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I thought, help, What IS Gifted?

I thought, help, What IS Gifted?

What is gifted?

Just a three-word question, but I guarantee you it will be a far more complicated answer.

Academics have over 140 different definitions of giftedness.

What does that tell us?

There are some things that are generally agreed upon though.

Firstly, that you can be gifted in different ways:intellectually, creatively, academically, artistically and gifted in leadership.

Also, that gifted kids seem to have a number of common traits.

Not all gifted kids have all traits, and your gifted kid might not have many, but these key characteristics can be helpful in spotting a gifted kid.

Here are a few gifted characteristics:
· learning quickly – might be an early reader
· highly sensitive – sensory/ emotional/ anxiety/ empathy
· good memory
· strong sense of social justice
· big vocabulary – early talker
· hit physical milestones early (like sitting/ crawling/walking)
· very energetic and difficulty sleeping
· advanced reasoning and puzzle skills
· very curious… lots of asking why!

Gifted kids might be getting straight A’s and coasting through school but are as likely, and possibly more likely to be underachieving, disengaging, and generally struggling to fit in with school.

Why is that when they have so much potential?

As we said before, gifted kids experience the world differently and that needs to be understood in their home and educational environment.

They will most likely have certain strengths that need enrichment or acceleration, and they may have areas that need additional support.

It’s a myth that gifted kids are good at everything.

Gifted kids are asynchronous.

What’s that?

Well, a typical child at school will mostly likely be in tune with the vast majority of their same aged peers.

For example, a grade 4 student will be thriving learning grade 4 maths, English, and science. Some of their peers might find things hard here and there or excel but generally the grade 4 curriculum meets their needs.

A gifted kid is out of whack with their same age peers. Their level of giftedness tends to exacerbate this.

A gifted kid in grade 4 with other students their same age might be ok in grade 4 English but might be capable of grade 7 science and grade 6 maths, they might struggle with dyslexia and need support for reading.

That is asynchronous.

It means they are all over the place, sometimes gifted kids are capable of more advanced grades for all subjects but more often, each subject will be different depending on their strengths and in how they express their giftedness and their level of giftedness.

The important thing to note is that the kids getting all A’s are as likely to be kids who are highly intelligent but operating in the correct grade 4 curriculum as gifted kids who are capable of higher grades but performing well in their age-based class because they’ve learnt to mask or confirm, or might be people pleasers.

Many gifted kids (even the high performing people pleasers) are as likely to become bored, disengaged, and possibly have mental health issues or behavioural issues if they can’t access education at their stage (not age).

And when I say bored, I don’t mean it’s the summer holidays, ‘mum, I’m bored!”.

I mean, just soul destroying, I can’t exist in this space, it’s beyond me, I’m going to get disruptive. I’m going to get frustrated. I’m going to get angry. Because I just, I can’t cope being in this space kind-of-bored.

Gifted kids’ brains work differently.

There are more synapses that perform faster. They don’t have a choice, it’s who they are.

The many different definitions of giftedness relate to how we recognise gifted kids in schools and how we use tests and scores to determine who is gifted.

Statistically 10% of kids in each age group are gifted. That’s a lot of kids. We need to get better at answering the question – what is gifted?

How I learned to chill out as a parent of gifted kids.

How I learned to chill out as a parent of gifted kids.

I often get asked, “what can I teach my child? they learn so quickly, what topics should I be teaching them? they could learn anything and I don’t want to miss anything!”

Gifted kids have an amazing capacity to learn and they love it!

It’s like breathing.

The temptation is to keep pouring facts and figures and information on them because it’s bliss.

I’d say there is a balance between encouraging a love of learning and well-roundedness. Well rounded adults are successful in life and we want to help our kids to grow up into successful, happy and content adults.

How do we do that?

The best advice I ever got from my son’s psychologist was that successful highly gifted children are ones that had a well-rounded childhood, plenty of ‘being a kid’ time.

Our gifted kids need to have their educational/cognitive needs met and the right school or educational environment is vital in ensuring this need is met, outside of that, plenty of opportunities to play.

Life skills.

Down time from ingesting information to learn about the world around them.

