Gifted Children: The Differences are Real

Gifted children.

A whole lot has been written about them, and I’ve done my share of putting information out there about the ups and the downs of life with a gifted child. The parents who are raising gifted children and the teachers who understand gifted children know the complexity and uniqueness of giftedness in their children. They are different.

Yet, despite all that I know, all that I have experienced, and all that I have read and written about gifted children, there are very real but unconventional traits of gifted children that seemingly pop up from some forgotten place in my gifted child, surprising me, and reminding me yet again that my child is very different because he is gifted.

Gifted children, at a young age, understand they are different from their same-age peers as they realize their quirks and uncommon interests contrast—sometimes a great deal—with the long-held traditional school norms.

Traditional schooling and all its constructs have been around a long time, and age-old practices such as age-based grade levels, daily schedules, typical subjects, textbooks, tests and report cards are second nature to us all. How many times have you asked a child, “How’s school?” What comes to mind when you hear the popular, late-July proclamation, “back to school?” What is typically learned in kindergarten? First grade? Do you make plans for Spring Break? Homework, after-school activities, fund raising and summer all relate to school in some way and influence so much in our lives.

Recently, as I was registering my homeschooled high school son for the ACT test, I had to figure out a way to provide the information that he is technically in 11th grade, but because he is more than prepared to start college next year, he will graduate after three years of high school. The online form continually threw back my entered information saying that 11th grade, three years of high school and his anticipated graduation date all conflicted. For the sake of successfully registering for the ACT, I skipped my son from 11th grade to 12th grade in the course of 5 minutes. Yes, traditional school norms dominate how we think of education, school, and how we should fill out ACT forms.

Gifted children seem to defy these traditional school standards because gifted kids are just not very standard. Like my own gifted child who jumped from 11th grade to 12th grade with the click of a mouse, the standards of traditional school are not often relevant for gifted children. Yet, even as a parent of a gifted child, I sometimes unknowingly allow traditional school frameworks to influence my judgement concerning my gifted child. But out of the depths, his gifted traits come barreling out at unexpected times and remind me again that I am not dealing with a standard child.

“I could go there every night and hang out with all of the adults there because they are all so intelligent, they know so much, and we talk about ideas, philosophies and science, not gossip or criticizing other people. I learn so much from them. I’m learning about all of the things I care about! I feel like I could go there every night!”

My son was referring to his months-long project of converting a gas-powered minibike to an electric-powered one at our local maker space under the tutelage of some of the adult members. When my son, with emotion and conviction, told me this, I was again thrown back into recognizing the sheer atypical-ness of having a child who possesses those very different-from-the-norm gifted traits. I was quickly reminded that yes, gifted children do prefer the company of adults and are voracious learners.

I’ve written time and again that many gifted children prefer the company of adults because they are more of an intellectual peer than same-age peers which fill their classes at school. But because of the inescapable age-based school norms that influence me as they do so many others, I hadn’t realized the real truth of it until my son voiced how important this maker space experience was to him and why.

Many times I’ve written about the insatiable, high-powered minds of our gifted children and their need to take in knowledge, to learn and to satisfy their intense curiosity. Hearing my son talk about all that he learned through his time spent at the maker space seemed as though he was talking about having satisfied his need for food when starved or water when thirsty. I had to pause to take this in because once again, those old traditional school conventions I grew up with were not at all relevant to my gifted son at this moment.


The differences are sometimes deep and wide, and gifted children don’t always fit in with the norms we hold.


This post is part of the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum October Blog Hop: Discovering the Depth and Breadth of Giftedness. There are so many terrific posts in this hop–go check them out!

FB Blog Hop Oct 2015

27 Comments on “Gifted Children: The Differences are Real

  1. Is it your view then that knowing same-aged peers is a waste of time for a Gifted child? If that’s the case, I see that as incredibly arrogant. It’s essentially saying that those who cannot discuss things that are of interest to the gifted child are not worth the time to know. And if they aren’t worth the time to know why should a gifted child care about the “other” kids who can’t measure up to them?

    • Hi Douglas,

      There are no absolutes when it comes to humans. As well, gifted children are also all different. However, this need to socialize with older children or adults is very common and is a very real need for many gifted children. Because it is a need does not mean that gifted children cannot at all socialize with same-age peers. Sure, there are gifted children who do just fine socially with same-age friends. But for those who feel as though they don’t fit in, their peers do not “get them” and they begin to feel like outliers because of their interests, it is sometimes a real life saver to be able to socialize with people who “get you” and share your interests and where they feel they finally belong.

