If Every Child is Gifted, Then…..


Correct me if you think I’m wrong, but I would venture that every parent of a gifted child has heard the sentiment, I think every child is gifted. I would also venture that, as a parent of a truly gifted child, we know that our child is too different to be every child. I say truly gifted because often, in school,  giftedness is confused with high academic performance.  Surprisingly, many gifted children DO NOT excel in school.

 

Shocking?  I know.  But I’ll stop there because gifted children underachieving in school is another topic for another day.

I do believe, however, that all individuals possess strengths, interests, passions and unique abilities that can set them apart from others. These strengths and passions, such as artistic ability, athleticism, mathematical ability, social skills and others can bring fulfillment, success and happiness to these individuals. Yes, we all have our strengths and special abilities, and when we identify them in our children, we should help our children focus on their unique strengths. Unique strengths and abilities can be considered gifts, but should not be confused with giftedness. On the other hand, a truly gifted individual, who also possesses special strengths and passions, has a different sort of brain-wiring. Gifted individuals’ thought processes are so distinctive and different from those who are not gifted–not necessarily better, just so very outside-the-box.

There are many characteristics and traits that most gifted individuals possess that sets them apart from non-gifted people.  Just for a little tongue-in-cheek humor, with no disrespect, I’m going to give you my version of what would happen if every child was really gifted–

1. Gifted children commonly teach themselves to read early, most often before entering school.
If every child was gifted and taught themselves to read before entering school, then reading instruction in Kindergarten and first grade would be totally unnecessary. If every child were gifted, learning to read, much like learning to walk, would not need to be taught at all.

2. Gifted children tend to relate to older children and adults better than they do same-age peers.
If every child was gifted and related better to adults and older children, what would this do to the age-old, lockstep organization of our current school system which uses same-age grouping? Multi-age classroom grouping would seem a mathematical impossibility if we needed to ensure that every gifted child in the classroom had adults or older children to relate to.

3. Gifted children often question authority and challenge adults when they see inconsistencies. 
If every child was gifted and challenged authority–oh well–wow–we would have chaos on this Earth!  Whose authority would reign?

4. Gifted children most often develop asynchronously. 
If every child was gifted and developed asynchronously, then all the currently-accepted childhood developmental benchmarks from birth would then be inaccurate. Pediatricians and experts on child development would all need to change the ages and stages of child development commonly used today. But change it to what?

5. Gifted children are emotionally intense and extremely sensitive.
If every child was gifted and emotionally intense, teacher turn-over rates would be outrageous. Every classroom would be filled with emotionally-intense kids who would also be regularly challenging the teacher. Classroom management?  I’m stressed just thinking about trying to manage a classroom full of emotionally-intense, multi-age dissidents!

As parents and teachers of gifted children, we know that not all children are really gifted. Gifted children are just wired differently. They are not superior to their same-age peers, and do not have a greater ability to fulfill their potential and be successful in life; they just require a different path than most in order to be successful.

 

 

Rapid Response

25 Comments on “If Every Child is Gifted, Then…..

  1. Nice blog! Enjoyed reading your post and agree with your sentiments. Look forward to reading more!

  2. The school superindendent in our town said to my husband and me, “All children are gifted.” My children (who are gifted) and I have a good laugh about that one in our house daily.

  3. Oh, wow! The superintendent? I guess he just. didn’t. get. gifted! I’m happy to see that you and your children can laugh about it now. 🙂

  4. Maybe its the word gifted that is the problem. It denotes exceptionalism that is exclusive and a special benefit to society which is defined differently by everyone. One can learn differently or faster but doesn’t necessarily mean that they are exceptional. Learning faster or differently doesn’t provide a benefit to society. Now if that person who learns differently or faster comes to conclusion that provides a benefit to society this would certainly be considered exceptional by many. There are plenty of people who learn differently. There are plenty of people who learn slow or fast, but none are indicative of whether those people would provide an exceptional benefit to society. Look I have nothing against you wanting to use the word gifted for your child, but I also have nothing against another person wanting to identify all children as gifted either. I do have a problem with the large undertone that gifted denotes an exclusive exceptionalism and a special benefit to society when in fact there is no significant difference in benefit to society between the “gifted” (as you define it) and the average (as you define it). I also don’t think people hate or think less of gifted children. I think they dislike the undertone that is implied towards everyone else that is not “gifted.” You can assume that my tones are out of anger and dislike, but I merely just trying to observe this from another perspective. I don’t have any ill will towards the “gifted” community. I don’t think you have an ill will towards the rest of the world. I think you are just frustrated like most parents with the public school system’s failure to cater to the individual. Who could be mad at that?

