Parents of gifted children, who harness the courage to advocate for appropriate educational services, must navigate a maze of criticism and skepticism from opponents who doubt the validity of the concept. Often met with blank stares at parent-teacher conferences, school board meetings, and parent groups, they feel alone and misunderstood.
Not unlike their children: alone and misunderstood.
How does the label of "gifted" play a role?
When parents who love and adore their children cherish the gift of their very being, it can seem like an assault to their senses when told their child is not "gifted." How can that be? What makes your child more of a gift than mine?
And so the controversy begins. A simple label, grounded in IQ scores above 130, emotional excitabilities, and exceptional talents beyond the norm, incites bitterness and envy. As all parents grapple with their child's strengths and weaknesses, a debate about "gift as a blessing" vs. "gifted as a technical term" obscures meaning.
In an earlier post, I advocated for a name change. Yet, there is also reason to question whether finding a new label will matter. After all, gifted children will continue to stand out from the crowd, draw attention to themselves, and risk envy, ridicule and derision from peers. Gifted has been a familiar term, used for decades, and changing it may create confusion and misunderstanding. And change could be seen as a concession to social/cultural forces steeped in ignorance. Nevertheless, a different name might help to eliminate one of the many barriers gifted children face.
Until then, efforts needed to address the controversy include:
Education. (Ironically.) Teachers, administrators and policy-makers need training in gifted education. Specifically. Not just a half-day seminar, but extensive training and supervision, certification, and continuing education.
Advocacy. Parents didn't sign up for this, but must absorb the burden until improved services are available. Parents of gifted children understand the dilemma better than anyone, and their continued advocacy on a local, state and national level is essential.
Communication. Explaining, describing and clarifying what gifted means in every conversation about it will educate others. This does not mean apologizing for your child's abilities or balancing your child's strengths with a quick acknowledgment of his or her weaknesses. Parents of gifted children are entitled to express pride, disappointment, joy, excitement, and all of the other emotions inherent in parenting, without shame.Without a name change, parents are left to advocate, educate and clarify each time they use the term "gifted."
Until others get it.
Until it is less threatening.
Until it is understood.