      But as far as any arrogance in stating this social need, I don’t get that judgement. Nobody is putting down a same-age peer because they don’t get what a gifted child is talking about or share his interests. As well, a musician is not arrogant if he prefers to socialize with other musicians. He can socialize with sports-minded people, but he feels most comfortable and content with other musicians. It is a matter of interests and passions, not a gifted child who refused to socialize with kids who are not as smart as himself.

      If you’ve read enough of my articles, you will see that I stress many times that gifted is not better or smarter, it is different. Unfortunately, smarter and better is a stereotype that causes too many struggles for gifted people. Sadly, talents such as athleticism, artistic ability and musical ability are seen as normal; intellectual talents are too often viewed as “better than.” Which is why gifted kids often dumb down and gifted adults feel the need to hide their intelligence sometimes.

      Thanks for your comment, Douglas!

      • Please allow me to clarify a point. I did not intend to insinuate that stating a social need was arrogant. I’ve always felt that there was an underlying thought that went something like, “if my gifted child associates with his/her same-aged peers they’ll be ruined.” And I’ll concede that feeling that you need to dumb down or hide your talents can certainly cause unnecessary harm.

        I’ve enjoy many of your articles, this one just struck a nerve with me for some reason.

        Thank you gain.

        • No worries, Douglas! I get that.

          As a writer, sometimes it is near impossible to get down on paper what is in my heart and in my mind, so it doesn’t always come out the way I meant it, but I keep trying. 😉

          I always appreciate your thoughtful comments, Douglas!

    • Douglas,

      Regarding your statement:

      “It’s essentially saying that those who cannot discuss things that are of interest to the gifted child are not worth the time to know.”

      Regarding the majority of the population, the desire to be around others you share common interests with is simply a trait of being human. Would you view an adult as arrogant, if that adult chose friends based on commonalities? Generally it is the things we have in common with other people that bring us together in the first place.

      It’s also very likely the same aged peer feels similar to that of the gifted child in this situation. If a child is a sports enthusiast, I know they wouldn’t prefer the company of my child who’d choose to engage in math, science, programming and documentaries. It’s an unstated, yet mutual understanding that the things they have in common only exist within the confines of school. There are so many interesting people out there, but wouldn’t you enjoy your time more if it was spent with people who share your passions?

      It’s not a gifted thing, it’s a human thing.
      (It just happens to play a larger role in the lives of gifted children.) 🙂

      • In the statement you quoted I did not mention friendship. I can completely understand seek out those to be friends with who share your same passions and interests.

        But I never said anything about friendship. I can know a person through a volunteer organization for example, even complete common goals with them and yet not be a friend. Should I forgo a potential friendship for fear that they don’t share interests outside of what drew us to volunteer at that particular organization?

        To answer your question if an adult snubbed someone simply for failure to be “gifted” then yes I would view them as arrogant. I’m not saying that they need to be friends. I’m simply saying that some parents of gifted children view any association with the “non-gifted” as a mortal sin.

        I have a friend, we shared a couple of common interests. He was also very interested in mechanical engineering where as I was not. Because I did not share that intense interest should he then have forgone a friendship? If he had I would have viewed him as arrogant.

        If you only seek out likeminded people and never risk knowing anyone else, then you get an echo chamber. I’m not a Gifted adult. I’m not a parent of a Gifted child. I came here because I want to honestly understand the struggles of raising Gifted children. However, if — as the main article seemed to imply at least to me — that one was only worth knowing if one was gifted, I’m going to say something.

        • Douglas,

          Good catch – you did not mention friendship. I used it once, and realize now that wasn’t the best word choice. The term “friend” has a vast array of qualifying factors held by people. What one considers a friend, another could view as an acquaintance.

          In regards to forgoing a potential relationship with someone based on lack of commonalities, I agree with you. You should not forgo exploration of a relationship. But to forgo a relationship would also entail a deliberate choice. What I intended to point out is that people unintentionally and unconsciously gravitate towards those similar to them. An innate behavior. However if you explore a potential friendship with someone, it won’t likely flourish if there isn’t any common ground. That’s not to say that only intense interests make grounds for friendship, as you mention you share other interests with your friend who’s passionate about mechanical engineering. History also provides strong grounds for friendship. The ability to reminisce is highly bonding.

