Suffering in Silence: Who’s Really Paying the Price for the Neglect of Our Gifted Children?

Suffering in Silence

No child should have to suffer simply because they were born gifted

 

One only needs to google just two words: gifted and neglected.  You will find page after page of results for professional and scholarly articles, op-eds, book excerpts and blog posts all exclaiming the educational, emotional and social neglect of our gifted children especially within our educational system.

Think about it ….  it’s NEGLECTING CHILDREN.

Yet, even after years, even decades, of warnings by educators, academic professionals, mental health professionals and parents that schools are neglecting and basically ignoring a population of students, our school systems continue to move in the opposite direction.  Gifted programs are quickly becoming an endangered educational imperative.

These dire warnings proclaim that by not providing our gifted children with an appropriate education that meets their unique learning needs, our society will suffer great loses of above-average human potential in our work force, and in our society.  Due to this inexcusable educational neglect, we are preventing our future scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, world-changers, and the movers and shakers from fulfilling their potential and making significant positive impacts on our world.  But as a society, are we the only ones, due to this educational neglect of gifted students, who will suffer these great losses?

“Tragic is right. I am a teacher in charge of a high school gifted program that serves 80 or so gifted students, and the parent of a highly gifted son who just dropped out of high school as a senior. It breaks my heart that even as an “expert” I was not able to stop this from happening. Attempts at tactful advocacy only made things worse for him at his school, where gifted support is virtually non-existent.”

“My 9yr old son had so many challenges in the classroom that the teachers wanted him on Ritalin and were offended when I suggested he might be gifted. It took me having a “come to Jesus ” meeting with the principal to be heard. He went through the rigorous gifted testing and was classified as highly gifted. It is a struggle every day. People who don’t deal with this, don’t understand.”

Our gifted children and their families are suffering in silence.

Our gifted children and their families have been suffering silently because giftedness with its inherent emotional and social issues is a contentious and touchy subject to address within society and also with our schools.  Even within schools, the very people we should trust to be the most knowledgeable about giftedness, we’re seeing parents most often on the losing side when trying to change the educational inadequacies of their child’s education.  But it is not just the parents who suffer, it is the gifted child who becomes the real victim here.

“Before 1st grade, she was known as the social, happy child who loved to do everything. In her case it was the adults in school and parents of other kids who stole her confidence. So sad it is beyond words. I wish I would have pulled her sooner than I did from her school but I didn’t know what to do or what she needed.”

“My little girl whose favorite saying as a child was “have fun” is gone. She rarely laughs and is filled with insecurity and extreme social anxiety.”

The silence 

The silence the families of our gifted children maintain, although self-imposed, is unavoidable because of society’s animosity and jealousy towards gifted children.  One needs to search the internet just a little to find articles with titles stating that they hate hearing about your gifted kids, or how they wish we would stop bragging about our gifted kids.  And then those who hold resentment towards parents and their gifted children try to level the intellectual field by supporting the most damaging fallacy to befall gifted children: “All children are gifted”.  The topic of giftedness has become such a controversial subject which rankles those who obviously don’t understand giftedness, that parents of gifted children have learned that ‘gifted’ is a dirty word that must be used discreetly.

“But I can’t share my frustrations with my fellow moms because it will be like the skinny woman who complains she just can’t gain any weight…”

“Other kids (and parents) don’t understand his intensity and label him weird. I have “friends” who tell me “something is wrong with him” and others who wonder snidely how I “got” him in the gifted program.”

“I’ve been taking the lumps quietly, and keeping his achievements to myself. But when other parents try to generalize his unique qualities to include kids who do not have to live with the daily asynchrony – it infuriates me”

“I have long since stopped talking about my PG son to people outside my immediate family. To numerous to count the times that I have gotten the side-eye or passive aggressive comment about my son’s abilities. With those abilities comes the out-of-nowhere anxiety, and the asynchronous emotional behaviors.”

The suffering

The suffering gifted children and their families experience come from both the schools’ educational, social and emotional neglect of gifted children, as well as society’s animosity towards giftedness. Most often, schools fail to understand and recognize giftedness and all of its characteristics and behaviors.  Many in education also harbor the ill-feelings towards gifted children felt by many in our society.  Too many schools seem to want to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to addressing the unique educational, emotional and social needs of its gifted students, and then when they can’t or won’t provide the education gifted children need, the psychological toll on our gifted children is tremendous, and often permanent.

