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Jul 18 2011

What I wish others knew about parenting twice-exceptional kids

laughingatchaos.comIt’s Day Two of National Parenting Gifted Children week, and I am proud to be participating in the blog tour. Hosted by SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted), this is the fourth year of NPGC week. It coincides with the SENG conference (which I had planned to attend, until this cross-country move got in the way), and in addition to the blog tour, the nice folks at SENG have provided a free NPGC Week ebook: The Joy and the Challenge: Parenting Gifted Children. Seriously, go get it, you’ll learn something.

I had many topics I wanted to cover today, but finally narrowed it down to WHAT I WISH OTHERS KNEW ABOUT PARENTING 2E KIDS. Yes, all caps, because I feel strongly enough about this to shout it from the rooftops. How’re ten points for you? Ten no-holds-barred, painfully honest, please know I mean well points? Good? Good. Oh, and while I know I don’t speak for everyone, I’m gonna use the Royal We enough to drive y’all nuts.

  1. This long-distance dedication goes out to friends, teachers, acquaintances, extended family, and random people on the street. Bear with me, accept this with the love I’m throwing with it, here we go. Deep breath. We’re not making this shit up. We really do have gifted kids who have various issues that hold them back. Yes, it exists. You can have a highly gifted kid with processing speeds in the crapper/ADHD/Sensory Processing Disorder/anxiety/school underachievement. Highly gifted is NOT the same as high achieving. Highly gifted is how a person is wired, not what a person produces. Remember this.
  2. Parenting twice-exceptional kids is more exhausting than you could possibly imagine. We are ON all the time. We never know what will crop up when or where or how the 2e kid will react. Constant Vigilance! is our motto. We have to support and encourage the racing gifted mind (which is often several miles ahead of us) while at the same time nurturing the part of the kid that is struggling. Oh, and we have to have answers for damned near every question thrown at us; Dr. Google and I are besties.
  3. These 2e kids of ours are expensive. Therapy, medications, special diets for sensitive systems, more therapy, doctor appointments, specialized evaluations, therapy again…all stuff not covered by insurance. Classes, camps, computer programs, museum memberships, books books and more books. Repairs and/or replacement of home items fallen victim to “scientific investigations.” Clothing without tags and seams, weighted blankets…you get the idea. These are not extra-curricular activities, these are life skills they’re missing and need. We just hope and pray our kids get full scholarships to college or invent something mindblowing and make a fortune. And then remember us fondly.
  4. Sometimes we appear over-protective, sometimes we seem neglectful. Over-protective because our kids are so asynchronous and we’re never quite sure what age we’re dealing with at any given time, and neglectful because A) they need to suck it up and learn stuff that’s hard for them on their own and B) see #2.
  5. While we joke that twice-exceptional means “exceptionally gifted AND an exceptional pain in the ass,” that doesn’t mean anyone else can say that. Live the life before those words escape your lips.
  6. These kids abhor change, any kind of change. Change of plans, change of location, change of anything. Surprises suck. Yet they crave novelty. This seesaw of intensity is like playing tug of war with a black hole; you don’t get anywhere and eventually someone is going to get crushed. It is, in a word, hell. Now just imagine what today’s cross-country move is like for my 10 year old 2e son.
  7. Not every 2e kid has the same issues. Every.Single.One.of these kids presents differently, and they are not in parenting magazines, books, mainstream blogs, or general societal acceptance. So when we find other parents in the same leaking boat, bailing water with a cracked styrofoam cup, we’re thrilled. We’re not living the exact same lives, but close enough that we can relax a little bit when we all get together, knowing that we’re not going to be judged by those who just don’t get it.
  8. Sometimes, in my ugliest and darkest days, I wonder why I had kids. I rail at the universe, wishing for a different, more normal life, feeling guilty for those painful thoughts. Deep, dark, disturbing thoughts that I work to keep silent. They bubble to the surface after those interminable days of non-stop intensity, never knowing what is going to pop up when or where…also, again see #2. I stay packed for those unexpected guilt trips.
  9. We will go to the ends of the earth for our 2e kids, and do so damned near every day. For the record, the ends of the earth ain’t all that; pretty dry and dusty and lots of beige. I’ve racked up quite a few emotional frequent flyer miles going there and back. I love my sons with a passion that takes my breath away. Yet, I envy the “normal” family. The one that can go out for ice cream without worrying if there’s something non-dairy available. The one that has the time and money and emotional energy to go on vacations without returning more depleted than before departure. The one that doesn’t have to deal with all this shit every day all day and very few people understanding what it’s like. I accept that normal is just a setting on a washing machine, but when one of my most treasured memories is a Mother’s Day from a few years ago when we went to the zoo and for a few hours were a “normal” family, well…I’d like our standard setting to be a little more “normal” and a little less “heavy duty.”
  10. We 2e parents just want some understanding and acceptance. Our kids aren’t always being rude when they interrupt, their one-track minds have likely gotten over-excited and they simply must share what they know rightthisveryinstant. Our kids aren’t always immature, their executive function abilities are struggling and sputtering like a car in need of a tune-up. And our kids aren’t stupid because they’re gifted and not the top of the class. You have no idea how hard they work every day on the little things that so many others take for granted. Their giftedness masks their disabilities, their challenges hide their giftedness. These kids are damned amazing and they are going to change the world.
So there you have it. Ten things I want others to know about parenting twice-exceptional kids. I know other parents may have a different list, but this one is mine. This isn’t a road I ever expected to travel; hell, I didn’t even know this road existed! It’s bumpy, full of potholes and ruts, but the view at the end of the road is stunning. These are incredible kids.
Just…don’t forget #2. We really are that emotionally, physically, and mentally wiped out.