Our temptation is to fill their heads with facts and figures because they want it and they suck it up but it’s ok if he re-visits the periodic table multiple times in his childhood because each time he is a bit older and he’ll get something else out of it.

The comparison she gave me is that if you had a child who was a great athlete, say a prodigy swimmer or golfer, well you don’t let them play golf 24/7, they still need school and friends and other activities in their life to become well-rounded.

She said, individuals who were child prodigies often aren’t successful in their field as adults because they’ve not had the opportunity to learn about life skills if they solely focused on that obsession during childhood. The successful ones had the opportunity to become well-rounded individuals.

The same is with these intense gifted kids, yeah they would sit and read and learn all day (that’s my son!) because it’s like breathing to them.

But they need to put down the book and go play or go to Scouts and it’s ok if he reads the same book at 5 that he then reads again at 7 and 9 because he will see something different in it each time.

As a parent, it is overwhelming to have the responsibility of someone who has so much potential, someone who is years beyond their peers in their area of interest, or an amazing capacity to learn.

We want to do the right thing.

It’s also hard to restrain yourself as a parent when you know they would be good at music, good at dancing, good at… well just about anything and everything they try, so shouldn’t they do it all?!

We have to help them find the balance.

I think it starts with getting permission to chill out. Not just our kids, us too!

We need to take the pressure off and know that it will be ok, our kids can be kids and they will be better for it and as a parent, I can feel less pressure to have to fill that insatiable brain.

Drop into our Facebook group to talk about this more..

How I shed the shame about having gifted kids.

How I shed the shame about having gifted kids.

Are your kids gifted?

Do you find yourself in awkward conversations where you just don’t want to admit it?

Well, you’re not alone.

It’s not an easy conversation because there is a real taboo about having gifted kids.

All children are without a doubt, a gift but not all kids are gifted.

The taboo I feel is that somehow by saying that my child is gifted, it devalues someone else’s child who is not gifted; that comes from a misunderstanding about what giftedness is.

Giftedness is being neurologically different and experiencing the world in a different more intense way, with many challenges, and yes this typically means learning quickly and excelling in some areas. However, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, whether you are typical or atypical, and it certainly doesn’t make us more or less than someone else.

By not talking about it we’re admitting the shame and unfortunately, our kids feel that shame, that’s it’s not ok to be gifted, we shouldn’t talk about it, there’s something about me that is not ok to talk about with others. ☹

The problem is that we are putting other people’s discomfort over being proud and confident about our kids and openly accepting of who they are.

And don’t get me wrong, our discomfort in having those conversations as well!

But what message is that sending to our kids?

So what can you say in those awkward moments?

Over the last year I’ve had to fess up to having gifted kids many times throughout the journey of building Our Gifted Kids, and believe me, I wasn’t immune to feeling the shame, I just had to do it, I had no other choice. But what I learned was really interesting…

Every time I opened my mouth and said, “Hi, I’m Sophia, I have three gifted kids and I’m creating a support network for parents of gifted kids” (as I sunk into my chair and tried to hide behind someone!!) just about every time there was someone there who said…

“Oh, my grandson’s gifted.” That was at a lunch that my folks had.

“My child is gifted.” That was at a workshop – from the presenter.

“My kids are gifted, they’re grown up now.” That was at a leadership program.

“I recently found this old school report, I think I’m gifted – can we talk?”

Gifted people statistically make up 10% of the population, they are out there, we just don’t talk about it.

And we need to talk about it.

So, try some of these alternatives, put your toes into the water as you build the bravery muscle (took me about a year – now I don’t care what other people think):

My kids are atypical, their strengths are…

My kids are asynchronous, that means in some things they are age appropriate and in others they are not.

My kids are neuro diverse, their brains are wired a bit differently, so they learn quickly in some areas and are age appropriate in others.

My kids are gifted, which means their brains are wired differently, gifted kids often learn really quickly but also process the world quickly, so they can get overwhelmed by their senses and emotions. My kids love… and we work on…

My kids are not typical, they are gifted, which probably makes you think of Sheldon Cooper or Dougie Howser but that’s a stereotype, in reality, their brains are wired differently so they process the world faster, this can mean they learn quickly but also can get overwhelmed by emotions and senses.

