A gifted individual is a quick and clever thinker, who is able to deal with complex matters. Autonomous, curious and passionate. A sensitive and emotionally rich person, living intensely. He or she enjoys being creative. -definition of giftedness written by the Netherlands Study on Giftedness in Adults

Friday, July 24, 2015

{Book Review} Gifted, Bullied, Resilient: A Brief Guide for Smart Families by Pamela Price

Children who are different are an easy target for bullying. A boy who is sensitive, a girl who is good at math, a girl with a physical impediment, or a boy with behavioral challenges - anything that sets a child apart from expected "norms" - these children become targets for teasing and worse.

Gifted children are frequently targets, because they are so frequently different from their age-mates. They don't have the same interests, and they are avid and intense in their study of what does interest them. They are sensitive, emotionally intense, and don't fit in.

I wish I could say that we haven't had any experience with bullying, but sadly that is not the case. The Kidlet was bullied by a teacher - one who should have understood the uniqueness of gifted children, but who was so frustrated by him that she resorted to publicly humiliating him, isolating him, and making sure that every adult at that school saw not a joyous, exuberant learner but a social misfit who needed to be corralled and controlled. He was sent home from school at least once a week, and spent much of his school hours sitting in the hall outside his classroom with only a dictionary to keep him occupied. As his parents we were accused of poor parenting, not being supportive of the school environment, and inhibiting his learning. Our suggestions went unheeded.

He was in first grade.

Our seven year old child - who had loved to learn, was an autodidact in all things math and science, reading, and social studies - shut down and refused to do anything. By the end of that school year, he was convinced that he was bad at math (the kid who taught himself algebra in kindergarten!), and that writing was painful and hopeless. He was no longer happy and carefree - he had become anxious, socially withdrawn, and awkward. It took five years and the freedom of homeschooling to bring back his love of learning. It took finishing calculus by the age of 14 and discovering what his age-mates were doing in math to realize for himself the truth in what we'd been saying to him all along - that he is really good at math. Nine years later, we're still working on making writing an activity that is not characterized by a PTSD-like, anxiety-ridden response.

I wish I'd had Pamela Price's new book, Gifted, Bullied, Resilient: A Brief Guide for Smart Families, back then. Price has woven personal stories, in-depth research, and helpful tools together in this short and beautifully-written guidebook. She addresses the gifted kids being bullied, when the gifted child is the bully, adult-on-child bullying, and special circumstances of dealing with bullying and twice-exceptional children. She focuses on how you - the parent, teacher, or other adult - can help (hint: resilience is in the title!), and shines hope into what can feel like a hopeless situation. She provides links to resources - most of them free - for educators, administrators, and parents to help in the classroom or in social situations where bullying is occurring.

I wish we'd had this book back then, because it would have given me a framework in which to address the situation and to help my child build resilience and self-assurance in the midst of it all. But I'm so glad that Price has written this book, and that parents have access to it now. Buy it. Read it.

(I should note that Pamela Price is a personal friend of mine, and that I did receive a free copy of this book for review purposes. But I also bought a copy of my own - because it's THAT GOOD!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What I'm Saying...

When I say that my child is gifted, it is not a value judgment. I'm stating a fact about the way he is wired, that's all.

Too many people still see this word as a measure of value. All children are valuable. All children are gifts and have gifts. But not all children are gifted. That would be impossible: in order to have above-average intellects, you must have average and below-average intellects- that's the way of the bell curve. I am certainly not saying that he is perfect. I am certainly not saying that he is a great student. I'm not even saying that he can do everything that other kids his age can do.

What I am saying is that he is a voracious learner, and needs a pace that is about 7x faster than the average classroom. In many cases, you don't even
have to finish your sentence and he'll pick up what you started.

What I am saying is that he is asynchronous - he's AMAZING at math and science (and grammar), but struggles to express his ideas in writing.

What I am saying is that he thinks about things in a way that is far beyond his age and maturity, but he struggles with those thoughts because they are beyond the capacity of his lagging emotional maturity.

What I am saying is that he has a profound capacity for empathy, but you'll likely never see it like I do, because it overwhelms him.

What I am saying is that he is wired to experience the world with an intensity that is exhausting, overwhelming, and like nothing most of us can imagine.

Speaking of imagining, what I am saying is that he's got the kind of imagination that could solve huge global problems like hunger, disease, or the Middle East; or maybe will get stuck on the problem of what to have for lunch.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What the Super Bowl Can Teach Us about Homeschooling

Today is Super Bowl XLIX, when the Seattle Seahawks defend their National Champions title against the New England Patriots. Yes, this is a post about football. But it's also a post about finding your groove.

