Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Did you consider he might be gifted?"

"Don't go around telling people he's gifted." (Betsy)
"Why not?" (Shawn)
"Because...we don't know that...and...it sounds...it sounds like you think he's better." (Betsy)

The above was an exchange between my husband and I a couple of weeks ago. I can admit that our son seems unique in some ways. He has loved documentaries about nature and the ocean since we started letting him watch TV over any cartoon. His vocabulary is extensive and usually humorous to adults. He loves to draw, experiment and create. He can be very detailed and often falls apart when things don't go as he planned. He is easily thrown into emotional tantrums that he is learning to control but make us go, "wha??" He is complex, he is a human being, he is six, and I have a hard time believing he is that much different than his peers. I do wonder about the emotional part though, that has always been a difference, a glaring difference. The other things were differences at times as well, but they just seem like personal interests. Do they really mean he is "different?" All this thought and questioning lead me to a book, Guiding the Gifted Child, A practical Source for Parents and Teachers, by Webb, Meckstroth and Tolan. I don't know that I chose the right book to begin analyzing this idea of "gifted and talented" but I am realizing that this little question is relevant because as a kindergarten teacher I should probably know more about what defines a gifted child.
I have read about half the book so far and this is what is standing out, most of which I am finding disappointing and disturbing.
About two and one half percent of the population is gifted, meaning in the easiest measurable way, their IQ ranges from 130-200. What I find interesting here is that there are 70 points spread within the gifted category. The average person has an IQ of 100 while a person who is borderline mentally impaired is only 45 points lower, and then lower yet refers to those who are more significantly impaired. So from 0-100 points is all of us average and below and then the next 101-200 refer to those above average or into the gifted ranges. Now, what becomes more interesting yet is how this books paints a picture that describes being "afflicted" with being gifted. Wow, I never thought of someone who was gifted as being struck with an illness or a crippling syndrome, but I was naive before reading this book, and I still have a long way to go on this subject. Below is an excerpt from the book that will stay with me and hopefully help me to consider that a child who sees the world so differently, acts so differently, and feels emotion so differently may need a teacher willing to see things differently too.
Imagine that there is no other world to live in, and much of the world's productions are, in fact, mediocre. The challenge, then, is whether we could learn to live gladly in that world, with personal contentment, sharing and joy, or whether we would be angry, depressed, withdrawn and miserable . . . perhaps finally deciding that such a life was not worth living (page 26).
I know, heavy isn't it? It was also sad for me to learn that many gifted children drop out of school. I am going to read more of this book, but I think for the purposes of my learning I am going to seek out the following book as a follow-up, Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Cultivate Inner Strength in Children, by Lantieri and Goleman. As for my son, parenting is hard and I need to keep learning how to do it better, no matter what his intelligence.

1 comment:

teacherdance said...

I've taught gifted children for numerous years, in an independent school for the gifted. There are several ways to look at the term, but we do not see it as afflicted, but as a 'gift' to be nurtured. There are many sites helpful online, and the National Ass'n for Gifted Educ. is one of them. One important thing to our philosophy: "every child deserves to learn something every day", not just wait until someone thinks it's appropriate. I hope you find good ways to learn along with your child.