Or just… My kids are gifted. (We’re not always responsible for educating the world, let them think what they want to think).

The trick is doing it in a way that builds your child up and doesn’t tear them down, we often end with… “but they’re really crap at…” and inserting whatever their weaknesses are because of the taboo about their strengths. 

It can be hard to feel like you don’t need to do that. The misunderstanding is that gifted kids don’t have weaknesses and us parents know they do!

I balance the need to educate people that gifted kids have weaknesses with not tearing my children down in the eyes of others by being generic, “we all have strengths and weaknesses, my kids are no exception to that.” 

You got this!

Share your experiences in our Facebook Group, we’d love to hear them!

Sophia x

Our Story; deep-diving into gifted

Our Story; deep-diving into gifted

As I walked past the couch, I watched my son and, in that moment, realised I had not seen him laugh in weeks. He barely smiled. The joy had been sucked from him.

I realised he was depressed. Depressed. And it was like a punch to the stomach. I stopped and just stood looking at him.

He paused his reading and looked at me. He was five years old.

My head started swimming as I madly recalled the past few weeks trying to remember a smile or laugh but I couldn’t, not one. It had been a tough few months and the intensity hit me in that moment.

I sat on the couch next to him and gave him a hug and held him while he continued to read.

He had been devouring books, consuming them like kids eating lollies at a party. Getting home from school and spending four hours reading, consuming.

Except it was Physics for People in a Hurry, The Universe, How to Teach Your Child Maths.

He was five and a half, he couldn’t read before he started reception six months earlier, but he’d rapidly progressed from readers to become an independent reader in a little over seven months.

I didn’t realise how quickly he was learning; he’d bring books home and we’d sit down, and he’d read them, they were written on a list which had numbers next to it. I didn’t think much about those numbers until I over-heard one mum in the playground talking to another mum.

She said by the end of reception they liked the kids to reach level 12.

I thought to myself, that’s interesting. Realising my son was already at level 18 and it was not yet the end of second term. But no one mentioned anything, eventually a teacher said they were struggling to find appropriate books for him. But no one said anything about that or what that might mean.

We’d been a part of that school community for four years already as he’d started in their toddler class, moved up through preschool before starting reception. No one ever mentioned he might be a bit different. Once a teacher said, ‘he’s a bright spark, isn’t he?

But that was it.

He was our first child, so, yeah, I thought he was bright but don’t all parents think their kids are bright?

None of it matters as long as they are happy, getting what they need but when they don’t, things go down hill quickly. His behaviour changed drastically. He had been utterly delightful his whole life, utterly delightful, no two words could describe this child better.

Yet he shifted to frustrated, angry, short tempered, lashing out at siblings, sad, without joy, very very quickly.

It broke my heart.

I didn’t know what to do, my husband and I were blindsided until a friend, who was also a UK-trained teacher said, ‘you know he’s gifted, right?

Huh?

She sent me a link to a list of characteristics.

I had to concede he ticked most of the boxes, it seemed a bit surreal, I didn’t know what gifted was but it led us, out of sheer desperation, to get an educational assessment.

We’d been struggling to communicate with the school, and we thought it might help.

You take your child in to see the psychologist first to do the test, I know now it can be done over one or two sessions and then you go in alone and see the psychologist to talk about the results.

My husband and I sat there expecting to be told he was quite bright, because we thought he was bright. Nothing could have prepared us for, ‘in twenty years I’ve only seen two or three children like your son’.

Apparently, it’s unusual to test so highly in so many areas.

 We just sat trying to grapple with what that meant, it was surreal and we did that thing where you laugh but it’s slightly manic/hysterical.

On the drive home there was more manic/hysterical laughter and tears. Tears of overwhelm.

What did this mean for our son?!

We were lucky, so incredibly lucky, that thirty minutes’ drive away a school had opened the year before. A school for gifted kids.