          “To answer your question if an adult snubbed someone simply for failure to be “gifted” then yes I would view them as arrogant.” To clarify, my question was regarding commonalities, not IQ. Which truth be told, I think is why part of this topic is rubbing you the wrong way. I’m thinking you may be inadvertently be reading commonalities and giftedness synonymously. Giftedness aside, people unintentionally place themselves amongst others of similar intelligence. Not a deliberate choice, it’s just where people tend to be comfortable with themselves.

          “that one was only worth knowing if one was gifted, I’m going to say something.” I believe is one of the many misperceptions of the gifted community. Worth knowing someone, and having a relationship with someone are separate topics. I cannot think of any reason an individual would not be worth knowing. I tell my child he does not have to be friends with everyone, and that’s ok. But he does have to coexist and respect everyone. I also emphasize that he can learn something from everyone – regardless whether they have the highest IQ in the room or the lowest. It just may not be overtly apparent what that may be. There are mentally disabled children that possess a contagious love of life, genuine intentions, big hearts, or the ability to be happy simply just because. Those are all qualities to take note of, and learn from.

          “I’m simply saying that some parents of gifted children view any association with the “non-gifted” as a mortal sin.” Is this view a perception, or have parents made those specific statements? Often times gifted “isms” may portray a different situation than the one that exists. Gifted children have tendency to be the targets of bullying. It could be the parents are concerned about the physical and emotional safety of their child. My child gets his feelings hurt by things most people wouldn’t even think twice about. But this too is a result of the heightened sensitivities being gifted comes with. Or perhaps the parents don’t view the peers as “mortal sin”, but the way their child feels around their peers. It’s painful as a parent to hear your child tell you nobody would play with him at recess. I do not blame the other children for that. But it breaks my heart hearing it. These kids read more into things that are said or done. They take them to heart, and their feelings are easily hurt.

          I will claim that I prefer my child to be among other gifted children. My child verbalized suicide at the age of 7. That is devastating to hear as a parent. My son doesn’t like sports, music, or art. He always hated superheros. I’m strict with what he’s allowed to watch on tv, and time spent on the computer. I’m not an advocate of playing with toy guns. All the things that most boys have in common, do not appeal to my son in the slightest. He generally will have more in common with girls, whether playing a board game, or reading. But a child internalizing why they are so different from their peers can have devastating results. I do not want my son to commit suicide, but I am aware that this will become even more of a threat as he enters high school. He has high levels of anxiety, and struggles with depression. When he is around other gifted children, he is no longer the outcast, but now a part of the group. There is a noticeable difference between my son engaging with a peer, and engaging with another gifted child. When you have two gifted children conversing, they light up. They can both be talking 100 miles a minute at the same time, yet still be following what the other is saying. They somehow become unison with their conversation. Their ideas and excitement feed off of each other. So for me, I prefer my child to play with other gifted children because I want to help boost his self esteem. He spends one day a week with other gifted kids, and 4 with his mainstream class. I have no problem with his mainstream class. I like him around those peers, as he needs to understand his way of thinking is the minority. He needs to learn how to interpret others correctly, and behave correctly around them. It also should be pointed out that gifted children see friendship differently. They have different needs from a friendship.

          As far as only engaging with like minded people, I agree with you. It is good to be a well rounded individual. Regarding the echos in a cave, I see that differently. When surrounding by others who understand a topic like you do, they can point out different points on that topic which can lead to in depth debates.

          Stepping of soap box now. I just hope I was able to clarify what I meant.

    • I think it might be easier to think of it as “gifted children need many kinds of peers.” Maybe they’ll have some same-aged peers for things like sports, dance class, special-interest groups like scouts, etc., and various older or younger peers for math, reading, music, chess, or other areas of interest. Because they’re not usually advanced across the board, and are in a way, many ages themselves, it would make sense they’d gravitate toward people of various ages. Sometimes kids their age just aren’t peers when it comes to intellect, but that doesn’t mean they don’t hold value as friends, or that they aren’t smart.

