touching a nerve

**

Dear Readers,

Where to begin?

Yesterday’s post obviously hit a lot of nerves. I sincerely apologize to those who felt belittled or dismissed by my words. You have a point. A significant one in fact. And as I said last night, I am grateful to those who took the time to respectfully educate me.

In many ways, I hate moments like yesterday. I can’t stand feeling as if I’ve done or said something that in no way fits in with the way that I want to live my life. For a couple of minutes at the end of the day, I was tempted to take the post down and run for the hills. However, that’s not my style. And importantly, I have found that it’s those moments in my life in which I learn something. Growing out of our long-held perceptions isn’t always easy. But it’s what I ask others to do every day. I can imagine nothing more hypocritical than refusing to do the same.

Until yesterday, I could not have begun to understand the full scope of challenge that are faced by some academically advanced kids. Until we are shown anything different, we have no other way to look at life than through the filter of our own experiences. My experience with ‘gifted’ kids was apparently pretty limited. Which is somewhat ironic, because I was one. But in reading your comments yesterday, it became painfully obvious that my experience was not representative of – well, much more than my own experience.

Like some of you who commented, (and undoubtedly many of you who are reading now) I was labeled ‘gifted’ at a young age. The school system in which I spent my early education wasn’t quite sure how to handle my academic appetite, beginning with my demands to be taught to read at age four. Ultimately, the solution that they settled on was to take me out of kindergarten and to put me into first grade. I was five years old throughout the entirety of my first grade year.

Despite being a year and a half to two years younger than my peers, for the most part I remained bored and easily distracted in school. I remember dramatically failing a basic aptitude test in third grade. When the school called my parents in to discuss it, they asked to see the test. What had happened was immediately obvious to everyone involved – the computerized answer key was filled out in an interlocking pattern of swirls. When my parents came home and questioned me, I said simply, “I thought it was pretty. I was bored.”

I was quickly taught that there were certain things in life that we simply have to slog through, boring or not. But I will tell you that to this day, EVERY single time I fill in those computerized dots, I’m awfully tempted.

I tell you this to try to explain where I was coming from yesterday. For me – and ONLY me – no generalizations here – being ‘gifted’ simply meant being younger than my peers and a little bored. It meant that I read a lot and was able to slide by with a minimum of effort (which was, much to my parents’ dismay, precisely what I did.)

It had it’s downside, of course, mostly in terms of my age. Add in my height (or pretty dramatic lack thereof), and I certainly stood out. In many ways I was behind my peers socially. I certainly didn’t start ‘dating’ – even in the strictly euphemistic sense – until long after my friends.

Heading off to college at sixteen turned out to be mildly disastrous. That tale was told by a trail of unpaid credit card bills, totaled cars, academic probation and – eventually, a two-and-a-half year hiatus to get myself together before returning to graduate. The bottom line was that, while I may have been academically ready, I was nowhere near emotionally ready for life beyond high school.

However, I have never looked back on my experience and felt that being ‘gifted’ had in and of itself been a source of challenge for me. I do remember being teased, but as I remember it, it was always good-natured and it always came from friends. It is altogether possible that I am fully delusional and the people around me were cruel, but my memory’s all I got, and my memory is pretty rosy.

And so, this brings me to yesterday’s post. When the woman with whom I had the conversation about the Inclusion Committee asked me about the ‘Gifted and Talented’ kids, I looked at the question through the filter of my experience as a ‘gifted’ kid. Gifted and Talented meant no more to me than ‘being a little bored in class’.

Apparently, there’s a LOT more to it for a lot of kids, and I sincerely apologize for having been so dismissive. I can assure you that I will be far more sensitive to it in the future, particularly in the context of inclusion and the need to ensure that no one feels left out. All of you who pointed out that my attitude was anything but inclusionary were absolutely justified, and I appreciate your honesty.

That said, I stand by my right to bristle at the terminology.

Not liking the label does NOT mean that I don’t support the kids. Even yesterday, long before having being hit headlong by the sensitivity train, I tried to be clear about that. Some of you seemed to miss the part of the post that said,

Now, let me be clear. I’m all for ensuring that education is tailored to the individual student as much as possible. I whole-heartedly believe that a kid who’s development and skills are advanced beyond their grade level needs appropriate enrichment and stimulation just as much as a kid who is struggling to keep up needs help.

