Eight-year-old Bobby wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.
Could he be gifted? Hm?
There were many other signs: Enormous enthusiasm for learning, especially history, science, and language; emotional intensity, difficulty maintaining friendships with children his age, trouble with motivation in school, writing insightful poetry and detailed stories, stacks of books he longed to read, advanced verbal ability, over-thinking tests so that he misunderstood simple problems and scored poorly on exams, great interest in mathematics but not arithmetic, high sensitivity and empathy, frustration with the slowness of handwriting, distressed by the repetition in school, extremely active and curious mind, quirky sense of humor.
I’ve known many gifted children with similar characteristics. Like Bobby, they’re often misunderstood. Their sensitivity and big emotions are mistaken for immaturity. Mediocre test scores are interpreted as average ability or laziness. Loneliness is seen as lack of empathy. Intense curiosity looks like arrogance.
School personnel didn’t recognize Bobby’s rainforest mind. Is this scenario familiar?
If so, here’s what you can do:
— Explain to your child what it means to have a rainforest mind.
— Ask your child to create an imaginary container for his emotions to use when it’s not safe to express them in public. (Bobby used a coconut reinforced with diamonds that was “as big as a truck.”) One resource for helping with anxiety, depression and intensities is Charlotte Reznick‘s work.
— Find a specialist in gifted education who can test your child if the school needs proof of giftedness so that your child’s anxiety and creativity will be taken into consideration as her test results are interpreted.
— Request persistently and repeatedly that your child be matched with the more sensitive, creative and flexible teachers who, ideally, have training in gifted education. Did I mention, be persistent? Convince administrators that this is an easy solution, because it is. Understand the pressures that educators are under and provide support where you can. Bring
bribes caffeinated beverages to overworked teachers. Let difficult administrators know that you have superpowers and you’re not afraid to use them. Remind yourself that when you speak out for your child, other gifted kids will benefit.
— Teach your child social skills, if needed, through role playing. Rainforest-y kids can be bossy and impatient because they don’t realize that other children don’t think as fast or don’t have the same interests. (Explain this to them.) Invite children over for play dates and provide guidance, if needed.
— Problem solve as a family. Brainstorm ideas. Your children will come up with creative solutions to assorted problems and they’ll appreciate your trust in them. Remember that healthy limits and consistency are important, especially if your child is testing boundaries. Take time to nourish yourself.
All of our children, in fact, the entire planet, will benefit if our gifted kids are provided with a stimulating, compassionate and meaningful schooling experience.
I’m sure Richard Feynman would agree.
To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your schooling experiences or about how your kids are doing in school. What frustrations did you have? Was there a teacher who made a difference for you? How? Thank you for sharing. My blog is so much richer because of your comments. See you in 2017! Let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover in future posts.