“It’s heart wrenching to watch my child’s love of life, learning and being a healthy part of society decompose before my eyes.”

“Yes, there are wonderful joys that come from a child that sees the world differently than “the pack”, but our child pays a huge price in being shunned socially.”

In recent months, there has been more and more evidence of this educational neglect of our gifted students.  The sheer amount of publicity and outrage this gifted education issue is getting lately almost gives one hope that our educational system could no longer deny their incompetence and continue to fail our gifted students; their excuses have been exposed and proven feeble and flawed.  Maybe the change in gifted education that is so needed is just around the corner, although there is still so much more work to be done here.  But what about our gifted children who have been neglected and have suffered emotional damage all of these years?

“She wasn’t bullied in school by kids, but by adults. Heartbreaking.”

“I just want to find her love of learning that she had when she was younger, middle school has proven to be not only counterproductive but destructive for my child”

“After many weeks of being inundated on Facebook with friends updates of their kids grad photos, prom photos, scholarship awards, university acceptances, I feel deflated. My gifted son is doing/getting none of these. While almost there with one course left to go (that he is now doing online) he will get his HS diploma in the mail. He has struggled through his entire educational experience from JK to now.”

“But I worry that pushing him through this HS will not best serve him in the long run. I see his spirit crushed when he doesn’t do well on assignments. He constantly struggles to stay organized. I know he doesn’t feel “gifted” at all. While I read your site, I started to cry; my son is suffering just as yours did. I don’t even know where to begin to help him, but my first thought was to find someone else who is/has gong through this too. Where do I begin? How can I build his confidence and salvage his love of learning?”

The toll on our gifted children can be catastrophic

The very educational system whose purpose is to prepare our children for the future has categorically been destroying the future of our gifted children.  I have written much about the psychological toll that is caused by a school who has their head buried in the sand.  As I wrote, hundreds of comments poured in to me from parents saying that their child had also suffered when schools refused to meet their gifted child’s needs.  You will see these quoted comments from my readers throughout this post.  In many cases, it was not just neglect, but also retaliation by the schools and teachers.  Many expressed how alone they felt on their unspoken, painful journey of raising their gifted child, the silence hindering them from finding others on the same path.  They know now that there are too many of us to feel alone anymore.  And through reading all of these hundreds of testimonies sent to me, undoubtedly the toll our gifted children and their families have suffered is heavier than you would ever imagine – emotional, social, educational, financial, life-altering and life-threatening.

“After winning the spelling bee every week, the teacher gave her a hard word that wasn’t on the study list and when she got it wrong, the whole class laughed at her. Then when she started getting the hard words right, she wasn’t allowed to participate in the spelling bee because it “made the other kids feel bad about themselves”.(2nd grade).”

“He loved school until second grade where his teacher was determined to “put him in his place” whenever he showed signs of working independently. He is now a freshman in high school and is barely getting by grade-wise. After reading this article, I am wondering if his underachieving is a form of depression or feeling misunderstood”

“That same GT-background principal also stood in front of our school, in a very public area, and made sure to make the point that our daughter was NOT the top one in her class, and that if they hadn’t “dropped the bar” on the previous year’s testing, she wouldn’t have been even getting pulled out for the extra GT work that she was getting.”

My intention for this article was to point out that this neglect of our gifted children is not merely hurting their feelings, inducing stress or causing tears, it is causing severe emotional and financial hardships for these families of gifted children, and most emphatically, harming the gifted child himself.  Here are just a few of the resulting damages and hardships suffered by families and their gifted children at the hands of our educational system which refuses to understand and meet the needs of gifted children:

 

In the gifted child:

  • loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, problems with evaluating self-worth
  • anxiety, stress, anxiety disorder, fear of going to school or fear of failure
  • underachievement, failing grades
  • depression
  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • suicidal thoughts and suicide
  • loss of quality of life, loss of happiness
  • loss of motivation, lost love of learning
  • physical ailments due to stress and anxiety such as insomnia, headaches, digestive issues
  • loss of potential to be successful, loss of future earnings due to permanent emotional issues