And the part that said,

Hopefully I’ve gotten the point across that I absolutely do not have a problem with the concept of special programming for kids who need it. If there’s a kid out there who may very well find the cure for cancer or unlock the mysteries of the autism epidemic, by all means, we must foster his or her talents and do everything in our power to support his or her intellectual curiosity. My problem is not ideological. My problem is in what we choose to call it.

To those of you who suggested that I thought that my child’s needs were more pressing than any other, I would direct you to the second sentence of the first quote above. “I whole-heartedly believe that a kid who’s development and skills are advanced beyond their grade level needs appropriate enrichment and stimulation just as much as a kid who is struggling to keep up needs help.”

The point that I was attempting to make in the second story yesterday about the mom who told me that her son with autism was also gifted was exactly that one. Looking through what I repeatedly explained was an oversensitive lens, I heard it as something akin to one-upmanship. I heard it as, ‘You think YOU’VE got challenges? Try THIS.’

And you know what? That might have been exactly what she meant. Or maybe not. It might just have been the way that I heard it. Either way, she was most likely just seeking a sympathetic ear. The good news is that as far as she knew, she’d found one. (No, that’s not meant to be flip. I’ll get back to this.)

One of you said yesterday, “Ask yourself it this was about Brooke today, or if was about your injured heart and the pain of your fears about what autism means for Brooke’s future.”

I would answer that OF COURSE it’s about my ‘injured heart’ and my fears for my child. I thought I’d said as much in the post when I said,

Perhaps I’m oversensitive. Hell, I know full well that I’m a walking nerve ending some days. I know too that some of the wounds simply haven’t healed yet. Acknowledging the distinct possibility that my hackles might have raised far too easily, I did my best to nod and smile and look sympathetic to her plight.

In the meantime, I actually am now more sensitive to her plight. After hearing from so many of you, both publicly and privately, I do now understand that there is absolutely an added dimension of challenge when you have a twice-exceptional child. (Speaking of ‘twice-exceptional’, one of you suggested yesterday that it would be “another term which will likely ruffle [my] feathers.” I actually LOVE the term twice-exceptional. In fact, I think it’s downright perfect. It connotes difference (exception) without judgement, which is precisely what I would like to be able to do in the case of ‘gifted and talented.’

I do still have to add that I wonder how many of our kids would fit into that category if we could peel back the layers of their challenges, but I’ll leave it at that in the interest of avoiding a twenty-page post.

Another reader asked me to “offer alternatives [to the term Gifted and Talented] … as [I had] for ‘normal’ and ‘regular.’”

I’m not sure that I know what the alternatives would be. Maybe it would help to use words like ‘accelerated’ or ‘enrichment’ or ‘academically advanced’. Even simply specifying ‘academically gifted’ rather than just gifted might help. Perhaps others have ideas they’d like to share. The same reader asked,

Who are you to say that one kid’s ‘different’ needs are more important than another’s? Why is it that people are so much more accepting now of inclusion for kids with challenges, but there’s a big hue and cry whenever a district tries to provide anything “extra” to meet the needs of a child who learns ten times faster than anyone else in the class?

She asked the question within the context of being admittedly oversensitive too. I appreciate and respect her asking for some leeway based on that, just as I had when titling my post, ‘an admittedly oversensitive rant.’ Despite the fact that another commenter had said “Life is hard enough without reading our own issues into other people’s words,” I think it’s the only way that we hear each other – through the filter of our own experiences. The reader who owned up to her own sensitivity had a very hard time as a kid because of her educational needs. I appreciate her sharing her story and sensitizing me as well. In answer to her query, I would respectfully ask her to direct her attention to the sections of yesterday’s post that I quoted above. In fact, I’ll reprint the words again.

I’m all for ensuring that education is tailored to the individual student as much as possible. I whole-heartedly believe that a kid who’s development and skills are advanced beyond their grade level needs appropriate enrichment and stimulation just as much as a kid who is struggling to keep up needs help.

[...]

Hopefully I’ve gotten the point across that I absolutely do not have a problem with the concept of special programming for kids who need it. If there’s a kid out there who may very well find the cure for cancer or unlock the mysteries of the autism epidemic, by all means, we must foster his or her talents and do everything in our power to support his or her intellectual curiosity. My problem is not ideological. My problem is in what we choose to call it.