    • Lacy, I think you’re really on point with the use of “gifted” as the word to describe what some students (myself included) are, however, I would argue against you as to why it’s not the right word. You suggest that being “gifted” is just being set apart and that the term isn’t really deserved. We’re just another point on the learning scale of students – some learn slower, others learn faster. What I think you don’t realize is that, in making that argument, you really ignore the “gifted” people who are not higher on the scale of faster to slower, but in a different world altogether.

      I stopped saying “gifted” about myself a long time ago because it was a sure way to shut down any conversation about what I needed to excel and thrive in my environment and in my learning. I chose words like “intellect,” “mentality,” and, my favorite, “just weird.” People seemed more approachable when the words I used didn’t imply that I was better (as “gifted” does), only different, which is what I really am. These words, however, do not denote me to simply being a faster learner (frequently, I’m not). It does not denote me being a better student (I’m actually a high school dropout). It excuses me from being compared to other students and their capabilities, when they and I are simply not the same.

      Most of the time, I’m an incredibly slow learner when the topic doesn’t interest me. I see no point to learning the topic presented to me, I know I’m never going to use the information, and I’m “wired” such that my mind literally can not function on something I find useless. It’s like pushing a wet noodle across leather; it will not go. If I found interest in the information, I would have it down in a heart-beat, but with no such thing found in a topic, I find it nearly impossible to absorb or work towards. Teachers (and my parents) in the past have called me simply lazy, which leads to hours of mostly useless arguing as I try to explain that the issue isn’t that I don’t want to do the work, it’s that I mentally, physically cannot bring myself to participate in something I find so truly useless to my person. Believe me when I say, I want to learn, I am eager to know about the world around me, but some things simply won’t vibe with me and will never be learned by me. When people say that all children are “gifted” as I am, they essentially say that my struggles are the same as other students, in that I am lazy and unmotivated, and dismiss entirely the emotional torture that is letting those around you down, or falling behind your peers in school, because your mind simply cannot take to the information being forced to it.

      As for where the word “gifted” came from- I think it rose out of the idea that parents, upon being faced with a child who would spend their lives fighting every social construct that would force them into a mold (especially fighting those they find illogical and frustrating), looked for a way, any way, to put a positive spin on their unusual intellect. Hence the word “gifted.” “My child isn’t stupid/lazy/crazy, they’re gifted.” It’s often a coping mechanism for parents, but again, it is probably the fasted way to shut down communication between the parents, students, and educators when all three need to be effectively communicating all the time for the learning benefit of the student. Perhaps this seems like a lot of work for someone who statistically won’t really contribute to society, but I submit that, with a better suited education, I would have been far more on track for social impact than I am now, as would many other uniquely intellectual students.

      • There is a country in Europe (don’t remember which one) that refers to gifted children as ‘zebras’ instead of gifted. I love that! They aren’t better- just different, unique and high maintenance, while looking a lot like another animal.

    • I was thinking the same thing–that the word “gifted” is loaded. However, I am not sure it’s a solvable problem. Any word you use to mean “more able than average” is going to become the tocus of envy and resentment. Heck, I was a gifted kid in public school before either gifted programs or the gifted label were really common. I was just “smart”. And I was still on the receiving end of plenty of envy and resentment, some of it straight from the teachers! If we had even seriously considered sending our kids to school before we became parents, the fact that our kids, especially our eldest, fit the list of traits above well would have been enough to change our minds. Instead, we are happily homeschooling, with a largely unschooling approach.

  5. Lacy,

    I understand completely what you are saying and many people feel the same way you do about gifted children, or the use of the word “gifted”. Many educators and parents would love to be able to use a more accurate or less controversial word than “gifted” when referencing our intellectually bright kids. You are right, the word “gifted” does have an undertone of elitism or exceptionality. It is an unfortunate choice of a word to use to label those people in society who have above-average intelligence. That is all about semantics though…

    No matter which word we use to label or reference our children – “high-ability”, “exceptional”, “bright” or “talented” – they all can can clearly evoke an air of elitism, and this in turn can bring out negative feelings in those who do not truly understand our gifted children. Some even say that all of this is because we have a strong sense of anti-intellectualism in our country and in our world. Many believe intellectual discrimination exists.