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  1. Sarah

    Love it. Not sure if I want to laugh or cry, so I will settle for another cup of coffee (see #2).

  2. ChiTown Girl

    Well said, my friend!

  3. melissaz

    This is why I luv you! Good luck today! And the rest of the move, for that matter.

    And remember, I’m on the far side of this. It really works out. I really hope you’ll be able to meet my A in person so that you can see that for yourself.

    1. Jen

      Oh, I really REALLY hope I make it to the other side of this, and that you’re right!

  4. Andrea

    I couldn’t have said it better myself…now to share it with all those that need to hear what you have said so clearly 🙂

    1. Jen

      Yes, please share. Loudly and often and with those who really need to hear it!

      1. jazmin

        shared. wish i’d known sooner what was going on and that i wasn’t alone.
        ~single mom of a 2e

  5. Kristin

    I laughed, cried and had another cup of coffee. Thank you so much, it’s nice to know there are other families struggling with the same issues – I always think I’m not doing enough but just getting through some weeks at school and/or summer feels like running a few marathons…

    1. Jen

      A few marathons at a sprinting pace. I’m exhausted and I know you are too! It’s only going to get crazier once we’re moved in and have to deal with a new school on TOP of all the current issues. OY.

  6. Leslie Graves

    Excellent post that speaks to my soul/world.. (photo shot comes to mind.. me.. three in the morning and a puddle of tears on the hall floor, coming to the realisation that I am never ever going to get enough sleep again.. ever, as, I know, beyond a doubt, that Mr. super sensitive (to everything) ears/radar.. will pick up any movement I make towards my own bedroom… and ghaaa!! wake up again!!! That was years ago…. The news… at 6’2″, Mr.SS can still be found galloping around the house at 2am like a heard of coconut footed Zebras… Can be forgiven for
    smiling at the thought of him moving into his ‘very own digs???’ sorry.. minor 2e tangent.. ;-D

  7. Anno

    With tears in my eyes and a giant grin on my face…..AMEN!!!

  8. Caryn

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. We did the cross country move 2 years ago and had to split up our 2e kids. The best is when they are together and they have polar opposite needs at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME! More Coffee (see #2)!

    1. Jen

      We don’t think our second is 2e, but it’s possible that he is but just less so than his brother. Polar opposite needs at the same time…yeah. Now that I think about it, yeah, we have that here too. Sigh…

  9. Corin Barsily Goodwin

    Jen, you rock. Once again, you nailed it. Thank you. xoxox

    1. Jen

      Thanks Corin. I just wish I had an answer to go with all this!

  10. Joss

    This was fantastic – thank you for voicing exactly what I live through every single day.