Hopefully without sounding overly defensive, I do want to remind my readers that this blog is a diary. That’s why it’s called Diary of a Mom. I’m not writing a how-to manual. I’m not claiming to have all the answers. I’m sharing pieces of my world as I see them, through my filter, from my perspective. The way that I acted at the time that both of the stories occurred was very different from the thoughts that were racing through my head. There was a reason for that. As I said, I knew that I may well be off the mark. I knew that my ‘injured heart and the pain of [my] fears’ could very likely be leading me to a misinterpretation of either person’s meaning or intent. I got that part. And I acted accordingly in both cases.

But here, on the blog, I felt the freedom to process it all. To work through how I FELT at that moment and to write about the way in which my visceral, emotional reactions differed in many ways from my rational ones. I shared it all in the hopes of finding some understanding. That’s what I do here.

I appreciate you all taking the time to share your stories and your perspectives. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to become educated and far more sensitive to a whole host of issues. Growth isn’t easy, but it’s always worthwhile.

Thank you.

Respectfully,

Jess

P.S. One commenter yesterday recommended the book Genius Denied by Jan & Bob Davidson, available on their website, http://www.geniusdenied.com/. I thought it worth highlighting in case others were interested.

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41 thoughts on “touching a nerve

  1. Jess I am just catching up on these posts and it has given me a few different perspectives to consider. Which I appreciate. And what I appreciate more is how graciously you responded to comments, both positive and negative. There is a way to talk about our differences in this community, and probably in general, that does not have to be about name-calling and mud-slinging. I agree with you that the only way we learn is by opening our minds and our hearts to the possibility that other opinions exist. Thank you for probing this issue with respect and thank you to all who commented for sharing your experiences with all of us.

  2. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been to write.

    I, too, skipped kindergarten and went right into first grade. I joke that I missed how to use scissors and play nicely, but it’s more than just a joke. So I understand. And whenever my husband brings skipping grades up about our older son, I say “absolutely no”. As parents, we have to pick up where the schools leave off – whether that’s for an excelling reader, or a math junkie, or an amazing artist.

    But I’m drawing on my own experience. And that’s what we do in our diary/journal blogs. Personally, I write so the words don’t come exploding out of my head (and heaped upon those around me). I’m writing for me. If others identify with my struggles, that’s a fantastic side benefit. If some disagree with me, then it’s a great opportunity for dialogue (can’t we all just get along?)

    I think what you’ve discovered is that your words are more powerful than you know. But I hope you don’t temper your posts in the future for your audience. All we can do is learn from each other. But if we don’t have these conversations, we’ll never learn.

    • Thank you for saying so eloquently what I ( in my sorely decaffeinated state) cannot. Jess, your grace and honesty are every present in your posts. Your sensitivity towards others is uplifting in a society where so many are inclined to just bash and belittle. Please continue to write as you always have. It is YOUR diary after all and we are all lucky to be able to read it and share mutual experiences. Your words have healed my broken heart many, many times. I feel so LUCKY to have found you and your blog. Many blessings to you dear lady.

  3. Goodness, I wasn’t upset, just trying to point out some of the other side. Having one of those ‘twice-exceptional’ kids myself, it’s been very interesting to see the impact each ‘exceptionality’ has on the other, and what they each have on how people treat him.

    You write a wonderful blog, please don’t beat yourself up!

  4. “But here, on the blog, I felt the freedom to process it all. To work through how I FELT at that moment and to write about the way in which my visceral, emotional reaction differed in many ways from my rational one. I shared it all in the hopes of finding some understanding. That’s what I do here”

    And if you hesitate, even for a moment, to continue doing that with your whole heart, I am so screwed. Your genuine voice means so much to me.