 

For the family:

  • loss of a second family income so one parent can stay home to homeschool their gifted child
  • costs of a private school when necessary
  • financial costs of homeschooling when forced to homeschool
  • financial costs of therapy and counseling.
  • stress on family relationships
  • loss of quality of life for the entire family due to the time and money it takes to help support and heal their child, and the subsequent stress

“In every gifted support group I have ever been in, or while speaking with other moms of gifted kids, the most often asked question is, ‘Who knows of a psychologist who specializes in gifted children?’ The need for counseling and therapy seems to go hand in hand with gifted children!”

“We started homeschooling this year as the public school system did not work, and he was called names, not helped with extension or sensitivities or over-excitabilities, instead punished for things he could not help. He became suicidal. We pulled him out of school, and slowly, slowly he is coming back to us. So many people say “How can you home-school? It would drive me insane?” I say, what is the alternative?”

These losses, these damages, these issues are all suffered alone and in silence.  Many of these families know schools won’t listen.  Society has little understanding or empathy for giftedness.  Mental health issues have a stigma that many fear may permanently hinder their child’s future, so silence is key.

“Perhaps if the public were educated more about the dark side of giftedness instead of just how extraordinary these kids are with their intellectual abilities people may not want to label all kids gifted. The psychological issues are very real and I’m sure most parents wouldn’t choose that for their kids.”

The families of these gifted children who have been neglected by schools and rebuffed by society cannot keep suffering in silence.  And we know clearly the emotional and financial price these families are paying for the neglect of their children by schools and by society is incalculable.

Who is going to compensate these families and their gifted child for their emotional, financial and future losses?   What about the loss of potential for the gifted child?  What about the gifted child’s future happiness now plagued by their traumatic childhood experiences?  What about the gifted child’s future success which has been painfully and possibly permanently impaired?  Why should they have to incur these damages and losses and suffer it all in silence?

What are we going to do about it?

If your child had suffered so much psychological harm and mental anguish, and you were left to shoulder the resulting financial and emotional fallout alone, and it was the result from any other cause, what would you do then?

Who is really paying the price for the neglect of our gifted children by the educational system, and how do we ever compensate these families for these damages?

RELATED ARTICLES, POSTS, OP-EDS:

EDUCATIONAL  NEGLECT

“I have seen my 9yr old start to do poorly in school because when he’s done, he is told to put his head down. Seriously? We as a society can do better than this.”

“Their solution for my math whiz is to give him extra worksheets.”

New York Times op-ed article: “Young, Gifted and Neglected”

Davidson Institute for Talent Development: “The quiet crisis in American education: The neglect of highly intelligent students” 

Scientific American™:  “The U. S. Neglects Its Best Science Students”

The Boston Globe article:  “The poor neglected gifted child”

SOCIETAL  INTOLERANCE

“My child is gifted across the board and I have had parents tell me they are tired of my child winning everything and that it is not fair for the other kids. “

Psychology Today article by Jonathan Wai: “Three Reasons Why Americans Ignore Gifted Children

Newsweek article: “America Hates Its Gifted Kids” 

Baby Center blog post by Joyce Slaton: “ I hate hearing about your gifted child”

The Examiner article: “The Issue: Why People May Not Like Your Gifted Child” 

Momastery blog post: “Every Child is Gifted and Talented. Every Single One” 

COMPREHENSIVE  RESOURCES  FOR  HELP  AND  SUPPORT:

SENG: Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted:  “SENG is dedicated to fostering environments in which gifted adults and children, in all their diversity, understand and accept themselves and are understood, valued, nurtured, and supported by their families, schools, workplaces and communities.

GIFTED HOMESCHOOLERS FORUM: “The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF) is a 501(c)3 which supports gifted and 2e families and the professionals who work with them in the United States and around the world, through education, advocacy, community, and outreach.”

HOAGIES GIFTED EDUCATION PAGE: “Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page, the all-things-gifted site, full of resources, articles, books and links to help and support parents, teachers, and gifted children alike.  Pick your path, and explore them all!”