We did take the report back to his current school. They refused to accelerate him or extend him. It was a traumatic series of conversations to be honest. They said they were concerned for his emotional and social well-being. Despite the fact that he was depressed and angry. Despite the fact that he had friends in those classes.

They said his handwriting was only age appropriate and even though nothing else about him was age appropriate they refused a six month acceleration. We banged our head on the wall for as long as we could and then called the gifted school for an interview.

I felt utterly let down by the school we’d been a part of for over four years.

We were lucky though. He got a place quickly and started at the gifted school the next term. He’d just turned six when he started at his new school.

About Tuesday of his second week we were standing in the kitchen laughing about something and I suddenly realised he was laughing! When I thought about it I realised he’d been happy. I tried to pin point when the change occurred and the best I could do was towards the end of the previous week.

He’d been at his school for less than a week and his mood shifted dramatically, we had our delightful boy back!

That has been absolutely priceless to us.

It’s not been all smooth sailing, he’s highly sensitive, and highly attuned so anxiety has been a challenge, but we have support that has made a huge difference.

When I talk to other parents, I hear many similar stories. Struggle at school, not fitting in, mental health issues, and it takes me back to that moment in the lounge room realising my boy was depressed. So, I created Our Gifted Kids.

We now know, we have three gifted kids, and this has been a brief story about our eldest but the other two are having their own unique journey’s as well.

They all express giftedness differently.

I have asked parents to share their stories as well because I think other parents need to see them, to know that they aren’t alone when they recognise themselves in our stories. Also, so that teachers and policy makers can see the impact of a system that doesn’t allow all children to thrive.

We can do better.

If you’d like to share your story, get in touch.

If you’d like to talk about work you do with gifted kids, get in touch.

If you need more info on What Gifted Is? Check out our podcast!

 

 

Love Lost In Translation

Love Lost In Translation

One morning I woke up to the sound of crying outside my bedroom door. It was my seven year old. He was on his way to the bathroom when his legs ‘stopped working’ and he collapsed on my dusty treadmill having a little cry. He is a super sensitive little boy and occasionally dramatic (mommy! my legs won’t work!) and the past few months he’s had lots of tummy aches, been clingy at school drop off and really not coping when friends or family leave the house. It breaks my heart and we’ve tried all sorts of things trying to figure out what is going on.

Was it something at school? Was he not getting enough mental stimulation? Was he not getting enough time with us? We have three kids; we’re outnumbered and it’s something we’re really conscious about but we spend a lot of time with him. It had me stumped. I picked him up and put him in our bed and started asking gentle questions about how he was feeling.

As he talked, the penny dropped. I had read a book recently, Out of Control by Dr Shefali Tsabary, and she talks about dysfunctional behaviour always being a sign that the child has lost touch with who they are (p158) and that as parents we do a lot ‘because it’s good for them’ or ‘because they need it’ or ‘because we love them’ but it doesn’t matter our motivation, if the child doesn’t feel loved, if we’re not connecting and the child is instead feeling the weight of our expectations then we need to revisit what we are doing. In other words, just because we spend a lot of time with our children doesn’t mean that is also their perception. We’d been speaking the wrong love language.

We spend a lot of time with him. He’s always loved having a house full of family and friends hanging out. I remember his second New Year ’s Eve. He went around the house pulling all the grown-ups into the lounge to dance. He wanted everyone together in the moment and he’s always been like that. When you’re constantly thinking about making lunches, the laundry or what you’re cooking for dinner it’s easy to forget to be in the moment with your children. We are conscious of trying to ensure our children’s demands for learning and interests are met but that all chews up time which means we don’t often just sit down and connect.

My husband and I spent a lot of time with him but I wondered if maybe it was the wrong kind of time. I decided it was time to consult an expert. I got Chapman & Campbell’s book The 5 Love Languages of Children off the shelf and started to browse through the pages. The five love languages are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service. As I read I realised we’d focused too much on acts of service when what he really needed was lots and lots of quality time connecting like hearing stories.

So I’m off to call the family, he’s been desperate to play Subatomic (an atom building board game; can’t wait) and we’ve just not made the time so I think this Sunday will be pizza and atom building! Wish me luck! I think I’m on to something.