When Pete Carroll was hired to coach the Seahawks out of USC in 2010, there were detractors who said he couldn't make it in the NFL as a coach. He'd been fired from the Patriots before, and hadn't had much success on this level. Lots of success with USC, though, and Seattle was happy to have him.
Recruiting class of 2012... in their second Super Bowl in a row.

The first couple of seasons with the Seahawks were tough, as Carroll began implementing his plan, but the mostly-losing team began to win a few games, and that was encouragement enough. But they needed a quarterback. Badly. So in 2012, Carroll drafted Russell Wilson in the 3rd round out of Wisconsin. The media went crazy, giving the Seahawks an "F" on draft day for a class that included now-starters Wilson, Bruce Irvin, and Bobby Wagner. And I quote:
Pete Carroll is proving why he didn’t make it in the NFL the first time. Not only was Bruce Irvin a reach at No. 15, the Seahawks proved they were oblivious to their madness by celebrating their selection. As if the day wasn’t bad enough, Seattle selecting Russell Wilson, a QB that doesn’t fit their offense at all, was by far the worst move of the draft. With the two worst moves of the draft, Seattle is the only team that received an F on draft day.
Today, the class of 2012 (including Jermaine Kearse - 2014 NFC Championship winning touchdown scorer, who wasn't even drafted but came out of University of Washington that year) is going to their second Super Bowl in a row. All thanks to their coach.

Now, I'm a big football fan, but I'm not one of those people who studies all the coaching moves and such. But the thing I keep hearing from the Seattle Seahawks themselves is that they love working for Carroll because he lets them work their strengths. He doesn't try to mold them to his system, but he allows each player to play his own game, for the good of them all. He coaches them to be family, brothers, united for a single goal. And he lets them be the professionals they are. He works them hard, doesn't allow them to let up on areas that are not as strong. If there is one thing to which you could put down the success of this team, it is this: Carroll allows each player to find his groove. 

It's working.

And this is what I loved about homeschooling - instead of trying to force my son to fit a system that wasn't working for him, we were able to allow him to work his strengths as we supported the areas that needed growth. We could do this by being creative with curriculum - in his strengths we just gave him the opportunities and let him fly; but in his weaker areas, we were able to create assignments that would blend into his interests and give him the opportunity to learn and grow. He also had opportunities to learn life skills that he couldn't at school - doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning. And he was able to "be socialized" (if that's even a thing) in a way that was appropriate for his learning and ability - with people of all ages.

Whatever the result of Super Bowl XLIX, Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have done something amazing these last few years (and Seattle fans hope for many more to come!).

And whatever my child decides to do in the future, I know that homeschooling him has helped him get there. It has given us the opportunity to allow him to fly in his strength areas, while being supported in his weaker areas.


Friday, November 21, 2014

It Gets Better

I seem to keep saying this to parents of younger gifted kids: It gets better.

When the Teenlet was younger I felt all alone, adrift in the midst of the chaos of a highly asynchronous, twice-exceptional, and drastically misunderstood child. We were all frustrated - he because he wasn't getting his learning needs met and didn't have any true peers, and dad and I because he was hard to parent. HARD to parent. The emotional outbursts, the anger and frustration over schoolwork, housework, even just asking him to pick up something he'd left on the floor was potentially a land mine. His anger went from 0 to 10 in a millisecond. At that time, he would describe his emotions as a smoldering volcano which was ready to blow at any moment, and uncontrollable.

All of that changed at about 12-1/2 years old. The combination of an excellent therapist and puberty kicking in has made such a huge difference in how we all function. Let me tell you about some of the most dramatic changes we've seen:

