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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


As a parent, it's sometimes difficult to keep a realistic perspective of your child. Some of us make the mistake of expecting too much, some of us not enough. 

I think this is especially difficult when you have an only child - and a gifted one at that. I've got no other reference point, other than this one child who is clearly different from most other children his age. So, I have a really hard time keeping perspective on who he is and what he can do. And it goes both ways - sometimes I expect too much, and sometimes not enough. 

A perfect example of this was over the weekend. We attended a marine biology event for gifted children, offered through Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. It was a great opportunity, with lots of fun adventuring and learning (well, I learned a lot). But it made me very conscious of how unique my child really is. I told him there would be other kids "like him," but I was wrong. These kids were clearly quite smart, but they weren't in the same league as the kidlet. Not even close. And the really amazing thing (as his mom, I know these things) is that there he was, astounding the socks off the teachers and other adults, and this isn't even his main area of interest. I could see it in the look I got from one of the teachers, when she asked the kidlet if he wanted to be a marine biologist - clearly expecting that this is a special interest of his - and he said "no, I want to be an inventor." I could have told her that his interest in biology/marine biology/etc lies in his fascination for the mechanics of how things work. 

It made me a little sad, as I was reflecting how hard it is for this little person to find peers - those intellectual peers he might find have no similar interests, while his interest-peers don't follow his logic and don't get his jokes. It's no wonder he doesn't engage others very often. For a socially immature person it's hard enough to know how to enter into and maintain a conversation, but when your experiences mostly end up in misunderstanding and frustration... well, it's easy to understand why he might stop trying. 

But then there's the other side of the "perspective" coin, too. Sometimes I expect him to act like an adult simply because he can reason like an adult. But that's not appropriate, either. When he is falling apart in tears because he made a mistake that can't be undone, I have to remind myself that he is still a child. When he has days that require more physical movement ("run around breaks"), or he has trouble calming himself over something exciting - I have to remind myself that he is still a child, and still learning skills that most adults take for granted. Yes, he is definitely behind the curve in some areas, as much as he is ahead of it in others... which makes it doubly important for DH and I to set appropriate expectations (and doubly hard to know what ARE appropriate expectations. Grade level expectations, while his maturity isn't grade level? Is that fair?). 

I hope that I am keeping my expectations realistic - whether intellectual, social, or emotional. I hope that I am giving the kidlet the support he needs to become better at those things in which he does not excel, while continuing to find joy and interest in those areas in which he is beyond the curve. 

Monday, September 12, 2011


If there is one thing I am trying to teach the kidlet, it is the amorphous quality of resilience. You know, that thing that makes you keep trying after something doesn't work out quite right, or that makes you push through when something is hard. 

Wikipedia starts its article on resilience like this: 
Resilience in psychology is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a “steeling effect” and function better than expected (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease).[1] Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual.

Resilience is important for everyone, but it can be elusive for gifted people. Since most things come easily for someone who is gifted, they don't encounter enough push-back in early years with the frequency that most people do. So they don't learn how to move through it and find the successes on the other side. In fact, for highly gifted or broadly gifted people, even the slightest bit of resistance can lead to full melt-downs or quitting. 

We have spent quite a bit of time recently dealing with the inadequacy of the kidlet's resilience level. He hates being unable to do something, so he refuses to try. My favorite illustration of this was back when he was closing in on 4 years old, and not yet potty-trained. His younger cousin had just been potty trained, so I asked the kidlet when he was going to do it. He asked me when he needed to have it done. I told him that I'd heard if he wasn't potty-trained by the time he was 4, we'd have to go to the doctor to be checked out. He told me then that he would be trained when he was 4. He still refused to try out the potty chair, but what do you know - on his 4th birthday he put on big-boy underpants and never looked back (for day or night!). He had to be sure he could do it before he'd be seen trying. It's been the same story all along - riding a bike, sports, handwriting, and especially anything to do with academics. Frustration builds fast and ends up in melt-down mode when challenged to try something that is difficult. 

Most people know that most things that are worth doing take a little bit of work - but someone who has never had to work for anything doesn't connect the level of work with a positive result. If you've never had to work hard/ think hard/ try hard / practice hard /etc. in order to accomplish something that gets accolades and rave reviews, once you hit that point where you need to work (and in order to really succeed at something, you've got to hit that point), instead of giving you that sense of, "okay, I can do this!" - it feels like a failure. 

One of the final straws at the last school kidlet attended was when the math teacher told me that she wasn't pushing the kidlet to do hard math problems because she didn't, "want to frustrate him." After three years of that kind of attitude, his resilience level is on the Delicates cycle. So we've been pushing him pretty hard to work through the tough problems and get the right answer (and go back and check it to make sure before you move on to the next math problem). I love hearing the sound in his voice when he finishes some exercises and says, "I got 100%!" - or even when he is re-doing some problems he'd done poorly on and says, "I improved by 200%!" Not only does that tell me that he is understanding the work, but that he is getting positive feedback from his attempts at resilience. And next time, maybe it won't be so hard to find the courage to keep trying.

A piece of paper in the kidlet's work area quotes Albert Einstein: "One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one's greatest efforts." It is there to remind the kidlet (and me!) that effort is not only worthwhile, but a positive aspect of achievement. 

Sadly, when faced with something that is difficult, it is all too easy to quit. But then you never get the satisfaction of knowing that you conquered something that was hard. Resilience definitely builds upon itself - the more success you find (and that great feeling that this was hard but you did it anyway), the more you will be willing to keep trying when failure looms. 

Keep going, kidlet! I know you can do it! But you need to know it, too.