    1. Jen

      I’m right there with you! So many of us are in this together and it’s hard to find others.

  11. Carmen Downes

    YES. I laughed and now I’m crying – at your blog- and in daily life with my own 2e kid. Thank you!

    1. Jen

      We laugh to keep from screaming, eh? I try, but I don’t often do that. I’m pretty sure you know that feeling too. 😉

  12. Lynda

    I didn’t even know there was a National Parenting Gifted Children week! I have 2 G&T boys. One is 2e the other isn’t. You hit the nail on the head. I knew all that, I just didn’t realise I knew it. Now, I wish the teachers knew it. Hence I home school my 2e G&T child. The other is still at school (barely) but bored. But, I cut all the labels out of clothes (his and mine – hmmmmm) and I’ve found myself longing for “normal” a lot then realising this is our normal just not anyone else’s normal and they just don’t get it (and probably never will and won’t know how we just cope with it – instinctively). THANKS.

    1. Jen

      You’re dead on about that “normal.” THIS is normal for us, but waayyy off the charts not normal for others. I should probably homeschool A, but I just don’t have it in me. Instead, I’m sitting here watching as my dad teaches him statistics and not only does he get it, but he’s entranced and it’s been over an hour. And now they’re watching some video clip about southern accents appearing only after the Civil War. Hm…wonder if I could convince my dad to homeschool him… 😉

  13. Kate

    I passed this on to my Facebook friends and it reached a mother who needed to know she wasn’t alone parenting her 2E kid today.

    Thanks for putting it out there.

    1. Jen

      Kate, when I first read this, my breath just collapsed out of me. I’m so glad that mother found she wasn’t alone. We’re not alone in this, not by a long shot, just hiding. Hiding for our own sanity, to escape embarrassment, you name it. I wish I could find a way to get the 2e parents gathered together for group sanity. 😉

  14. ljconrad

    I’d say this post saved a few bucks on therapy. One of best relievers of stress for being the parent of a 2e (yes, I’m one of those parents)is being able to share your feelings and experiences with others. I like to think of social media as the ‘light side’ of the Internet for gifted parents. Here we can blog and share information, discover kindred spirits (like me and you), and finally reach out to help others (ie, this blog). Thank you Jen for this post, your incredible wit that shines through everytime you write, and most of all ~ for being a friend who always lifts me up!

    1. Jen

      Yes! Truly, the internet and my friends in it who live much the same life as I keeps me sane.

  15. Catherine

    Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou………It is so nice to know I am not on my own.4 out of my 5 children are 2e and the other is profoundly gifted. We live in a mad house. I feel I have done a great job with my children but I am one exhausted mamma…..(my eldest is 19 and the youngest 7) I have been going at this for so long it is second nature to grab a pole, sort out dramas, make dinner, and wipe another mess (again!) and talk on the phone all at the same time, but I still am very tired (constantly!) and emotionally drained. It is posts like this that keep me going and lift me up. You are wonderful.

    1. Jen

      Oh Catherine, thank you. But YOU are also so very wonderful, for juggling all that you mentioned here in addition to dealing with those who don’t GET IT. It’s so very very hard.

  16. Lisa

    You pack so much wisdom in this post! And some much needed humor (a parent’s best friend). I am enjoying your road trip through Nebraska, as well–I-80 is a highway I know oh so well. 🙂
    ~ Lisa

    1. Jen

      Lisa, thank you! I certainly don’t FEEL wise. LOL!
      Oh, and the road trip is still technically going; we still aren’t in our new house. OY.

  17. Soovereverthing

    Wow! Again I am absolutely astonished by the way you can so precisely put down in words the feelings and struggles that families with 2e kids have to deal with everyday. There is no ‘break’. There is often times no consideration for what our children endure. There is no empathy from friends and neighbors – because – they just DON’T get it.

    On the days when I feel like the people ‘in charge’ are looking at me like I am a crazy woman (for the millionth time), I remember that I have friends like you. Someone who ‘gets’ it.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share. Taking the time to write and educate. I appreciate it so very much. Thanks simply for being you.

    BTW – Can’t wait to share a big old bottle of wine when the dust settles from the move.