    Love,

    Jude

  5. i read this post, and thought, “wow, what did jess say yesterday?!”

    i thought you were dropping some f-bombs or something!

    then i read yesterdays post and found: your sentiments made perfect sense. your reaction to the “gifted and talented” label was completely reasonable.

    i’m assuming the comments are so strong and varied because label posts do that. you can’t react to a word without eliciting fifty different responses…all reacting a different way, all convinced of their own “rightness”.

    i think the important thing is: you’re not declaring, “we should exclude certain groups.” you’re sharing a reaction. the words “gifted and talented” were used…you reacted. and i’m grateful that you’re willing to share that reaction. it would be really sad if you only posted material after removing the immediate reactions you felt…after carefully deleting out anything that might rub people the wrong way.

    immediate reactions might not always strike people the right way, but that’s what makes you’re writing so unique. this is raw, immediate stuff, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

    so…react. write it out. and when people react strongly? that means you did something right.

    as to the “G and T” issue itself: the inclusion committee is explicity designed to help those being left out, excluded. so any “g and t” kid being bullied, picked on…they would BY DEFINITION be someone the group would apply to. you’re not saying they should be “excluded”, i think people in the other post misconstrued your statements. you were just saying the “gifted and talented” label in itself is not enough, and you’re absolutely right. “g and t” programs put kids on an accelerated academic course…that’s great. it’s a good thing. receiving added attention from teachers and academic perks is not, in itself, a reason to consider a child “excluded”.

    being bullied, being ostracized…THAT is a reason to be considered excluded, so if a “g and t” kid is experiencing that, of course they would be someone the inclusion committe could help. i just don’t think the “g and t” label by itself is enough.

    thanks for posting about these issues.

    • At face value, of course “receiving added attention from teachers and academic perks is not, in itself, a reason to consider a child ‘excluded.’” But for some children, the “gifted” label isn’t about extra attention and academic perks at all. It’s about being ignored or deemed a pest by teachers, and not facing appropriate academic challenges. Being bullied and ostracized are part of it — for me as a child, a big part of it — but simply being denied an appropriate educational environment IS a form of exclusion. Reducing the experience to extra attention and academic perks belittles the experiences of some children who are labeled “gifted.”

      There are some kids for whom the “g and t label” is primarily a description of successes and triumphs. Those kids do not not need — and are probably not requesting — the support of the inclusion committee or any other group. But for other kids the label is just the tip of a much more complicated iceberg, full of its own struggles and joys. Some of the kids who are labeled as “gifted” need a lot more than an accelerated academic course, and when they don’t get it, I would certainly hope an inclusion committee would be sensitive to their needs as well.

  6. We all see things through the lens of our own experiences until others take the time to share their lenses. As long as we all remain open to passing the lenses and stopping for a while to look, we’ll be okay. You did well with both this week.

  7. It was very gracious of you to write this. I am always impressed by anyone who can put their feelings out like you do. Most days you are a life buoy, and you don’t have to be. You could keep all that great insight to yourself. I thought you were pretty clear yesterday (as you point out) that you got the G&T thing. It seemed to me like you were more put off by the delivery. I get that, too. For me, If somebody makes a joke about “short bus kids” I don’t hear anything else through the red. My kids were probably smarter than most “big bus kids” but the noise level of a school bus left them exhausted before school even began. There are words and labels that are very hot button. It’s just the way it is.

    I see both sides of it. I have children with Asperger Syndrome, who are also gifted and talented. I guess having worked for many years as an RN, I know that if the patient isn’t breathing, it is not useful to fix their broken leg. I look at my children the same way. I need to make sure that they can function, so that they may use those amazing gifts. Yes, they could read at a high school level, but they couldn’t tell me that they had an ear infection. They knew the periodic table of elements, but would run straight into a busy parking lot to get away from a dog. They know Newton’s laws but can’t stop flapping when they get excited. It goes on and on.

  8. Jess, this is your “diary” after all, and I’ve consistently found your posts respectful and polite. Good for you for being open to other perspectives, and for reprinting your more salient points regarding your thoughts. I actually think this post created some wonderful dialogue, and while I don’t usually read all of the comments, yesterday I did. My own perspectives shifted a bit from those readings, and I think that’s a very powerful thing.

  9. As always, you are finding words to describe tremendously difficult and oft-misunderstood topics in a way that brings about constructive conversations and education. I am constantly passing this bog around to folks, especially in the workplace for both the HR/Benefits folks and the folks who air news stories, because I think it puts a face on something that’s hard for many people to understand without first-hand experience.

    I bristled a little bit at the post yesterday, because I, too, was labeled gifted and moved ahead a grade (to this day, I don’t know my left from my right or how to take a nap). I survived much as you did – bored and a bit socially behind my peers. My brother struggled a lot more and really needed the special programming to get through his formal education. He had a tough time as it was; I’m not sure how things would have turned out had he not had access to those resources.

