Updated: Nov 21, 2022
How we stumbled on giftedness
I booked an appointment with one professional after another to find out what was wrong with my child.
For months this kid had struggled with symptoms that had me in my GP and specialists’ surgeries. Food allergies? Glandular fever? Bilharzia? Test after test came back negative.
And yet she was regularly pale and unwilling to eat, curled in a ball with a painful tummy or unable to stand without feeling faint.
When we ran out of physical tests we met with a psychologist.
If you’ve ever taken a child to a mental health practitioner you’ll know it feels like sitting in the headmaster’s office.
We were about to be exposed!
Tim and I spoke with as much honesty as we could about raising our kid and I felt sure at the end of all his questions he would deliver a verdict: you’ve been terrible parents!
He asked to see our daughter in the week instead. (“Try not to worry about it” he seemed to say as he extended the waiting before the verdict.)
Back in his rooms a week later, I was a wreck. My imagination wrote his script: “The mother is overbearing and overprotective, the father is too focused on performance, both parents’ childhood issues are clearly ruining their daughter’s life ….
“I’m sure you are aware…” he said instead “that your child is gifted”
We both did cartoon double takes - Sorry what did he say?
“Whatever another child thinks and feels, you can just go ahead and multiply by 10 for a gifted kid,” the psychologist explained to our still confused faces. “That’s great when it’s an insight into a math problem or interpretation of a piece of music (depending on the giftedness) but rather challenging when it comes to exaggerated emotions.”
Why this story matters to you
Writing this makes me squirm. I cringe at writing the word ‘gifted’ because I am sure that this is where you stop reading: You have real concerns, you need to understand and unlock your child and here I am flaunting a ‘gift’?
Maybe, like I used to, you think of giftedness and imagine Mozart composing his first symphony while his front teeth were still missing.
Our experience, and maybe yours, is so different from that.
There was no handshake to send us on a path of good school marks, or an effortless scholarship or two …
Calling a child ‘gifted’ is like calling teenage boys ‘gentlemen’ - it’s true and possible but it certainly isn’t the whole story.
You should keep reading if …
You know your child is gifted, but didn’t realise the gift comes with challenges
You have no clue that your child is gifted – you’ve only been fighting those challenges daily
Gifted kids are being misdiagnosed everyday: What looks like ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety may well be some of the flip side challenges of a brain that thinks and feels intensely.
Do you remember when Spiderman first discovers his extraordinary powers -squeezing the toothpaste with way too much power and ending up breaking the mirror?
It takes time and practice, gumption and help for a superpower to become… a gift!
Here’s what few of us realise about giftedness:
Like with any child, being gifted is a package deal with both gifts to develop and needs to meet
Everyone involved (teachers, you and your child) are much more likely to see the challenges than the strengths
There is a difference between being a smart kid and a gifted kid
It bothered me that the psychologist said: “I’m sure you are aware…”, because I had no clue! Don’t get me wrong, I knew she was smart but:
What is the difference between smart and gifted anyway?
Gifted kids think differently rather than having being especially bright. (In fact, smartness often leads to easier success and more satisfaction for kids).
Smart kids work hard, get good results and feel good about themselves - gifted kids only work hard when they're interested, get good results and feel mostly critical of what they did.
Smart kids absorb information and are able to easily repeat the material to the teacher when questioned - gifted kids manipulate information and ask questions of the questions without bothering to answer them!
Smart kids have good ideas - gifted kids have wildly different ideas.
Smart kids are open and receptive -gifted kids are intense.
Teachers love smart kids…
Is your child intense?
Does he smell, sight, taste, touch and hear intensely? If something is beautiful or delicious it is SUPER- beautiful or super delicious but when something smells bad or itches, it is SUPER uncomfortable.
Does he have a lot of feelings? Your child’s feelings range from high highs to low lows and she struggles to bounce back. She may even develop physical symptoms?)
Does she ask incessant questions, sometimes appearing disrespectful when arguing for her opinions, desperate to have her questions answered?
The Temptation: Focusing only on the strengths or only on the challenges
If we only see intellectual, musical or artistic talents and only offer opportunities and advanced programs we can do great damage. You’ve heard stories of young kids studying at postgraduate level or pressured, specialized academies for gifted young musicians.
When the social emotional needs of gifted kids are ignored for the sake of achievement, depression, burnout, anxiety and even suicides rates are high - this approach isn’t good enough.
At the other extreme we can lean into emotional health issues without developing gifts. We apply our limited understanding (and often some strong drugs) to the ‘problem’ of social and emotional struggles and imply that kids are broken in some way.
I see so many young people lean into the labels, “I have high functioning anxiety”, “I have sensory processing disorder”. It’s wonderful that our kids get to know their challenges early and get help, but those same kids don’t know their gifts!
We are throwing out the superpowers for the sake of managing intensity!
We need to see all kids as a complex mix of gifts and challenges that both need maturing.
What to do if you suspect your kid is gifted?
ask a professional! Suck up the cringing and fight for your child: you would if they needed glasses! Download the free pdf When to worry about your gifted child.
join me on a journey of championing all our kids to unlock both their potential and cope with their challenges.
Watch this Video teaching on Intensity in Giftedness.
Comment on this post or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can keep you up to date when I develop more content about giftedness. Then send this post on to one mom that you know who needs to hear these words and take on the challenge of advocacy too.