    1. Jen

      Oh hon, I’m mentally working on a post about today’s excursion for Indian food. We were dangerously close to a VERY public scene and for the first time in this 2e life, I didn’t CARE if I made a scene.
      I’m trying to figure out how to support other 2e parents. Brainstorming, if you will.
      And we’re going to be close enough to you that a bottle of wine is definitely in the future!

  18. Shimra

    Thank you!!!! It feels good to know I’m not the only one going through this. My son is severe HD (notice I did not put in the AD, he’s just SUPER hyper), a bit of ODD, bored 99% of the time, and obsessed with science. And he has sensory issues up the ass, which have been impeding his reading ability to the point where he HAS TO REPEAT FIRST GRADE even though his thinking is on a junior high school level!!!! He’s getting vision therapy and once he does, he can finally start to read without getting migraines, yahoo! I expect him to live in the science section in the library after a few months of therapy:)

    1. Jen

      Wow. Just…wow. I’m so sorry. There’s no reason for him to repeat 1st grade if his ABILITY is higher than that! Gifted is wiring, it’s ability, it’s NOT the secondary issues that hold kids back!! Ahem. Sorry, preaching to the choir here. 😉 It’s stories like yours that literally get me on my soapbox screaming to the skies.
      And vision therapy WORKS. A has done it twice; the first time (age 4) he went from knowing letters to reading at elementary age level in a few months. Now he reads at a high school level. 🙂 It.Works.

      1. Shimra

        You don’t know the half of it! Oy.
        My son has gone through 3 schools in one freaking year.
        School #1: “Your son has problems. You need to get him tested.” I pay 700 dollars for an eval. His VIQ comes out to be 150 but his processing speed is in the 34th percentile. So that makes his overall IQ a “mere” 126. The psychologist says this is a low estimate due to his “severe ADHD” as he put it. School’s response: “until your son is on medication we have nothing to discuss” and this gem “if your son is so smart why can’t he read?”

        School #2 let him come in the middle of the year. They kicked him out after a week pending a psychiatric eval because a psychological evaluation was not good enough. Another 1000 dollars later they let him back in, but only if he’s in kindergarten because “we need to do what’s best for our school. if you don’t like it then that’s too bad.” And this principal had the gall to try to friend me on Facebook. No sale, bitch.

        School #3 We moved to another state, partly to help my son. They accepted him with open arms and are going to evaluate him for possible learning disabilities and slight (very slight) Asperger’s. Since my father-in-law has Asperger’s this is not a surprise. But – since school #2 kept him out (not for behavioral issues, but because he couldn’t read fast enough) for a month and he was too behind, they’re holding him back a grade.

        This is a child who uses words like “oscillate” in casual conversation. And who starts half his sentences with this phrase “When I grow up, I’m going to invent…” He also came up with this theory, on HIS OWN: “mommy black holes are doors to where God is.”

        I can’t wait to start vision therapy. Thanks for this blog!!!:)

  19. StephLove

    Their giftedness masks their disabilities, their challenges hide their giftedness. >>

    This is exactly right.

    1. Jen

      Yup. And I wish more educators respected that.

  20. schedule5

    I laughed, then I had a little weep, then I laughed again. You have really hit the nail on the head – 10 times!
    I spend so much energy feeling incompetent most of the time because the whole parenting thing just seems easier for other parents. We don’t fit in the gifted camp, and we don’t fit in the firmly in the special needs camp either, so it’s hard to find someone who really gets it. Thank-you.

    1. Jen

      We have a foot in each camp, and in each camp that foot is on an oiled banana peel. Sound about right?

  21. Leo Soderman

    Excellent post. I’m fortunate that my daughter is what I’d guess I’d call a “mild 2e” kid. She has the sensitivities, but they’re not extreme. Or maybe I’ve just learned to deal with them automatically.

    I’m tempted to print this post, laminate it, and hand it to the family and friends who don’t seem to quite “get it”. Then again, not sure it would make a difference.

    Thanks for putting into words what so many of us deal with.