    The G&T label is wretched – in our school system, we were labeled “Target” students until high school when we became ALP students (accelerated learning program). I think it made a world of difference not to somehow identify us out loud as “gifted” when every child is gifted in their own way. Not only do I think the Gifted and Talented label is dismissive of the gifts and talents of all children, I think it brings about more cruelty and teasing (and ridiculous expectations) for the children who bear the label.

    As always, I’m blown away by how articulate and thoughtful you are. I realize I don’t comment here often, but I visit this blog everyday and spread your gospel whenever I can. Hang in there!

  10. Thank you for writing this. I reacted very strongly yesterday, much more strongly than I ever want to do. I have learned from what you have shared here. I saw the issue through the lens of my intensely painful experience with being academically gifted. I am glad to know it wasn’t that way for you. Freely sharing our innermost feelings is the only way people can truly come to know and understand one another.I hope I can say this without sounding patronizing, but thank you for having the strength and maturity to reflect on your opinions. You are clearly a person of grace. I am blessed and honored to have ‘met’ you here.

    For other reasons, I have spent a great deal of time this summer researching the issue of academically gifted education. *In general*, grade acceleration is one of the best ways to meet the needs of academically gifted children and I am sincerely glad to learn that it worked as well as it did for you. Academically gifted children are often much more comfortable socially with kids who are the same intellectual age, rather than the same chronological age.

    For school districts that do not want, or cannot afford, a program specifically for academically gifted students, a method called cluster grouping can be very effective. Susan Winebrenner has written extensively on this subject. She has a website at http://www.susanwinebrenner.com with a lot of information and references.

  11. I just started reading your blog very recently and I can’t tell you how much your “voice” has meant to me. My hope is that you continue to write from your heart because this gift that you have been given to put to words what you are experiencing as a Mom has helped me tremendously. It is so refreshing to have it just put “out there” the way you feel it. I have struggled so much (my girls are both recently diagnosed ages 4 and 5) with how I have felt when someone says something that stings, even if they meant no harm. I would just continue to plaster on this stupid smile because if I didn’t I would fall into a blubbering heap. So, I just want to say, please keep writing the way you do…no apologies necessary. I so respect you and look forward to hearing you “raw and clear”.

  12. Can I just say how much I love you? And that I want to put some sheepskin on those boxing gloves you used to beat yourself up with? hope you’re spending the day with potato chips and ice cream, my friend.

    PS. I applaud the first post and agree whole heartedly.

  13. Thank you for your graciousness. Thank you for listening. Thank you for modeling what so many people need to do- listen, understand, and review their own understandings (includng me). Thank you for leaving your blog up and yourself open so that the dialogue can be seen and shared and modeled. Go, Jess! And a note to the commenters who also did not let this go “there”- that nasty, mudslinging place where so many online “discussions” go…

    I also responded with hurt… It’s hard enough convincing “them”, that vast unbodied society, that differences don’t have to divide. That the farther anyone is from “typical”, there are challenges and hurts, but great things to contribute and learn. You know this- we all HEAR the rhetoric- but then the teasing, the lack of funding, the lack of reognition, the snide comment, the knee-jerk reaction of “pfft- what’s YOUR problem?”, and we realize that it hasn’t sunk in yet- and that’s hard. And when it comes from someone who KNOWS the battle-when one of “our own”, who deeply understands the hurts that come with a label, not (initially) understanding the hurts that may come with other labels, well, that’s harder. Parents of gifted kids have a lot in common with parents of kids in special education, but when they’re rejected there, too- well, it’s hard.

    That being said, it’s very, very hard to deal with someone else playing the “My pain is worse than your pain” game. Games of one-upsmanship never work out. Competitive mothering is a nasty, nasty game in which no one wins.

    My children are twice-exceptional, and I bristle at how much attention and focus there is on their “dis”abilities, and how much lack of attention there is on their abilities, when it’s all the same child. I bristle when I am made to feel that I’m pushy or “braggy” when I’m asking for what they need if it’s advanced and I’m given sympathy if it’s for an area of challenge- and I’m ignored if they’re doing “fine” because of the exhausting interaction between the two. And I bristle, just as it sounds like you did, when someone suggests that my experience isn’t as bad as theirs. My experience and yours and all other parents of children who are far away from “typical”, are just different.

