Tuesday, March 5, 2024

What giftedness is not: A list to share with those who don't get it


Misconceptions about giftedness abound. 

Many folks think they know what gifted is – those whip smart kids who know all the answers, who overachieve, whose parents must be “pushing” them, who are nerds and misfits. It is assumed that parenting – and teaching – gifted kids must be a breeze, and that they cruise through school, waltz into an ivy league college, move on to a tech start-up, and are good to go.


But these assumptions are rarely true - other than the whip-smart part. Parents of the gifted – and grown-up gifted adults – know the reality; giftedness is a mixed bag of amazing intellect, creativity, and attuned sensitivity combined with uneven development, social struggles, and emotional reactivity.

All of this leaves them feeling different from the norm... because they are.

Here is a short list of ten myths and misconceptions about giftedness: 

Giftedness is not…

 1. Neurotypical. These kids process information differently, with greater speed, pace, and depth of thinking. They also may possess overexcitabilities, asynchronous development (where their maturity lags behind their intellect) or twice-exceptionalities (where they struggle with a condition, such as ADHD, anxiety or a learning disability. They are different! 

2. A one-size-fits-all concept. Gifted children don’t necessarily progress at the same rate (especially when asynchronous development is evident), and their areas of strengths, interests, and intensities vary from one child to the next. Their gifts cannot be pigeon-holed into one simplistic category.      

3. Readily identifiable. Not all gifted kids are easily noticed. Many do not fit the stereotype of the exceptionally verbal, high achieving child, and remain under-identified by parents and schools. Many are overlooked because they are late bloomers or disengaged from school or have a twice-exceptional condition that masks their talents. Many are also ignored because of racial, gender, or sociocultural biases.

4. Elitist. Despite false assumptions that giftedness is the purview of the White and wealthy, gifted children can be found among every racial, cultural and economic group. Unfortunately, gifted children who are minorities, English Language Learners, or those from impoverished backgrounds are most frequently under-identified and excluded from receiving gifted services.

5. A bastion of nerds and misfits. Look around. Some of the most interesting, creative, and funny people we know are gifted. Just think about some of our greatest thinkers, leaders, and comedians. Challenging these stereotypes about the gifted is long overdue.

6. A choice. Despite some misguided claims on social media, you cannot choose to reinvent your child as neurotypical by ignoring their differences. Giftedness is merely a term that describes their neurodiversity; it is nothing to boast about - but also nothing to hide.

7. A disturbance. Widespread myths, misconceptions, and misdiagnoses abound – amplified by media portrayals of the lonely misfit or anxious overachiever. While some gifted kids struggle with mental health problems (just like anyone else), giftedness also engenders resilience and strength.

8. A guarantee of success. Talent, potential, and smarts? Yup. But motivation and a drive to achieve may evade them, depending on their temperament and especially, their learning environment. Self-doubts, boredom, poor executive functioning skills, or perfectionism. for example, can derail their efforts.

9. Easy to raise. Nope. Raising a child with heightened sensitivities, energy, and intensity, along with asynchronous development and social struggles is an added challenge. And finding the best academic fit is a challenge for many families, as they must regularly advocate in the schools or find sometimes time-intensive or costly alternatives, such homeschooling or private schools.

10. A bad thing. Definitely not true! Embrace your child’s enormous energy and passion for learning. Laugh along with their quirks and offbeat sense of humor. Commiserate with their big emotions, empathy, and compassion for others. Relish their intensity and depth. They are a bundle of joy for you to embrace.

Enjoy the ride!

A similar version of this article was published in the GHF Journeys online newsletter.

Image above is attributed to Unsplash/Siora Photography

** For more insights about parenting gifted children, please see my book, The Gifted Parenting Journey. Available through the publisher and the usual bookseller sites, this book addresses a previously neglected topic in the literature: the needs and emotional life of parents of gifted children. For more information about this book, snippets from editorial reviews, and upcoming workshops and book events, please see this link.**




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