    • Hi Douglas; I disagree. I don’t think it’s arrogance for a child to prefer to ‘hang out’ with a child who shares similar interests or is at a similar developmental level. I ‘hang out’ with a group of extremely intelligent computer geeks; we focus on Linux and FOSS software (Free and Open Source Software). Am I being ‘arrogant’ for preferring their company over the company of a group of friends (actually, the friends of a friend of mine) who prefer to discuss cars, women, hockey (and other sports) and if they do discuss politics, it’s at a “middle” level of intellectual complexity –because they never make reference to any specific ideology? Wouldn’t we say that’s matter of preference? Of course, because that’s adults. Why not the same with kids?
      Look, when I was in high school, in grades 8 & 9, I hung out with the Grade 11’s and 12’s. It wasn’t because I was arrogant. It’s because all that my “colleagues” wanted to talk about was how many “chicks” they “scored” with, who was the coolest heavy-metal band, and/or what muscle car they were going to get (with Daddy’s money) when they turned 16. They also delighted in knuckle-punching one another for even the smallest of mistakes, spitting at each other, and getting into fist-fights with the “nerdy kids”, fights they always won. The grade 11’s and 12’s may not have been talking about the most intellectual stuff, but they accepted me, I could talk at their level (they were all five years or so older than I was), and no-one (except for one, who was all talk and bluster and no real action or real threat) in those grades was a bully or violent. According to your perspective, I was arrogant, I thought myself better than these grade 8’s.
      My son is extremely gifted. And although he tries to make friends among his age-mates, he had complained about how “stupid” they are or how low-level the conversations are. He prefers the company of his 56-year-old aunt his 54 year-old mother, or me. He used to love hanging around his older cousins, his aunt’s kids, but they don’t get along, for complex reasons. When I asked him what he meant by “stupid” about his age-mates, he said that they were smart for their own age, but never discussed anything more deep and interesting/intellectual than pop music stars and the latest Hollywood gossip (Mexican kids are different, obviously from Canadian kids) — and these were the boys!
      Is he arrogant, or is it that his needs are being met by hanging out with adults? Personally, I’d say he’s trying to get his needs met, as was and am I, and with all due respect, you are wrong about your assumption of arrogance among gifted people (adults or children).

      • Ah I figured this sort of attack was coming sooner or later, I’m just surprised that it took this long. I’m not surprise by the attitude because it’s a situation where you base your selection of friends base on their worth to you as a resource.

        Another comment was more honest, stating that they preferred their children to associate with other gifted children because it was less stressful. I can certainly appreciate their concerns for lowering their child’s stress.

        You state that my assumptions are wrong but I’m inclined to think that you are incapable of ever agreeing with anything because I am not “gifted”.

