I’ve heard the story in different versions many times.
Out of the blue a letter arrives from the school district saying your child has tested into the Gifted and Talented program. Sometimes parents will share that they thought maybe their child was smart, but either it was their first child and they didn’t have anyone to compare them to or they didn’t know who to talk to about it so as to not be accused of bragging. Or, a child getting in trouble at school leads to testing or therapy sessions that shed new light on the behavior, reframing it as boredom, not deviance.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, I assure you that you are not alone, but it may not be easy at first to figure out what comes next.
The good news is there is more help out there than in decades past, and finding it made easier by social media and the Internet. For example, here in Minnesota we have a great organization: Minnesota Council for the Gifted & Talented that is a “support and advocacy organization for parents and educators of gifted children.” They do this across platforms via an annual conference, parent groups and CHAT nights, a member’s only email list-serve, a newsletter and more. There are also several books and organizations dedicated to helping parents navigate the terrain, and slowly but surely, more mental health professionals with the training and experience to handle the unique issues that often go along with the label of gifted.
One of the biggest issues that arise is meeting the academic needs of the child.
A bell curve of learning ability often focuses on the lower end, but the top end, the right side of the curve, is where these learners land, yet parents report having a hard time convincing their school that meeting the needs of the kids whose scores fall there is equally important. An article on this topic ran recently in the Mankato Free Press “Gifted: Parent group says Mankato's gifted and talented students are being under-served.” Complicating matters even more is when a child is considered twice-exceptional or 2e. According to the website Twice-Exceptional Newsletter, “Coupled with high intelligence, these children also may have one or more learning disabilities, attention deficit, emotional or behavior problems, or other types of learning difficulties.”
What sometimes happens is that the learning disability is the focus of the intervention while the high-ability is ignored and the child is tracked only in special education classes. Or a child may not have test scores that reflect their abilities correctly due to ADD, Asperger’s, or a processing disorder like dyslexia. This is often when parents request an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) to help address all areas of learning. As you might guess, these all contribute to the challenge of figuring out what is best for the child’s learning. Is it pull-out for some or all classes? Grade-skip? Post-secondary option? Homeschooling? Regular classes supplemented with out-of-school activities?
In regards to therapy, clients will come in with a range of issues to discuss.
Some of the more common topics explored are a child who is suddenly under-achieving, a teen who is struggling with existential depression or anxiety, a person using unhealthy coping skills for stress management, or parents seeking support as they navigate all of the above.
For gifted adults, some feel unfulfilled by the “great” career they have pursued, others want to explore patterns in relationships that haven’t worked out due to focusing intensely on career, or some simply have gone through life feeling different. Women in particular may struggle with perfectionism related to the pressures of balancing career and motherhood. For those who leave a career to stay home with kids or care for their own parents, feeling a loss of connection with work peers, questioning their identity as it relates to career, and the overwhelm when things fall apart for people used to having it all together all the time are common reasons for seeking support.
The above is only a brief glimpse into the world of giftedness as it relates to the challenges and some may not happen or may be way off in the future.
So back to the original question of “Now what?” I would recommend the following:
1.) Pick up the book A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children by Webb, James, et al. This is the best book on the market for an overview of all the relevant topics. A strong reference guide in the back can lead you to more specific guidance where you might need it.
2.) Check the Internet to find out if your city or state has a gifted advocacy group. This should be a good spot to find support from fellow parents who are in the same boat or a little further along so that you don’t have to blaze the trail solo.
3.) Contact your school district to find out who the gifted and talented coordinator is and ask for an informational meeting. If your school does not have one, refer back to #2.
4.) Consider if an IEP (Individual Educational Profile) should be requested for you child. The Hoagies website below has an entire section on this important tool.
5.) Find a source of self-care for you. If you are a parent reading this, things are probably feeling overwhelming. Finding a way to manage your own anxiety or stress is key. Whether it’s yoga, a walk, quiet time, a massage, whatever works for you, be sure to put it at the top of your “to do” list.
Below are a few more resources that I recommend. There is a community out there ready to offer support no matter where you are on this journey.
www.SENGIFTED.org Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted
www.hoagiesgifted.org Comprehensive gifted information
www.rightsideofthecurve.com Support for parents of gifted kids
www.freespirit.com Providing tools for the social and emotional needs of kids
www.nagc.org National Association for Gifted Children
Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters by JoAnn Deak, PhD, with Teresa Barker
Perfectionism: What’s Bad about Being Too Good? by Miriam Adderholdt, Ph.D. & Jan Goldberg
Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults by Webb, Amend, Webb, Goerss, Beljan, Olenchak
Additional resources can be found at www.meganbearce.com
©2012 by Megan Bearce, LMFT