    I know you do not have any ill-will towards the gifted community, just as I don’t have any ill-will towards highly-successful athletes or extraordinary leaders or people who have exceptional beauty or those who are musically gifted. Personally, I’m musically illiterate, overweight and of average beauty, way-below-average athletic ability and I’m probably an average leader. So, my gifts don’t lie in those domains, and I am not jealous of those who were born with above-average abilities in those domains; I applaud them. My gift and my son’s gift lie in the intellectual domain, and for fear of ill-will by others, we very much hesitate to publicly use the word “gifted” when we refer to our gift of above-average intellect. But this is the word or label that has been in use for many, many years.

    I truly believe every child has talents or exceptionalities or strengths – exceptional athletes, extraordinary beauty, mature communication skills, above-average artistic ability, or intuitive leadership skills – all of which, if nurtured appropriately, can benefit society. If parents and teachers don’t nurture and educate towards developing these skills, these children may not grow up to fulfill their potential and become a benefit to society in any capacity.

    Our children who have intellectual strengths are misunderstood and underserved for many reasons – lack of money for gifted education, lack of understanding of the unique psychological needs of our gifted kids, and often times, discrimination through anti-intellectualism plays a big part.

    We spend billions of dollars to erect huge football stadiums to showcase athletically-gifted football players. Musically-gifted pop artists have millions of adoring fans. Artistically-gifted people display the products of their above-average ability in art galleries. The world collectively admires people who were born with a gift of beauty, and we showcase this beauty in pageants like Miss America and in fashion magazines. We all admire and love our favorite talented actors and actresses. These individuals have all been coached, nurtured, educated and provided the right opportunities to develop, showcase and use their talents and gifts. Intellectually-gifted children and their parents have historically had to fight for understanding and acceptance in our schools and in society. We have had to fly under the radar to get the right opportunities and an appropriate education for our kids. And there are few arenas, pageants, galleries or stages to showcase our children’s intellectual gifts…. that is if they were appropriately developed as they should.

    Again, you are right. I am often frustrated with the public school system’s failure to educate our intellectually-bright children properly, but most often, I am very much disheartened by society’s negative attitude toward those who have above-average intelligence.

    “Gifted” is just a word, but society is failing our intellectually-talented children….

  6. I started reading the comment from Lacy as my 5 year old wrote and illustrated his second book of the day, my 4 year old begged to get on my lap so he could use the computer to solve math problems, and my 18 month old colored and I decided that she has not had much experience with a true “gifted” child. When you experience the way a gifted child’s brain works I don’t think you can help but feel that can change the world (for good or bad depending on how they are treated and guided). My guess is she has had experience with beautifully, wonderfully “normal” kids who have parents who brag about their child’s accomplishments and probably throw around the word gifted. I became certain of this as seconds later the peace in my home was shattered as the 5 year old freaked because he couldn’t find a book he was looking for, the 4 year old had to change his clothes for the 52nd time because the seams bother him, and the 18 month old fell off her chair (gotta love the asynchronous development that gives a toddler poor balance, but a perfect pencil grip). These kids are different, they are difficult to parent, and I look forward to a day when we can talk about these facts without others crying elitism. Thank you for your blog.

    • I, too, look forward to a time when we are not hesitant or ashamed or scared to say we have a gifted child, or afraid to ask for help for the issues that come with being gifted. Thank you for your comment and speaking up for all gifted children!

  7. Wow! This is wonderful! I wonder if I locked myself in the bedroom for a week to read all of your blogs if my husband or son would notice? I really cannot wait to read more, it’s like you’ve lived what I’m living..

    • Thank you for your kind words! Yes, unfortunately, too many of our gifted children experience similar lives full of negative experiences. At one time I thought we had to be the only family ever to have such negative experiences with schools, and with our son’s giftedness that we have had – it was just too painful and senseless. Sadly, I found out there are way too many gifted kids that suffer through painful childhoods just because society, and especially schools, do not recognize that gifted kids have special needs, too.

      You may be in your bedroom a long, long time because I will keep writing until our gifted children receive the education, acceptance, understanding and childhoods EVERY child should have! No child should suffer simply because he was born gifted!