        • Dear Douglas; If ever there was a wrong statement, it’s the one you said, that I can’t accept your statement because you aren’t gifted. Were I to do that, it would be an “ad hominem” attack, or against you personally. That would not only be grossly unfair of me, but utterly out of character.
          You say I choose my friends based on their utility to me? First of all, you don’t know me, so you haven’t any idea how i choose my friends. Secondly, if I choose only gifted people to befriend, can you kindly explain why for thirty years one of my closest friends was a woman with a borderline mentally handicapped IQ of 70 — far, far below mine? Why did I DATE her for two years, if I am so arrogant that i look down on non-gifted people? Did I care about Cheryl’s IQ? No, but she sure was uncomfortable about mine, always feeling “outgunned”; but in her case what did not help was having to truly nasty brothers , both misogynists, and both of whom put her down incessantly for her low IQ.
          I tried very hard to make sure she didn’t feel condescended to — unlike her brothers, who live, eat, and breathe condescension, not only to her, but everyone else around them. She was very happy that I treated her very much as my equal, IQ be damned. We fell out and stopped being friends because one of her brothers manipulated / bullied / extorted her into harassing me incessantly for three years.
          Why did he do that? because at the time I was an “unemployed gas station attendant” — never mind that I had also been a network engineer in an ISP; he wanted to attack me with the worst job I’d had, not credit me for the best. And his basis for attacking me via Cheryl? He was apparently deeply “offended” that I, a mere gas station attendant, had made an unforgivable response to a question of Cheryl’s. She had seen “Good Will Hunting” and asked me if I would ever consider joining MENSA, to which I replied (quoting Groucho Marx) “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member”. Cheryl, I found out later from her, was being forced to report everything I said or did back to her brother Bill. Somehow, my response became transmuted into “yes”, which wasn’t exactly my answer. Bill is a severe narcissist, considers himself “the genius” in his circle of friends and acquaintances; he couldn’t stand the competition, and used Cheryl to engage in what Celi Trepannier calls “crushing tall poppies”. As had happened to me in grades 3-10, he bullied me (but by proxy) with the intent of getting me to ‘stop acting so uppity’, ‘don’t act above your station in life’ (Nerds were always near the bottom of the school hierarchy when I was in school); ‘don’t act so smart’, and the like.
          I make my friend based, not on their utility, or being gifted specifically, but on shared values and interests. I never ask someone as a condition of friendship, “what’s your IQ?”, that would be crass and arrogant indeed. I am in the information technology industry. Many of my friends are in the IT industry. The IT industry happens to have many extremely smart people. We have a lot in common. Is that arrogant?
          By contrast, my best friend from high school often has coffee at a neighbourhood cafe, and there he has a circle of male friends, all of whom are working-class guys. Now, I am sure you are going to jump on me and say that if they are working-class, that’s why I don’t hang around them very much. Nope, that’s not why. It’s what they talk about. Rarely, they discuss politics (which i do enjoy). Otherwise they talk about muscle cars, hockey, women, or their jobs. Pretty much what my colleagues in high school discussed, only these guys discuss these things in a far more mature manner. It didn’t interest me then (I do like women, I just don’t like to discuss them the way these guys do), and it doesn’t interest me now. So I go there every once in a blue moon, but I really don’t find the conversation all that stimulating. Is that arrogance? Or is that a preference?
          And if I am so arrogant, kindly explain to me why my ex-fiancee’s father was a grain-silo worker, and why my wife’s father (now deceased) was a mechanic. Surely I am slumming, am I not? Or was it because I found both women very attractive and — forgive me — highly intelligent? Both fathers-in-law liked me very much, so much so, that my ex’s father still wants me to leave my wife and marry his daughter! (I think he’s kidding, but the sentiment is there).
          In my experience, very few people are interested or are willing to learn about the things I am interested in: astronomy, computers, science in general, politics and specifically political philosophy, military history, and a few other topics. If I go into a conversation with an average, typical Canadian, we will discuss light, and airy topics; the weather, the traffic (it’s notoriously incompetent in my suburb), and things like that. If we get deeper, they ask me “Did you watch the Canucks / Leafs / Canadiens / Flames / Oilers on TV the other day? (I’m Canadian; the national obsession is hockey). Or we’ll discuss perhaps the latest political scandal, but again, at a very superficial level. Or I will ask them what they do for a living and get a long spiel about their working life as a trades-person. Nothing wrong with being a trades-person, it’s just that they don’t share a lot in common with network geeks. Is that arrogant? Some people find me off-putting because of my intellectual intensity and passion, my unconventional reasoning, and my tendency (which I have to work hard to restrain) to leap way ahead of them in a conversation and come to conclusions that, though well reasoned, leave them shaking their heads as to how I got there, and more upsetting, how I got there **so quickly**.
          You say I attacked you. No, sir. I attacked YOUR ARGUMENT. You are not your argument. Your reasoning is unsound, and doesn’t explain the full nature of gifted people’s friendships. Yes, I admit, I have had acquaintances who refuse to befriend anyone they didn’t consider highly intelligent. I also have a lot of gifted friends who couldn’t give a flying fig what someone’s IQ was, they were interested in having friends who shared common interests. That it happens that many of their friends tend to be intelligent or gifted is more often than not coincidence.
          But I do believe you have mistaken preference for arrogance. It’s not that at all. Cheryl’s friends didn’t “get” me, and told her so, though they often added that I was a likeable enough person, their complaint was that I “thought too fast”. Around the great majority of people I reveal almost nothing of my intellect until I know them and believe they won’t react negatively. Then I slowly “come out of the closet”, so to speak. In fact I spent nine months working in a truck stop in a very working-class part of town, and no-one there knew (though a few suspected) that I was university educated. I had next to zero intellectual conversations with customers, because truckers and tradespeople don’t like to discuss philosophical concepts or engage in intellectual debate. Not that they CAN’T; many could, if they had gone to university. Rather, THEIR INTERESTS AREN’T THE SAME AS MINE!
          I met precisely two truckers out of the hundreds who frequented our location who would have any sort of “deep” conversation with me, and they started them. One had a physics degree. The other had two years of college and chucked the academic life for the open road. When they discovered that I was a university graduate, they each asked “what the hell are you doing working here?”. I told them that I was employed at another gas station, and my boss loved my work, so much so, he was literally terrified I’d take a computer retail sales or computer tech job (they pay way better than a gas station). He had me in mind for promotion to assistant manager, and insisted that if I were to take another job, it had to be also at a gas station.
          I detect in your original comment a sense, and please forgive me if I sound insulting, for I don’t mean to offend, but I sense that there is a tinge of envy toward gifted people, as though we look down on the non-gifted. Yes, some do. My father (a scientist), doesn’t brook much crap from foolish people, and his most famous quote to us, his children, is “I’ve met many people who are stupid, and getting a PhD didn’t make them any less stupid”. I should add, he defines “stupid” not as low IQ, but as being unthinking. That’s how I too define stupid, and thus stupidity is as common as genius is rare. And the super-smart are no less subject to stupid thinking than anyone else. Case in point: Communism, & Fascism, both of which were supported by the brightest minds in Russia and Germany.
          Let me end with a paraphrasing of Shylock’s famous soliloquy from The Merchant of Venice (I am Jewish, so allow me some leeway on this, please). “I am Gifted. Hath not a Gifted person eyes? Hath not a Gifted person hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a non-Gifted person is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”
          I realize I am taking great liberty with the Bard’s words, but my point is, whatever a gifted person does, only those gifted people afflicted with low self-esteem and who feel the need to feel superior by looking down on the less intelligent act arrogantly, and gifted people are no less subject to such flaws as anyone else.
          Look, nothing bout me makes me “better than” anyone else. One thing does make me “smarter than” most people, and I can’t change that, i was born that way. But I do have control over my behaviour, and I am not attacking you, or condescending to you, or worse yet, trying to be arrogant. but I do disagree, and if you would recognize that you are not your opinion, that ideas should be as changeable as one’s clothes, then you’d see there was no attack, but strong disagreement. I hope you can see things from my perspective too. Thank you.