 

“I am a retired public school teacher and mother of two gifted children. We have spent several hundred thousand dollars educating our children in private schools. They are both doing well now. It is, however, very frustrating to see our brightest children being told “You’re bright, but probably not as bright as your mom and dad think, you’ll be fine.”

“As a gifted specialist for the past decade and now a parent of an identified highly-gifted son, I know all too well the difficulties of gifted individuals. There’s not much compassion or understanding by the mainstream when it comes to meeting the needs of these unique individuals…and they do have needs not only academically, but emotionally too.

Before I wrote this post, I had asked several friends to give me a list of the damages or hardships they have incurred due to the educational, emotional and social neglect their gifted child has suffered just so I could get a comprehensive list.  This one story came back to me.  It was written in a way I never could have and sums up beautifully all that I have been trying to say here.  Here it is in its entirety as it was sent to me:

“The other day I took my daughter to see my elementary school.  As we walked around the school grounds, I shared stories about my experiences and of the happy memories I had of my school. She just said ‘not me’.  No, she didn’t have too many happy memories of her school, except kindergarten and grade 1, she said.  That is because she was bullied by a teacher in grade 2 at the age of six.  As I tried to understand this, I read where exceptionally able children are targeted and bullied by a less-than-gifted teacher.  Sometimes this is referred to as the poppy head syndrome, where one especially beautiful flower that stands above the rest has to be cut down to the level of the others.  It was hard to believe that a teacher would do this to a sweet little girl who loved to learn and just wanted her teacher to like her.  This led to five years of bullying by her peers, and eventually, so much anxiety from the bullying and fear of teachers that we had to take her out of the school environment to try to help her.

Almost seven years since the first incident and our only wish every step of the way was for our child to be happy.  Her wish is ‘to just be normal like everybody else’.  The price you pay for being gifted … highly gifted … is huge … for the child who is gifted and the entire family.  Sometimes you feel like you live in the school principals’ office.  You feel like the over-protective parent as you fight for the bullying to stop … but it never does … and you keep coming back.  Your child doesn’t want to go to school … they cry … they don’t sleep … they start having stomachaches and headaches and pain in their arms and legs, but you have to keep sending them back and you have to keep fighting …. with the school … and at home … it never ends.

All you talk about at home is why this is happening and how you are going to fix it.  Your relationship suffers, with your spouse and with your child.  Fighting for your child becomes your life … every … single … day.  But you keep sending them to school saying it will get better … tomorrow … next week … next month … next year.  Then you become the overindulgent parent while you try to help them to make it one more day.  A new toy, a game, an outing or a holiday, that will take their mind off their troubles for just one hour or one day.  Something that will bring back that smile you remember.

Then there was the award we gave her at her grade 6 graduation when, out of 50 awards, she received not a one.  Perhaps because she was away so much because of the anxiety due to bullying or from trying to be strong for too long.  Somehow she managed A’s in almost every subject, but not one award and that held a high emotional price tag.

A new school and a new school year.  A fresh start.  Another expense, a dream vacation to look forward to, that hopefully will leave the past behind.  On to grade 7, another teacher, just like her teacher in grade 2.  The memories came flooding back.  It was the end of being strong or the end of allowing another person to make her feel bad.  The anxiety was back worse than ever and the school was not open to resolving the problem in any way and without a resolution there was no way she would return and no way would we expect her to.  The next year was a year of healing, a year spent learning about what it means to be highly gifted and a visual learner.  It was a year spent learning that being a highly gifted visual learner is not just about how a child learns but so much more about how this affects the person she is inside.

The year was spent with doctor appointments trying to find out what was causing all the physical illnesses.  Time spent talking with psychologists and therapists and naturopaths only to find out that it was the school stresses that caused the physical problems.  The damages have been many, both emotional and financial.  To begin with, the financial burden of losing half of the family income, homeschooling costs, doctor costs and the many other costs associated with trying to keep a positive attitude and avoid depression.

The emotional costs are huge; loss of self-esteem, loss of trust, school phobia and depression, to mention only a few.  Seven years of a childhood … lost.  Joy of life …  lost.  As parents, most days we feel like our relationship is on hold.  Our child is our first priority and she needs so much because of the effects of school on our child. These are not things you can easily put a price on.”

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