    1. Jen

      Print it, laminate it, then staple it to people’s foreheads. Too extreme? Yeah, probably. 😉

  22. Natalie

    Amen. My daughter is the PG, underachieving ‘weird’ child who the school has suggested as Autism, Aspergers, ADHD or something. And I get every single one of those top 10 things that you wrote.

    Thank you.

    Nat

    1. Jen

      If schools can’t evaluate and label, they don’t understand. :/ Sigh…

  23. Doresa

    Love this! Have 3 kids, one confirmed 2E and the other two suspected 2E (a bit too young yet to test). The highest highs and the lowest lows and 2 parents trying desperately not to get burned by the sun or drown in the ocean!
    Thanks for your blog!

    1. Jen

      The highest highs and the lowest lows. Exactly!

  24. Tara Jenner

    Around my house my 11 year old daughter’s been known to say she is “gifted with a glitch”. We are experiencing fewer glitches these days courtesy of cognitive training as well as OT for SPD. It really helps that she is studying neurophysiology and anatomy so she gets why her brain and body work (or conversely don’t work) the way they do!

    Praise God my husband is a physician who is also gifted with a glitch. He “gets” why she does what she does and is very supportive of me and some of the great (and harebrained) ideas we try out. My heart and prayers go out to those of you who not only battle the ignorance of strangers, but also those within your own families and homes.

    Thanks for the post. Though not all applied (you correctly noted each child is different) many hit home or were in the ball park.

    1. Jen

      Gifted with a glitch is THE BEST DESCRIPTION OF 2E I’VE EVER HEARD! And one I’m going to tuck into my repertoire for the future.

  25. Carmen Downes

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve come back to this and reread it almost every day since you posted it. And you know what? I think that I am going to print, laminate, and put it on the refrigerator, because I’m afraid that one of these days it won’t be here when I need it most! (and, I’ll continue to have giggles about your comment above, suggesting stapling it to the forehead of a select few!!) Thank you again for stating those top ten so well!!

  26. sandy

    I feel like this is it. I figured out the puzzle what is going on with my 5 years old daughter. Up untill now, we were assesing her for autism which she was not. She has incredible intelligence with superb memory and eager to know more. She has very obvious quirkiness and cant read social cues. She learned so many things at early age on her own. Ton of vocab but had trouble communicating until late. Think so very differently. At some time… is she gifted? People comment she must be gifted. How does she jnow all that. But then at another moment, I am so sure she us autistic…. figity… adhd? What is it that she has. She outgrows some concerned traits and gets better and now I look at her after searching for so long. She is a 2e kid! Now I am off to find a support from a group of parents who may suggest things that I can do to help her early to adjust to the world without being trapped in her own challenges.

  27. Aymara

    I couldn’t have written it any better my self, my son is 2e with high anxiety and Sensory Processing. It is hard for people to understand and i thank you so much for putting it out there in such away that can make mums that are going through this laugh just a little bit at the chaos and disaffection that is life even if you love them more then life it self.

  28. Heather

    This is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you for writing it and sharing it. I just found out yesterday that my son is 2e. We have been looking for an answer for his different behavior and I am so excited to have finally found it. This morning has been an online search to try to figure out how to deal with this new information. Your article was spot on. I am so glad to know I’m not alone in this journey. Thank you!

    1. Jen

      You are far from alone, Heather. There are a LOT of us out here with 2e kids, all on different parts of the path. Please shout if you need guidance!

  29. Leslie Hutchinson

    Wow. Printing this and laminating it WOULD be so much easier than repeating myself to every adult my children are near. Family, friends, teachers, doctors, therapists…..
    If I wasn’t so tired I would write more. But I have 4 kids. 3 official 2E, and let’s not kid ourselves, number 4 will be soon. I’m really tired.

    1. Jen

      Whooboy. Yeah, I can imagine you’re wiped out. Do what you can to take care of yourself, even if it means you kinda have to be a bitch about it. :/ Four 2e kids will take it out of you, that’s for sure. Hang in there.

      1. Leslie Hutchinson

        I’m trying. I have a sitter who comes sometimes and I literally lock myself in my bedroom when she is here.
        There are no parent support groups in my town, which is ironic, because the local college has a prominent gifted studies program.
        Do you know of an online support group? If I don’t talk to some other people that “get it,” I am going to explode.