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  3. Please let me know more about that maker space! I founded a PBH for gifted kids, but I think my son needs more outlets for his projects. I’d be interested in what other spaces your son was comfortable in and enjoyed. Thanks again Celi!

    • This is our local maker space, Area515. It was started by a small group of engineers and they all contributed tools and such. It has grown tremendously and now have laser cutters and 3D printers. The culture there is everyone shares their tools and their knowledge and help each other. My teen has thrived there.

      My son is also on a FIRST FRC robotics team and he has enjoyed being a part of that. FIRST has excellent robotics programs for all ages.

      I hope this helps!

  4. Celi. I admire the way you respond to readers’ comments. Your blog is such a welcoming place for people with all sorts of opinions and questions. I appreciate the depth and sensitivity with which you write.

    • That’s so sweet, Paula. Thanks!

      Giftedness is a very touchy, complex and emotional topic, and we all respond to it through our own life experiences. If we are all going to reach a common ground on improving the lives of our gifted children, we need to respect each other’s opinions about it–at least that is how I feel.

      Thank you, Paula, for sharing your thoughts!

    • I was going to say the same as Paula 🙂

      I love hearing stories about everyone’s children and interests. That alone shows the depth and breadth of giftedness.

      (I wish we had a maker space near us!!!)

  5. Celi, you nailed yet another blog hop topic. I well understand how the age-old traditional school conventions often do not apply to gifted children. Thank you.

    • Well, thank you, Wenda! It was hard to put into words, but the institution of school does affect so much of what we think, do, say, and is reference point, for good or for bad, for comparison of many things like our gifted children. I’m glad you got it 🙂

