the blatant discrimination and frankly, ignorance. Realizing that we never intended to test or assess kids for admission (it was never about labeling, just about meeting needs); and that many children – gifted or otherwise – might benefit from our program, we resubmitted our application multiple times. All traces of the word “gifted” or “gifts”, all the supporting research, etc were removed and letters of recommendation from educators, politicians, and lists of community supporters were added. It took 10 months of perseverance, string pulling, and the initiation of a little legal activity to finally get our hearing before the State Board of Ed.

    Our mission includes an individualized approach (personal learning plans for every child), with small multi-age classes, utilizing a project-based interdisciplinary curriculum that includes the development of social and emotional skills. Doesn’t seem like it should warrant such a battle, does it? But in 3 weeks – 11 months from our authorization – our school will open at maximum capacity.

    Although ours is not a gifted school and we did very little publicity, guess which parents found us? Desperate, searching for options, knowing exactly how their children learn best and what kind of school would best serve them – a good many of them not even knowing the reason why their child is miserable in school and not fitting in – they found us. It’s likely that not all of our students are gifted – it truly makes no difference, as long as they are eager to learn – but we are the safe haven so many families have been seeking for so long. Our admissions lottery was an emotional event.

    Our job is not over, though. Funding for public charter schools is $5,450 per student (!) and as a relative newcomer to the education scene, with only a handful of successful ones in operation, they are still considered quite controversial. Gifted education is also under (!) funded and considered quite controversial. I figured we couldn’t change the system from the outside, but now that we are ever-so-slightly in, I am hoping to increase the public’s awareness slowly and gently to make both school choice and giftedness less threatening, better understood, tolerated and maybe someday accepted.

    1. My Kids Mom

      awesome!

  21. Jen

    My son has not been identified as gifted yet, but given all his quirks and skills I’m pretty certain he is. He had a mediocre teacher last year, who actually told us that he would not be challenged in reading or math, and that she couldn’t do anything about it. I have vowed that if I hear that again, I will do everything I can to get him into a different classroom and fight for his right to be educated.

    I need to be less afraid to talk to other parents about my son’s needs. Most of them have kids who are struggling with math or reading; I feel like a social misfit if I mention that my son’s problem is that school isn’t challenging enough. There really is a perception that a gifted kid will breeze through school and perform well. I will admit that I had that attitude too, before I had a gifted kid in school.

    I guess right now all I can do is try to change the perception that gifted kids don’t need extra help, one person at a time.

  22. GinevraCat

    I don’t think I do advocacy at all – but I DO talk informally about my kids to other parents – a lot. I talk about homeschooling and asynchronous development and occupational therapy to other parents who tell me I’m so lucky. (Of course, I AM lucky, my kids are phenomenal – also exhausing, confusing etc)

    I talk to my child’s (new) OT about gifted kids and intensities. I try to mention giftedness whenever we get a new service provider (paediatrician, OT, play therapist etc) so that I can both gauge their reaction and educate them if appropriate. I try not to apologise for my daughter’s intelligence.

    In South Africa there is very little recognition of giftedness as a special educational need in any way, shape, or form. “Gifted” is pretty much always equated to “high achieving” in most people’s minds here. So I just educate myself and talk to my friends and colleagues, informally, without apologizing. It’s not much, but it’s more than I used to do. Twitter, your blog and Gifted Homeschoolers Forum are my encouragement. Thank-you :).

  23. Saliesh

    I would totally love a copy of your book! I am just beginnning this journey with my 5yr daughter!

  24. BeckyG

    Advocacy… hmmm… I’d have to come out of hiding first. *Gasp of terror* I like what the comment above says about doing “more than I used to.” There are a few places online where I’m starting to contribute, but in real life… not yet. I have a copy of your book (loved it, needed it!)

  25. Heidi

    Having had a bad dream about having to scream and screech. I’m planning on making a calm phone call today to set up a meeting with the new director of the highly gifted program we enrolled our 2e in. More education is needed to help my daughter and all the 2es in the program (over 25%) succeed.

  26. Cindy

    At this point I am learning about what’s available & really don’t know much about the advocacy except for my own children. We have gone from homeschool to online virtual school so I don’t know if there is anything available to them.

  27. Cassidy

    I think the biggest part of advocating I have done, is educating myself about giftedness. This has helped me feel confident in telling others about what I have learned. My family is finally understanding it all, and they are advocating for our kids via extended family and friends.. It’s kind of like throwing a pebble in a pond and watching the ripple go further and further out. I’m looking for my next pond to throw my pebble into.

  28. Michelle

    I never thought about gifted until I met you. Then my son was tested this summer for IQ, among other things. Now I wonder what else I could be doing to help him. I think what I will do to “advance gifted advocacy” is research giftedness and see if it plays a role in my son’s life (and therefore mine). Thanks for the chance to win– I’d love to read your book!

  29. sunny

    I fall in the same camp with GinevraCat and BeckyG. I’m not quite sure how to advocate beyond my own children. Sometimes getting through the day is an accomplishment! We teach them academics at home, but they do other “normal” things with kids in our area which gives us a chance to talk with a lot of other parents about all kinds of things.

    By the way, thanks for writing your blog. It is an encouragement to not give up! 🙂

  30. Kari

    I sit far away from you, in a tiny country up north (no Polar bears though) in Europe.. Experts tell me that since around 1970 our educators have pretended gifted kids don’t exist. “All kids should be treated equal” unfortunately has turned i to “all kids have to have EXACTLY THE SAME curriculum” ..

    When this problem first exploded (yeah.. I guess you know the feeling) in my face 4 years ago (hint: firstgrader in’da’house) I was.. gobsmacked.. schocked.. Educators did nothing because they did not have a clue about what giftedness means, what the kid needs, how emotionally sensitive they may be..

    And i must say, no SHOUT: Thaaaank heaven for Internet: SENGifted, Hoagies, NAGC and all those lovely, hilarious, inspiring ++ blogs in the USA. – They – and you and your blog as well – SAVED my sanity back when I discovered about the “hidden world of giftedness” – 😀
    Now, I’ve started blogging and tweeting, sending e-mails to politicians, trying to establish alliances with researchers . I just have to DO something about the situation in our country. Luckily we are more parents who join forces. But there’s lots of work in stall for us 🙂 – A copy of your book would be greatly appreciated. (a long way for it, though ;))

  31. Erica

    If I talk about my gifted child not being sufficiently challenged, I am bragging about how smart she is. If I complain about the drama, the meltdowns, the perfectionism, the high energy that comes with the giftedness then I am making excuses for my kids’ behavior instead of stepping up and being a good parent. Advocating in this atmosphere is impossible. I do try to direct people to hoagies if I suspect their child is gifted. I attend school board meetings in case something comes up relative to gifted funding. (I am the only parent in the entire school district that attends. Is that normal?)

    My copy of your book is in the mail so if I win a copy I will give it to the gifted teacher and continue to push her to give the parents a list of books we can borrow from the program.

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