  • Growth. Physical growth. My scraping-the-bottom-of-the-5th-percentile (height and weight) child, in one year, went from barely-5th to 50th percentile. That makes mom happy, doctors happy, and child happy not to be the teeny one any more. And he gets treated like the age that he is, not like a child. It doesn't quite make up for the intellectual difference between himself and his peers, but he's more welcomed into older groups because he doesn't look like a 3rd grader.
  • He can tolerate boredom better now. WOAH! Boredom has been his worst enemy throughout his childhood - causing classroom troubles, home boil-overs, and friendship disasters. This makes such a huge difference in how he can engage with others in every aspect of life. He can play with a friend doing something that isn't his favorite, because he can tolerate being bored for the sake of his friend. He can sit in a classroom where he knows everything already and not make a scene or start distracting the other students. He has figured out how to entertain himself even when his usual entertainments are inaccessible. 
  • Speaking of school, he is (finally) getting straight As. My non-performer is performing - because he wants to! Executive function skills have kicked in and he has been doing a fantastic job of doing his homework (without any prompting from me), and conscientiously following through on required tasks for school. This year he is taking two classes at a local public high school (Biology - so he can get a lab, but this is the class he knows more than the teacher does, because it's his specialty, and he's already taken AP Bio at home; and Freshman English for continued writing support), and three classes in a dual-enrollment program at DigiPen Institute of Technology. I'm not homeschooling any longer because I don't need to. He's doing it all himself. 
  • I figure we got through the terrible teens when he was ten - at that age he was pushing all the intellectual and physical boundaries he could at the same time he was emotionally quite infantile. We are seeing nothing in the teens that we haven't already dealt with, and because we've been consistent from day one in how we deal with things, he already knows the boundaries. I'm not suggesting that we're not in for a testosterone-driven ride as he hits older adolescence, but so far the consistency of our parenting has carried us through the few little rough patches that we've hit in the past 2-1/2 years. He's been challenging his parents' beliefs since he was 8, so he doesn't have a lot more to do there, and emotionally he's been far more stable as a teenager than he ever was as a child. If the job of the adolescent is to figure out who they are apart from their parents, he's been doing that for a while. 
  • He's learning to be self-assertive. One of his biggest challenges has always been to communicate to non-parent adults (or even parental adults when he's in a state of overwhelm) what he needs. The ability to say to a teacher, "I need some quiet space" or, "I don't know when this assignment is due" has been, until just this year, elusive. But this year he is doing all the communicating with his teachers, and I hardly have to be involved at all. He is able to advocate for himself when it's needed, and reliably follows through on homework, passing information to his teachers and coaches as it's needed, and is basically functioning as his own person. We're still here for him if he needs us, but he hasn't needed us to advocate for him at all in the past year. 
  • Because we were able to homeschool for some of his crucial pre-teen years, he has learned some adult responsibility and survival skills. He does his own laundry (has done for 3-4 years), packs his own lunches, or makes them if he's home at lunch time, he gets himself up, dressed, and fed. He feeds the cat every day. He is helpful around the house when he notices something is needed (taking the garbage out without being asked, carrying in groceries from the car, etc.). 
The Teenlet turns 15 in less than a month, and to quote someone who knows him well, "He's not that little kid who is so much smarter than everyone else any more. He's 15 - he's there!" 

He's not perfect - nor is our relationship. But I really like the relationship we have now. 

So this is my word to all the parents of younger kids who are going through hell right now: it gets better. I never thought we'd get here, but I always hoped we would by the time he turned 30. He's only half that, and I'm so proud of the young man he has become and is becoming. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gifted Kids Become Gifted Adults

When a gifted kid grows up, they are still gifted.

That means we have a lot of gifted adults out there - parents, grandparents, young adults, elderly adults. And while we may learn to cope with our over-excitabilities, they don't go away. And I'm pretty convinced that asynchrony doesn't ever fully even out, either (see the former sentence).

I, like my son, have all five OEs. Very strongly. And I am a multipotentialite, which means I am gifted in many ways. I have said to people, "I'm good at many things, but great at nothing." Over the years, I've also told people that I'm a generalist, rather than a specialist, though as I get older I find that I do have some areas of preference to which I naturally migrate.

With my own OEs, I find that I continually have to monitor how I am coping. I get overwhelmed easily with a lot of sensory input, so I must manage my environment. I love learning new things, so I tend to jump from interest to interest quickly, making the work of completing tasks and staying engaged a challenge. Movement is my friend, helping me think more clearly and stay focused. My imagination has morphed from childhood fantasies to turning my interpretation of events into a reality of its own, which isn't a healthy response, so I try to adjust my imagination to more positive uses.

And then there is emotional OE. After all these years, you'd think I would learn. But yet, here I am, still emotional as anything. I can't go to a funeral without crying, even if I never knew the deceased - the weight of everyone's emotions in the room gets overwhelming. I have to intentionally tone down the reactive nature of my emotional OE, but if someone catches me off guard, it slips. It's all or nothing with me emotionally, it seems, though I work hard to keep it all balanced and in check.

And, as I mentioned before. I'm pretty sure that my own asynchrony - though far better than it was as a child - is still a factor. There are times I can see myself responding like a four year old and can't stop it. Most of the time, it's an internal-only reaction (that's the adult part), but I mess up regularly enough to keep me humble. There are times when my hands - so adept and quick at certain tasks like typing or playing the piano - feel like they are fumbling along completely inept at simple things like using scissors or a needle. I'm still a child in an adult body.

People ask me how I can understand my son so well. The reason is because I recognize what is going on with him, because it would be the same for me. It still is the same for me, though I have more control over my environment and how I express what's going on inside of me.

I might have grown up, but I'm still gifted.

This post is part of a blog hop hosted by the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. To read more great blogs on this topic, see hop on over to the link here.