  6. Hi Celi; I love what you wrote in the main blog, but I was especially heartened and disheartened to read something you wrote in your response to Doug; “[in reference to your son] He generally will have more in common with girls, whether playing a board game, or reading. But a child internalizing why they are so different from their peers can have devastating results. I do not want my son to commit suicide, but I am aware that this will become even more of a threat as he enters high school. He has high levels of anxiety, and struggles with depression.” So does my son. So did and do I. So does my wife, who is extremely intelligent but like me and our son, is twice-exceptional; she has a severe learning disability. I have a mild neurological impairment that interferes with fine motor coordination and makes hand writing painful for me after not very long at all. Our son has mild versions of both our negative exceptionalities, but is definitely extremely intelligent.
    When I was growing up, I knew I was different, but I never knew why, even after I was given an IQ test by a psychologist when I was 10. I tested in the top 1% of the population for IQ; not surprising given that my father is a top-level scientist in his field as a plant virologist. He’s what’s known as a “Nobel-class” scientist, though he’ll never win one for his contributions to virology, because the Nobel committee never has given a prize in medicine and physiology to a plant scientist. Of course he’s very modest about his accomplishments, and I kind of had to piece it together that he’s at that level (Canada has among the best research labs in the world for plant virology; his lab was the best in Canada; his department (virology) was the best in the lab; he — along with his research partner — was the top-ranked scientist in the department according to Canada Who’s Who. Put all of that together, and you come out with my father being (among) the best scientist(s) in the world in his field).
    I was always a very sensitive kid; bullying hurt me far more than it did other kids, or at least, that’s the way it seemed to me. I cried (and still do cry) easily when upset. But my Dad is the same way. Of course, back in the ’60’s and ’70’s, there wasn’t the knowledge about the psychological make-up of gifted children and adults that there is today. In university I took an undergrad and graduate-level course on Giftedness from one of Canada’s top experts, and learned a lot about giftedness, and how the school system does or does not handle such students. But it seems to me that even then, in the early ’90’s, the academic world of educational psychology and special education didn’t know nearly as much as is known today.
    So if I felt and appeared different, no-one really understood why. I knew I was not like the other children: I had no interest in sports (though, for a period of time I tried very hard to generate an interest in hockey so I could befriend two neighbour boys). I had an abiding passion for astronomy, physics, and mathematics, even though I can’t do mathematical computations to save my life. I still do have a fascination for those topics. My parents love classical music and “high art” and so I knew more than any 12-year-old ought to know about the differences between impressionist and post-impressionist painting styles, and why Pablo Picasso was such a dramatic break from the rest of the art world.
    My thought processes were and are very different from most people: my father stopped playing chess with me after I kept winning against him at the tender age of 12 — and still won’t play me! I love logic and analytical thinking, though not logic puzzles or games (they don’t interest me). I wanted to be a psychologist at one point, specifically to be a university research professor and have a small private practice — A “scientist-practitioner”.
    I’ve since changed my career to — you guessed it, computer information technology. It’s a field that is VERY hard to stay afloat in, unless you are really good. And I have been in (and occasionally out, for financial or health reasons) the field since the late 1990’s. So I must be doing something right.
    It drives some of my non-gifted friends how literal I seem to be, but it’s not being literal. To me, words have intense meaning and purpose. They’re not things just to be flung out randomly. It’s hugely important to me that ideas and opinions be expressed with extreme clarity; in university I developed a reputation for tearing down people’s arguments if they weren’t well thought out. And I wasn’t afraid to challenge professors if their thinking was a bit fuzzy. Intellectually speaking, in a debate, weaker students didn’t want to go up against me, but they were grateful if I came to their defence. But I did all that pleasantly and politely, and until the advent of Political Correctness in the very late ’80’s and early ’90’s, rarely alienated or “pissed off” anyone too seriously. After PC arrived, I made lots of enemies, because it’s a doctrine that tries to use language to force people to think in certain new, and more “progressive” ways. I saw it for what it was: the enemy of free thought, and alienated virtually everyone around me who “drank the kool-aid” of Political Correctness.
    And I am an intense observer of seemingly innocuous detail, even though I am not really a ‘detail-oriented’ thinker. That is to say, when discussing, say, politics, I would see the big picture, and take the larger philosophical view and not get bogged down in the “policy-wonk”-type detail. But I do notice very small details around me, focus intensely — probably too intensely for my own good — on people’s body language, which means that I often over-interpret or over-think what small things in people’s behaviour means. It took quite a bit of psychotherapy to teach me not to make cognitive attribution errors when reading people’s behaviour.
    And I also throw people for a loop because I can be thinking about five, six, seven different subjects at the same time. They can’t figure out how I can keep it all straight inside my head. But I don’t seem to notice any problems or have any major problems having one stream of thought crash or meld into another.
    Last thing: I want to briefly address the idea of feeling like a freak. In earlier comments I maintained I felt like a freak. Well, that had been due to having gone through a ridiculous period of adult bullying (victim, not perpetrator) from late 2010 till the end of 2013, targeted by not one, but THREE different sets of bullies! It was extremely reminiscent of the (fairly violent) bullying I went through in grades eight and nine — so much so, I am still dealing with a fair degree of what’s called “complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. But I have come to terms with my being different. I can try, as one of my tormentors demanded, to (as did the grade right/nine bullies) “stop acting so smart”. But even if I stopped ACTING smart, that wouldn’t change my BEING smart. It’s part of who I am, just as much as my eye-colour or my arm-length. I can’t change it, so I can either hate it or learn — or re-learn — to accept it, just as I had had to learn to accept my difference from other people once I got to a place (college and university) where I could find an identity, unencumbered by bullies, the mediocre, or the envious. I decided, not that long ago, to accept the fact that I am different, but I am NOT a freak, in the negative sense of the word; only in the statistical sense. After all, only one in fifty people is gifted, and only one in a hundred has an IQ as high or higher than mine. But I am still a human being, not an IQ score. And it’s my human-ness, ****AND*** my giftedness, which is an integral part of being me — that makes me who I am, and as much a human being as anyone else. Anyone who has problems with my or anyone else’s giftedness, well, that’s THEIR problem, and their loss. I have NEVER met a highly intelligent person who was boring. Irritating perhaps, but never boring. Part of the freakishness “attack” is to claim that what interests me is boring, and what I do is simply “stupid magical mental tricks” (like having developed a non-Newtonian method for calculating square roots), as one of my grade 7 tormentors called it. That’s not boring — if you’re intelligent. By that logic, the bullies, the mediocrities, and the enviers are not that intelligent.
    I could go on, at length or ad nauseum, depending on your perspective. Someone once commented to me that what goes on inside my head must be a very busy place. It probably is, but since this is the only head I have ever lived in, I haven’t anything to compare it with. Only by understanding the research about giftedness have I learned just how different I am.
    And to be honest? Being different isn’t all bad. It’s a curse at times, but on occasion it CAN be a blessing.