    Thank you for the dialogue. Thank you for letting us all contribute. Thank you for listening- and for writing.

    ****

    And for what it’s worth, there is a fabulous report about the research behind acceleration. http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/nation_deceived/

    One of my professors once said something like, “Acceleration has enormous research behind it showing its tremendous positive effects on kids. And holding kids back has enormous research behind it showing tremendous negative effects on kids. Guess which one is done the most often? Only in education would we completely ignore decades of clear-cut research on both sides and go with what we “feel” is best.”

  14. Jess,

    I’m not going to say much here.. I think..
    First, to those who have stated that they are “Gifted” and have taken no offense.. Really? I know you are trying to help and support Jess, and thank you, because she happens to mean a lot to me. However, it is irrelevant whether you are considered Gifted or not, on the Spectrum or not, words can hurt .. regardless of whether or not they spefically apply to you.
    With that said, I hadn’t given much thought to the terminology in the past. As labels are only something I am first encountering, I think I will be more aware of this in the future.
    Jess, this is your Diary. To write, to vent, to express yourself, to document your journey. You are in no way obligated to others because your choose this way of keeping a Diary. Please don’t feel badly.
    Love ya

  15. Jess, your sincere thoughtfulness and compassion always shine throughout your blog, and honestly, this latest post from you illustrates exactly why I felt comfortable sharing as much as I did about my son’s situation in yesterday’s comments.

    I agree with the others that your authentic voice is so compelling and the honesty in your writing is what has drawn me in over the years, keeping me laughing and crying as I read your posts. So you should keep writing whatever the frak you feel in your own blog as life happens to you, don’t retract any entries, and just know that people like me out there know that no matter how our opinions differ–and they should, since not differing would be creepy–this blog feels like a safe place to share a whole bunch of stuff that we don’t normally broadcast to the world. And that is entirely due to your graciousness.

    Thank you.

  16. Jess, thank you for writing and allowing us to share our thoughts with you and your readers. I did see that you wrote much on the gifts of all of our children and yet I responded to just a small part. My response was not directed at you, but on the part that kept going through my head. I don’t write well; even my responses are a labor for me, so I share my little thoughts with you and your readers rather than write my own blog.

  17. DOAM, if I thought for 1 minute you were intentionally trying to hurt someone else with this post or any other I would sign off indefinitely. Sometimes we make errors and that is what life is all about-I call them teachable moments, others call them mistakes. There are no mistakes in life “lady”. I appreciate you, the good, the bad(not really) and always the entertaining.

  18. Just a question that popped in my mind:
    I also was labeled gifted and talented in school. So after eading everyone’s posts, maybe we should have someone do a poll to see if that is a factor in having a child with autisim. It sure seems that is the case here.

    • I’m another who has the G&T label — skipped kindergarten — have one typically-developing daughter who is likely to acquire the G&T label, and another daughter with autism whose academic gifts (whatever they may turn out to be) have yet to become apparent.

  19. As usual, your response was beautiful and sensitive. I think it’s time to put the whip away however.
    Love you so very much.
    ps. You still are very gifted……………
    Dad

  20. Pingback: Twice-Exceptional and Overlapping Labels « Professor Mother Blog

  21. all, thank you so very much for your gracious and generous comments today. these dialogues are not always easy, but they are so desperately important if we are to begin to break down the walls that would otherwise separate us.

    as cheryl said (i seem to be quoting her a lot lately ;)) .. “Freely sharing our innermost feelings is the only way people can truly come to know and understand one another”

    amen.

  22. today’s facebook comments:

    L ~ This is also what our little community is all about – sharing our thoughts and feelings and trying to constructively discuss issues close to our hearts. Overall I would say Jess that you brought to light a very important issue that merited discussion. Your blog has become to some of us more than a diary – its a way for us to share perspectives, educate and support each other when we are not able to have this discussion IRL.

    Jess, you should always feel free to express yourself. I sense a defensive tone near the end of this post – and I hope you dont feel that you need to censor yourself in the future. I admire your honesty and bravery for posting what you feel. What would bother me is if you blew off what someone had to say – but thats not the Jess we know and love.

