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Monday, December 12, 2005


The Gifted Label

Thanks to Anonymous 1 (The Flink, incognito) & 2, who brought up the issue of stamping the word "gifted" on people and what effect that has. The question was, "What do you think of this idea, that gifted is a label that exists more for a parents peace of mind?"

Many parents of gifted kids would find this very amusing! They report that parenting a gifted kid, once you know they are gifted, is a constant challenge. Once one has stopped fighting the high energy, sensitivity, reduced need for sleep, etc., and learnt that they are a normal part of giftedness, they must now be accommodated creatively within the family system. There is heartache in feeling that you have a great responsibility to nurture the talent in your child, and you may not be doing that the "best" way, or have the resources to provide everything you think is helpful or even necessary. Finding helping professionals with a knowledge of giftedness is another challenge.

Other parents may react with denial and even fear. Being told that your child is different often creates considerable grief, as all your dreams and plans for that child seem to have been snatched away. This reaction is well known in disability circles but I have rarely seen it discussed in the gifted community. I know that I was definitely not the daughter my parents were expecting! And I'm sure that several times they explained my strange behaviour to themselves and others by saying, "well, she is gifted, you know..." and didn't investigate any further. As Anon.2 quite rightly points out, the label is functionally irrelevant - it is the action that follows the labelling that matters.

I think most gifted people of all ages are relieved to have an explanation for all the differences they experience in themselves. I'm sorry for Flink's friend's sake that there isn't more knowledge and acceptance of giftedness, because her brothers are probably gifted too, just in a different way. It is rare for siblings not to be within 5 IQ points of each other, and often visual-spatial giftedness are less "identifiable" in the school system or masked by underachievement and a genuine desire to fit in.

I get frustrated by arguments that gifted programs in school "make" other kids feel inadequate. Do programs for mentally sub-normal kids "make" the majority feel smart? If so, the sub-normal programs should more than compensate for this effect, as they are far more numerous and better funded than gifted programs! But at least they exist, and bring gifted kids together at least some of the time to normalize their experience. In our current educational model, it seems to be the best we can do.

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Excellent points. I just wish the stereotype of gifted kids being high energy and needing little sleep wasn't so firmly entrenched. There are plenty (as I was) who are quiet, low energy, and in need of a full night's sleep. Sometimes it's only mental energy that's in oversupply, while physical energy is normal or below par.

I think people tend to forget that those lists of gifted characteristics, that are so often quoted as gospel, are usually preceded by "*may* exhibit the following characteristics."I doubt that any gifted child will exhibit every one of them.
"Do programs for mentally sub-normal kids "make" the majority feel smart?"

My anecdotal observation would be yes, certainly.

Regardless of the endless cycling of new labels for students in various special education classifications,I don't see being classified as a learning disabled becoming a social advantage in an American public school any time soon.
"...high energy, sensitivity, reduced need for sleep...a normal part of giftedness..."

I never thought of myself as gifted. While in school I was labeled -- a brain, smart, and others. I've always felt a restlessness and regreted that I had to sleep because it seemed like a waste of time when I could be reading, doing, experiencing. I've never heard anyone express these feelings and thoughts.

When I had children I consciously hoped they would have normal intelligence rather than being handicapped with the labels I received and some of the feelings I experienced.

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