The third week of July has been named National Parenting a Gifted Child Week. I’m grateful that people are starting to recognize the challenges of raising gifted children.
Sure, having a gifted child is a good thing, a great thing really. I’m not complaining at all. However, it’s nice to know that other people understand the unique challenges associated with having a gifted child. This week, Autumn will be posting about her experiences as a gifted child but today is my turn.
Growing up Gifted
I remember being identified as gifted. As if I didn’t already stick out like a sore thumb. Every week from third grade through sixth grade I attended one full school day at another school. It was the absolute best day of my week. EVERY WEEK. I wasn’t weird for wanting to read a book a week or for my love of writing stories. My LEAP friends understood my need to excel. LEAP teachers supported and encouraged us. In short, LEAP was AWESOME.
Then, it faded away to be replaced by Honors and AP classes. Not quite the same. There’s a difference between being gifted and being smart. I still received good grades, finished near the top of my class, and gained early admission to a fantastic college. Again, I performed well enough in school and at many of my jobs. I struggled at some because I asked too many questions and wanted to make too many changes – note to self, not acceptable in some places of business. It took a long time to understand how and why and what fits versus what doesn’t. Now that I’m the mother of a gifted child, I understand a lot more and, of course, there is a lot more research on the difference between gifted children and bright children.
The Difference Between a Gifted Child and a Bright Child
One of the first articles I ever read on this discussion is from Psychology Today in 2012. You can be a bright student without being gifted. As with many things, there is a spectrum. My daughter happens to do well in school but she also has had her share of trouble at school. Hell, she has her fair share of trouble in life and often feels like an outsider or removed. These are emotions I am very familiar with. I believe this is a large part of the reason that Autumn and I are so close. Reading the Psychology Today article, it is so clear to me how Autumn struggles so much with her peers and sometimes with her teachers.
Autumn knows now that she must learn the answers to questions through memorization. She also knows that her questions may not be met with praise from teachers. Autumn is old enough now (and skilled enough) to make the assessment early in the year. She quickly determines which teachers will not only allow her questions or answer her questions but also encourage her questions. This is instrumental in Autumn’s growth as a person and a learner.
The Gifted Child in School
A large part of Autumn’s struggle is her need to learn and work at her own pace. She is easily frustrated by having to wait on others to memorize information she already knows when there is more to learn. This causes conflict in many ways. While many of her friends study hard and work very hard to maintain grades, Autumn rarely does homework or studies for tests. She reserves her effort for digging deeper on topics of interest or creating worlds in stories and drawings. Because Autumn does not have to work hard to earn grades, she has more time than most kids to explore other interests though this causes her anxiety because she feels there is never enough time to complete everything. Again, we have this in common.
Struggles with Socialization
Do you have any idea how hard it is to get along with other people when you see the world as a big picture at all times? To me, nearly everything in life is a puzzle to be solved. I often feel like people are not hearing what I’m saying or that I’m not explaining myself correctly. This is never a problem with Autumn. She and I can have a conversation in sentence fragments, sometimes just a few words back and forth but come away feeling complete.
Since childhood, I have been teased – often – and it has not improved as an adult. There is a strange disconnect that I see my daughter facing as well. She does not quite fit anywhere – except with a few people and/or in select settings. There is more available to her than there was for me – from camps to classes – but there is still an overwhelming loneliness for gifted kids that never seems to fade. Hopefully, through education and open discussion this will change.
This Week on Karmic Chaos
Autumn will be supplying a post on her experience at OWjL camp. We will address some other issues facing gifted kids in school and socially as well. Hopefully, we will make some connections with other gifted people or maybe help a parent of a gifted child.