Sometimes advocating for something you believe in can mean stepping out of a very comfortable closet that you’ve spent much of your life in. In my case, I was so comfortable, I didn’t even notice that I’d locked myself in the closet till I had children. My particular closet is the one that we hide in when we’re afraid of pointing out our own differences from the norm. It’s a very, very comfortable closet, but usually a solitary one.
Since the sixties, however, understanding has been growing that people sometimes need to seek others who share some aspect of their life experiences in order to learn more about themselves.
Here I am in paragraph three, and I’m still enjoying the comfort of my closet, so I guess I should just out with it! Once I had children, I started to notice how parenting, education, and healthcare resources were all set up to satisfy the needs of the many, but there was a group of few whose needs were not being served well: that group of kids who have been given the unfortunate label of “gifted.”
My discomfort with the word, and with even pointing out differences in intellectual ability, is deeply ingrained, pounded into my psyche by years of cultural pressure. If a mom says they’re choosing a new school because their daughter is an avid volleyball player and the new school has a good coach, we think that’s completely reasonable. If a mom says they’re choosing a new school because the current one doesn’t offer advanced enough education, suddenly she’s a) bragging, b) being pushy, and c) probably deluded about her son’s intellectual ability in the first place.
That’s how it was when I was growing up in the 70’s midwest, and that’s pretty much how it is for kids across the US now. There are some positive changes. For one, I stuck my neck out and typed the dreaded word “gifted” into Google and found out that I share my closet with all sorts of parents I’d never noticed. They, too, are wondering if they can figure out a way to save their kids from the boredom and self-hatred that our emphasis on not pointing out differences in intellectual needs has led to. We parents have come up with a variety of solutions, from educating teachers, to fixing our local schools, to joining national organizations, to homeschooling. But the thing we have in common is that we have reluctantly come out of the closet in order to advocate for our kids.
Pretty much the only time I feel like writing on this subject is when someone asks me to; in this case, I’m joining other bloggers in Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop. Hoagies’ is one of the first stops that parents new to giftedness make on the Internet. Carolyn K, who runs the site, is one of the pioneers of online gifted advocacy. She’s one of those people who decided to throw open the closet door while the rest of us were just trying to get comfortable and not make waves.
Like all minorities, gifted kids need their advocates. Schools are not set up to fulfill the needs of unusual learners. Parenting manuals get it all wrong when it comes to parenting intense, unusual children. Doctors, therapists, and other professionals get no training in the needs of their gifted patients. Pretty much everyone assumes that if your child taught herself to read and is quick in math, you’ve got nothing to worry about. But of course, just like everyone else, gifted children have their own challenges that, while sometimes different from the norm, still deserve the attention and support of the adults around them.
We parents are drawn to trying to fulfill our own children’s needs, but everything we do to make their lives better helps advocate for the wider community. I am deeply indebted to Hoagies‘, SENG, my gifted homeschooling group, Great Potential Press, my state and national advocacy groups, and probably other organizations I am forgetting to name. All of us who have stepped tentatively out of our comfortable closet improve the lives of gifted children everywhere.
This post is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted blog hop. Gifted advocacy takes place in many places. From schools to homeschool groups, from our houses of worship to the YMCA and JCC, from the grocery store to the family gatherings… we are Gifted Advocates everywhere, and at every age.