  8. Using the phrase “all children are gifted” implies that a phrase such as “all children are thugs” can also be true. Yet we know that this statement is definitely false. Science has demonstrated that the “bell curve” exists in nearly every form of human behavior, and yet schools deny it’s existence in nearly every form of child behavior. Personally, do not like the term “gifted” just because we do have our unique gifts and the distribution of those gifts follows a bell curve. I do not know what term to use, but I wish we had a different one than “gifted” As an adult with these unique attributes and a parent with children having these attributes… I just cringe when someone calls us “gifted” it makes us want to hide. Really, we just want to be accepted for who we are and allowed to progress as who we are. But, the system needs to give us a label… I suppose I would hate any label they choose to give. But just because I hate the term, it doesn’t mean that we are all the same. I am so thrilled that we are not the same. “All children are gifted” denies the beauty of diversity.

  9. So reading your article and trying to differentiate gifted and highly successful kids with multiple talents confusing me. If a child can excel in all classes without sweating, able to play complex classical music at earlier age than most of her peers, and pretty atheltic then that child is just highly intelligent but not gifted. Only thing the child didn’t fit is #1 but she was able to teach herself to teach herself a foreign language and now reads pretty well on her own but it’s not her native language which she was taught. She is fast reader and quick about learning. I get confused with talented and gifted for that reason.
    I am not an educator but home educator.

  10. What a wonderful article and so absolutely true.

    Giftedness isn’t about being the bright star pupil as one would imagine. It’s intense, feeling and viewing the world differently, asking the questions, pushing every possible limit. These kids don’t just think outside of the box, to them there is no box.

    Every child is special and unique, but my 5yr old gifted son isn’t anything like his age peers. He’s about to commence kindergarten, with a principal who won’t force socialisation with his class mates, and acknowledges that doing so would be the equivilant of his placing a smart child in a support class and then saying there was something wrong with them if they weren’t able to develop friendships.

    This gives us hope, along with other things they have said can be made available or adjusted to meet his needs. I wish giftedness were more widely understood 🙂

  11. So very true! Is each child unique and wonderful in their own way…of course! But to say all children are gifted is like saying all children have disabilities…it’s just not correct, in the truest nature of the terms. We all have our own talents, but giftedness is something…more. More more more. And it’s not just an academic situation – the asynchrony (esp social/emotional vs. cognitive), the sensitivities…it’s complicated and challenging and awe-inspiring, but it’s not normal. That’s a fact. And when your 3 year old can calculate multiplication in his head faster than you…it’s downright scary! I’m so glad to read blogs celebrating giftedness by bringing it to the forefront of our minds – these kids need something more from their education (especially in public schools!), and to ignore their differences is to neglect their potential. and no child’s potential should ever be neglected.

    http://wildishnature.blogspot.com/

  12. Why are people so sensitive about the word gifted? I know that in my community we have all-star teams in sports….we have honors orchestra and band… why is it so loaded to have the word, “gifted” for our advanced kids?

    • I have to wonder if it is not so much the word as the fact that being labeled gifted is saying you are smarter than others. Our kids aren’t all competing as the “best” on the football team, honor choir, or honor band, but all of our kids have to go to school, so all of our kids are competing in the intellectual arena. Most every parent wants their child to be one of the smartest. Giftedness shouldn’t be a sensitive topic, but it is, sadly 🙁

  13. Of course all kids are gifted in some way. What is truly sad is parents who need their kids to be “special”, ie, better than others, so they slap the “gifted” label on them because they play well with legos or hold a pencil at 2.

    What you are saying is, my kid is better than yours.

    All loving moms think so.

    • Well, I would agree with you that all kids are special, but being gifted is NEVER better than anyone. Gifted is a true, clinical psychological diagnosis which has very little to do with how a child performs in school. Your judgement comes from the erroneous myths and stereotypes perpetuated by the vision of all those high-achieving students testing into gifted programs in school and are now part of some elite society.

      Not all students accepted into gifted programs in school are gifted, and many gifted children do not get accepted in to those gifted programs because their grades are not good enough. Many gifted children have learning disabilities and inherent emotional issues–would you tell that mom whose son is gifted AND autistic that she thinks her son is better than his classmates? I’m sure the dad whose gifted daughter struggles with dyslexia and depression would never feel his daughter is better than other children.

      Nope, I’m not saying my kid is better than anybody’s kid because he is gifted. To the contrary, my gifted kid would love to just be normal because way too often he hears misguided comments like yours which makes him feel less than his classmates.

  14. I feel fluent is a good word. I could say my son is fluent with technology and in the sciences etc. It’s not so superior and communicates the ease with which we handle our favourite subjects and abilities. I thought that in the Bicentennial Man robot story by Isaac Asimov when he said carving let his (brain) pathways move more freely was how I imagined it to be. Sry my writing is all over the place 🙂

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