        1. Jen

          Good, if you have a sitter that’s a great first start. If you’re not on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum yahoo group, start there. It’s full of people who get it because they are living it or have survived it. LOL! Heck, start at the GHF page: http://www.giftedhomeschoolers.org. On Facebook there are a gazillion groups; just do a search for gifted and/or twice-exceptional and you’ll find a bunch. If you’re homeschooling I know there are groups dedicated to homeschooling G2e kids as well. Check out 2e Newsletter if you’re not already familiar, it’s a fantastic resource. SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) has parent groups, and has started offering online groups as well. http://www.sengifted.org. Finally, check out the #gtchat on Twitter every Tuesday night at 7CDT. You’ll start to follow people in the gifted realm and it’s a great place to start building connections with others. 🙂
          Let me know if you have more questions! Sad that your community doesn’t have a parent group with gifted studies program right there. 🙁 Have you reached out to them to start something? A SENG parent support group?

  30. Erin Vincent

    Oh my gosh, it’s like you took all of my feelings and thoughts and made a blog post about them! Thank you! Thank you! This was an amazing read! I don’t feel quite so alone!

  31. Karen

    A perfect articulation of my life. My son is 13 and daughter 7.

  32. Sharmila Jappie

    Hi Jen. So glad I found you.I’m from Cape Town South Africa.Have 4 Gifted. One being double Gifted. Had a lonely 24 years. So glad you voiced what I feel. No one understands what I go through and everyone comments. Tough for my kids too. I don’t know how to help them. But before grateful for your comments. Thank you.

  33. Heather Boorman

    LOVE it. And can so completely relate. Thanks for being so transparent!

    1. Jen

      Stay strong, mama!

  34. Stacy

    Thank you. You summed it up!

    1. Jen

      Yup! Exhausting!

  35. Diane Wilk

    Thank you so much for posting. Helps remind me that I’m not a bad mom for sometimes just wanting to throw my hands up and say it’s just too hard. I’ve got identical twin boys and a girl 2E triplets who just turned 15. Of course, I’m homeschooling. Here is a glimpse of today’s highlights: My daughter asked – “If we learn the basics in elementary school, learn the rest in High School then get to college and then learn that everything we learned before was wrong, why can’t I just skip it all and go straight to college RIGHT NOW? MOM, I”M SOOO BORED!!! or my boys today ME: “Get ready for math class” THEM: “Not now, we’re too busy soldering” ME: What are you making? Oh nevermind, I wouldn’t understand what you’re making anyway… You can continue your project as soon as you finish class” (Turns out they were converting a ultrasonic dog bark silencer so it would turn the sprinklers on instead making an annoying noise for the dog. Poor dog, he hates water. I’m sure they’ll be testing it on him). Now one of them is relaxing watching Thomas the Tank Engine (remember, they’re all 15) and the other refused to eat dinner because I changed one ingredient and the food doesn’t look or taste or smell EXACTLY the way it did the last time I made it. He would rather test his fire alarms anyway than eat (he has a fire alarm collection) and I wonder why I’m exhausted… Life sure isn’t dull though! (Hope I made someone smile with my comments:)

    1. Jen

      You made ME smile. 🙂 Your kids sound AWESOME, and my 15 year old son would love hacking with your boys. 🙂 Aren’t these kids amazing? And frustrating and exhausting and everything? Oh, and your daughter is kinda right. LOL!

  36. Carolyn Jean Leppala

    Thank you for putting into words what I think and feel often!

  37. Nel

    W-O-W. Thanks for your vivid, expressive, comedic, therapeutic articulation of MY life. Lol. 🙂 Our lives….so rarely represented. I cant explain how comforting your detailed description was to me. I know nobody in my inner circle quite gets it. But that doesn’t even matter in this moment. I cried tears of joy and pain reading your words. Bless You and your family!

    1. Jen

      There are so many of us out there, Nel! Hang in there.

  38. Pricilla Dsouza

    well said…this is our parenting journey continuous learning , falling down , making mistakes and trying to correct ourselves…. and all of us are in the same boat no matter whichever part of the world we raise our children.

    http://smartwomanworld.com/motherhood/

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