Monday, December 5, 2022

Another call to action: Join the mission to clarify giftedness for the misinformed

I have been writing this blog for almost ten years now. I have seen increased awareness related to neurodiversity and heightened sensitivities and the ubiquity of asynchronous development. Many school districts now consider acceleration as a viable option. Homeschooling parents no longer feel embarrassed or defensive about their decisions. And yet... there is still much work to be done. Despite an increase in awareness related to giftedness and twice-exceptional concerns, misinformation abounds.


And I feel weary when I read yet another misinformed assumption about gifted education. 

This particular commentary, written by a parent/educator who complained about an upcoming gifted screening at her daughter's elementary school, cited inaccuracies about IQ testing, ranted about the use of the "G-word," and wielded a distorted and simplistic understanding of the "growth mindset" concept to justify her comments. She expressed concerns that gifted identification could harm a child's self-esteem or lead to a "fixed mindset" about their learning potential. (Note: I am not citing a link in an effort to protect this individual's confidentiality.)

Of course, the school in question might have handled this differently and phrased the upcoming testing as an attempt to discover different learning styles or needs. Perhaps they could have refrained from posting the information at school, and instead sent a private message to parents describing the purpose of the tests and offering guidelines about explaining giftedness to their children. Students are used to testing at school; yet another screening test likely would not be noticed. But a description for parents might have alleviated their concerns and clarified useful information about giftedness for the skeptics as well as anxious parents wondering about whether their child might be gifted.

Granted, I realize I am preaching to the choir here. Most of you reading this are already quite knowledgeable about giftedness, and certainly understand the complexities associated with labeling and gifted identification. When you live every day with a gifted child, navigate their intensity and sensitivity, despair when their school overlooks their needs, and hold back tears when they are rejected by peers - you understand the highs and lows of giftedness. You already know that problems arise when schools ignore the needs of gifted children and refuse to provide a challenging education. And you know that when children are not offered a clear, matter-of-fact framework for understanding giftedness, they will likely form their own conclusions, and possibly internalize the unrealistic expectations and stigma and shaming they observe directed toward people like them. As I commented previously: 

"We would never accept this normalization of stigma and disparagement toward people based on race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, or learning struggles. Yet, gifted children are routinely shamed for their inherent abilities. They did not "choose" to possess a highly active mind, heightened intensities, or a drive for learning that may surpass the academic needs of their peers. As parents, educators, counselors, and legislators, we need to stop the misconceptions, false assumptions, and marginalization of gifted education - all of which can contribute to a false sense of self, confusion, and shame among the gifted."


So, I am calling on you, dear readers, to rise up and commit to actively challenging any misconceptions about giftedness - whenever you hear them. Any false beliefs, alarmist criticism, and tired stereotypes. Any attempts to conflate gifted education with elitism or favoritism or harm to others. Any assumptions that giftedness does not exist, or that kids can stop being gifted, or that eliminating gifted programs will solve the problems that besiege so many schools. I have commented widely that you are enlisted as an ambassador for giftedness, and must educate others wherever you go. On the sidelines at soccer games. At school board meetings. At holiday meals with misinformed family members. 

Please join me on this mission - to enlighten others with clarity about the essential differences that giftedness brings out. All it takes is your keen attention to misconceptions when they are spoken, and the courage to speak up and share your wisdom with others.

** For more insights about giftedness, please see my new bookThe Gifted Parenting Journey. Available through the publisher and on the usual bookseller sites, this book addresses a previously neglected topic in the literature: the needs and emotional life of parents of gifted children.**

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