    • “But I am still a human being, not an IQ score. And it’s my human-ness, ****AND*** my giftedness, which is an integral part of being me — that makes me who I am, and as much a human being as anyone else. Anyone who has problems with my or anyone else’s giftedness, well, that’s THEIR problem, and their loss.”

      As we are all human beings (at least those of us reading this), we should and need to respect and be empathetic to the humanness in all of us no matter our traits, personalities, intelligence or disabilities. Yet, we know that is not always the case–any sort of differences can be feared, envied or shunned, sadly.

      I love that you stressed your humanness which is the fundamental cornerstone of our social connectedness. Thank you for bringing that most critical point up! More importantly, I love your sentiment that if others don’t like your giftedness, that is their loss and their problem. Yes!

      “I have NEVER met a highly intelligent person who was boring. Irritating perhaps, but never boring.” This is a classic “John” quote and it is a great one! “Irritating perhaps, yet never boring”–that just sums it up in a clever and witty little package right there!

      Thank you, John, for always contributing your insights, sharing your life story with others, and pointing out important ideas and facts. Your contribution here is always appreciated and valuable!

      • It’s being appreciated — after three years of being tormented for, once again, being “too smart”– that keeps me commenting here; that and the fact that you show such depth of understanding of what the inner world of gifted people is like. Thank you, Celi!

  7. Pingback: Bits and Clips for October 2015 | Polly Castor

  8. My son is very similar to what you describe, gifted but misfit. At age 6, he’s was doing algebra and explaining the unprecedented atom bomb’s cascade effect. A year later, we are homeschooling to give him 5th grade math, chemistry, and 3rd grade traditional online school, eventhough he reads at 4th and 5th grade levels.

    He speaks like his engineer parents. We have no “traditiinal” place for him. We will face what you describe, which is why I appreciate blogs like these. Please keep the information flowing. Ty.

    • Thank you! Yes, there are many kids like yours and mine, and we are the lucky ones who can homeschool them. My heart breaks for the gifted children whose parents can’t homeschool and trust the schools to educate their child appropriately–not all schools do.

      Thanks for sharing a little bit about your sweet little man!

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