    **

    S ~ I just want to give you a hug! This is a very up and down, roller coaster world we live in. You are among friends!

    **

    H ~ I’m so glad you left the post up. Thank you, Jess.

    **

    SJ ~ Jess, I just want to say that I too may have been oversensitive in my response. It happens. We are all in this together. I am SOOOOO glad that you left the post up. Like you said, it is “DIARY” of a Mom, and I truly hope that all the comments you received came from a good, caring, helpful place as did mine. ♥

    **

    Lo ~ Your sometimes brutal honesty is what I love best about your writing. Please don’t stop! Touching nerves is not always bad. The raw nerve wouldn’t be there if there weren’t an underlying problem looking to be exposed, heard, understood.

    It seems to me there may be a subset of “gifted” kids who are not just brainy and bored, but are either “twice exceptional” or live in that gray area just outside of the spectrum, where they share a lot of the same challenges with kids on the spectrum, like difficult social relationships, teasing, standing out amongst peers, a different set of interests, anxiety, teachers not knowing how to manage needs, a different level of emotional maturity from peers…

    It stands to reason that your audience may very well have a good number of these kids, too, and your post likely just brought out a lot of frustration at the common misperception that these kids, by virtue of their “giftedness,” are not “needy” because they get good grades. It was a good, if heated, discussion to have. Thank you!

  23. Jess, you inspired me to blog.

    It was your courage, your honesty and your open heart that shone through then, and right now they’re lighting up the early morning down here in Australia.

    I’m so glad you are around, blazing a thought trail.
    :)

    Valerie

  24. I’m still left with the haunting feeling that despite that personal pain, the affronts, the labelling, etc discussed herein, we read in today’s news headlines with all too much frequency that only one group of parents is pushed to the horrible tragedy of filicide, suicide and/or homicide when struggling to address the extreme ‘differences’ or talents, or needs of their children.

  25. Jess,

    I just read the post after a ten hour work day today. Forgive me. I’ve been very concerned since yesterday when your pain seemed so palpable. Everyone was right, Sweetheart. You write your diary and you write with honesty and love and and eloquence. Stop beating up on yourself. All of the above comments should be very convincing of how much you are loved and appreciated.

    Love you,
    Mom

  26. I am just now getting to read all the comments on the last post and then on this one. I bristled for you as I read the first post (and for myself as I recalled a comment someone made to me recently about how their 4 year old is a genius in the breath after asking me “what does your son have again?”) and then today as I read through the comments and then through this post, I was reminded again that I need to remember that things are not always as easy as they seem and not to dismiss others so quickly.

    As always, you are a woman so full of grace. Now, just imagine what it would have been like it if “smockity” would have had the grace to write a post such as this?

    You are an amazing soul Jess, and I am so glad that you share so openly.

  27. “gifted”? you? shocking ;) never stop ranting, touching nerves, or forcing people to think bigger. everyone has that ability.

  28. I love knowing the back story on your giftedness. I am always trying (now, and when I was a teacher) to get parents to hold their horses and not push to get their 5 year olds in first grade and/or skip a grade! They will still be bored, AND young! We do need gifted programs, for sure, another lack in so many schools.

  29. I missed this whole thing. And had to go read the first post, thinking, OMG, what in the world did she SAY?!

    Here’s what I love about the whole thing: an honest debate done with respect and kindness. Sticking to the merits of the issue. No name-calling, raising voices, personal attacks. Which is darn near a miracle in our current climate of political “debate” on the “news” channels.

    Also that it was and is an honest disagreement. That we women, Jess first, weren’t afraid to come out and say, “this bothers me.” So many times women are afraid to say what we really feel and then are afraid to disagree with our friends.

    Back to the original discussion, Jess, just for a minute. Can I ask what was the purpose of the inclusion committee? Was it to educate teachers and parents about kids with (for a lack of a better word) disabilities? Was it anti-bullying? Or has the committee experienced “scope creep” if now its goal is to make everyone feel included?

    P.S. As for “Gifted,” why not just “advanced placement” since it’s about academics?

    P.P.S. Bottom line, we all want our children to deal with adversity. (Jess, you dealt with it admirably.) This book should be required reading for parents and educators: Raising Resilient Children http://www.raisingresilientkids.com/

  30. I know pretty much everything I want to say has already been said by people more capable of self-expression than I, but still – I read this post and the one before it and felt the need to write nonetheless. Please don’t feel that you have to read it.

