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Gifted misunderstandings

A friend forwarded me a link to this article. I think she thought that I wasn’t busy enough this weekend, and that instead of cleaning the toilets and vacuuming (which is what I’m supposed to be doing right now), I should write a passioned response to yet another blogger who doesn’t get it!

She was right. I would much rather write about education than clean toilets…

The article is about how “gifted” children really aren’t any different than other children and shouldn’t be given special educational opportunities. The writer compares giftedness with getting teeth early, and says that just as it’s ridiculous to give special dental care to a child who got his teeth early, it’s ridiculous to give special educational attention to kids who read early.

I heartily agree with that. But the problem is, reading early is not equivalent to what “gifted” really means. And the problem starts with that word, which I like to refer to as “the G-word.”

Parents of “gifted” children talk often about how that word doesn’t work. It implies that other children are “not gifted,” which is misleading. Public schools have also missed the boat on what “gifted” means, and they are more and more often missing the boat for all other kids, too.

A better term for the kids referred to as gifted is “neuro-nontypical.” They learn differently than other kids. They are often awful students. They have a higher drop-out rate than neuro-typical students. They do not cease being neuro-nontypical in fifth grade — if they do, then the assessment of the child was not done correctly.

What characterizes a neuro-nontypical kid is not reading early or doing math early: it’s how they think and learn. Even the ones who do well in school are often miserable, because our standard way of teaching goes about it all wrong for neuro-nontypical kids. Lots of neuro-nontypical kids seem delayed like Einstein did. Those kids seldom get picked up by public school gifted programs.

I completely agree that each child should have her own “IEP.” Unfortunately, that’s just not possible over a huge population. Some small private schools and special public school programs can do that. All homeschoolers (many of whom are homeschooling because their kids are neuro-nontypical) do it by default.

If you want to learn more about what “gifted” is and why these kids need a different educational approach, I suggest Serving the Emotional Needs of the Gifted as a great resource. Being a neuro-nontypical kid is hard! And if you have a neuro-nontypical kid and need help educating her, The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum is a great place to start.

Also, remember that saying that we should deny an appropriate education for one group because you don’t think another group is getting one is much like one oppressed minority group saying help shouldn’t be given to another minority group.

All kids do need and deserve an appropriate, loving education in which their weaknesses are addressed and their strengths are supported. Parents who are obsessed with their kids’ early reading or math skills are definitely doing a disservice to their child. But parents who try to change the school system so that it better serves their children are doing what ALL parents should do.

It’s the parents who don’t watch out for their kids’ needs who allow our public schools to slide further into mediocrity.

Posted in Education, Psychology.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. What is gifted? And why? – Avant Parenting linked to this post on February 18, 2010

    […] yes, I hate the word “gifted.” (Read my post on that if you want the long explanation.) It’s a stupid word that implies value judgment and leaves […]

  2. Neuro-Nontypical Kids & Adults | Yin Wah Kreher linked to this post on August 10, 2015

    […] Why I Advocate for Gifted Children by Suki Gifted Misunderstandings by Suki […]

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