    I was one of those “twice-exceptional” children, and no one knew why. I have Asperger’s Syndrome (clear and obvious, although not diagnosed until my post-secondary days for a variety of reasons). I am also academically “advanced,” “gifted,” whatever label you choose to apply. I was reading before four, identifying fossils by bone shape characteristics before I was school-aged, and monologuing to other students about mitochondria in second grade (although, in hindsight, that might just have been the Asperger’s).
    I never once got the assistance I needed in school, for either issue. Teachers did not seem to understand the ways my desperate desires for rule-following clashed with my utter academic boredom. (For instance, I knew the rule was to follow along with the class’ work, but at the same time, I wanted so very badly to ignore the orange reding primer we were handed and instead secretly peruse the books that actually interested me.) They did not know that my daily fights with my third-grade teacher resulted from the fact that her assignments were mind-numbing and her classroom structure failed a sensory-defensive, socially-ostracized child in every imaginable way. (I basically spent that entire schoolyear in the hallway, hiding between the cubbies and the wall…)
    Children who are ahead of their peers in academics are already struggling. A child is a child, and a bored seven-year-old who enjoys trigonometry but is being taught the fundamentals of addition is going to fidget, squirm, argue, and be just as disruptive as any other child in a pointlessly restrictive situation. It takes all of an intelligent child’s effort to try and cope with this sort of academic difficulty, just as a child who cannot yet add would find it impossible to sit still or pretend to be interested through the other one’s fascinating geometry lesson.
    And then you add in the fact that this accelerated child cannot seem to make friends. Other children aren’t interested in trigonometry? or palaeontology? or ancient Egypt? But why?! There’s basically no bridge between this child and his or her peers. I know this, because I spent all of elementary school sitting alone on the steps, reading and writing. That is, when I wasn’t hiding under the big log playground train trying to escape from the well-adjusted bullies who thought I would make a convenient target for their attentions, because unlike other children, I didn’t have even one friend who would stand up for me and provide an obstacle to their bullying.
    And this is all quite aside from the Asperger’s Syndrome. Although I cannot speak to what I would have been like without it, I know that – even had I been able to comprehend socializing – I would probably have elected to go on reading difficult books, learning about obscure subjects, and just generally being academically fascinated.
    In high school, the district opted to discontinue funding to the academic program in which I participated. A woman wrote a letter to the newspaper that basically read, “Good. Our kids with actual needs should have that money.” They printed it alongside my letter, which was a plea. “We have special needs, too. This program is the only place where we have any hope of finding people like us at all. It’s the only place where teachers will actually encourage us to go the distances we can go. Please. Your children have programs for their needs. Please leave us ours.”

    Please, please understand that being gifted means educational needs, means emotional needs, means social needs, and that tossing an advanced child in a corner with a book is meaningless. I can fill out an IEP just as extensively for that child as I can for one on the autism spectrum.
    That said, I know you understand this – at least in part. But I wanted to write in just to say, your academically advanced group, your “Gifted and Talented” group, needs the Inclusion Committee just as much as any of the other groups you’d discussed. They need help, and far fewer people recognize this than for those other groups. Please, please include them.

    • Random – Thank you for sharing your story. The more we talk openly about our experiences, the more we are able to sensitize one another to the challenges inherent in them.

      As you acknowledged in your comment, I for one certainly have a vastly different understanding of what it can mean to be academically advanced than I did before. And for that I am grateful.

  31. Your documenting your sensitivity, the honesty of your diary, are marvelous and refreshing. And through the characteristics of being gifted so right on. Our Point of View is key to how we see ourselves and interact. The support, the stimulus, the best programming possible for each students needs is key to allowing the children to develop. Being “gifted” (not really a 4 lettered word) needs to be understood (with all the different “intelligences” including hyper -sensing); develop (key for creating answers to little and big problems; and minimize that internal frustration and boredom); express(unique qualities as a personal experience of magic or mystery); contribute (yes, each individual has a contribution to make, being gifted a responsibility or drive to contribute for improvement exists); and connecting (with similar others, others in general, and community – mutual respect). Thanks for sharing and creating a interactions for all of us to grow!

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