Unconvinced Gifted is a Gift by Laura Davis

I have started and restarted this post so many times, very carefully selecting my words so that they come across a certain way... and then I had to have a little laugh at myself as I realised that that completely contradicts the point I'm trying to make. So here it is in it's raw form, no pussyfooting around.

My son is what they call 'gifted'. But please don't let that stop you reading this.

Gifted. What a frustrating term. I wince every time I use it. The connotations associated with it are far from ideal.

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  • 'His family just think he's special''His family just think he's special'
  • 'He thinks he's God's gift to society'
  • 'He just thinks he is better than others'
  • 'If he's so gifted why does he need special education'
  • 'If he's so special why is his behaviour so terrible.. spoiled brat.'
  • 'All children have their own talents, you just want to stand out.'
  • 'Why is he just doing normal schoolwork like the rest of his class? I think you're just making things up.'
  • 'These so-called 'gifted' kids are wasting school resources that could go to kids who actually need it.'

Honestly.. whoever coined that term sure didn't want to make life easy for people living it.

Here's the thing. My son's brain is weird. It is wired in an abnormal way. I like to call him neurologically atypical. Is this a gift? I haven't decided yet; the jury's still out.

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Bean has always been a little different. Right from babyhood I felt like he stood apart from his peers, and I don't necessarily mean in a good way. I just had this niggling feeling that something unusual was going on. Never in a million years would I have classed him as 'gifted', or what my perception of that word was at the time. He had a big vocab, and he was very up with the play, but I just thought he was nosy. At kindy the teachers would make little jokes to each other and he would laugh, while it sailed right over the other kids' heads. Everyone he met would get his life story, and elderly people especially were tickled pink listening to his correct use of words like 'inappropriate' and 'nevertheless'.

But there was a flip side to this entertaining kid. An angry, intense, tirelessly persistent, emotional, anxious little ball of fire. That niggling feeling that something was amiss took us to paediatricians and occupational therapists, and their only conclusion was 'he's a little behind with his motor skills'. They were right - he was not able to hold a pencil or draw anything more than a scribble when he started school. Gradually I had to accept that there were no answers; this was my son. He was quirky and I was feeling exhausted by what I had to deal with behind closed doors, but it was what it was, and I just got on with it.

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When school nominated Bean for cognitive testing and he scored very highly, you could have picked me up off the ground. His school work was very average for his age - 'there are no indications of giftedness here!' I said. But then I started to read, and read, and read, and I realised that I had no idea what the term 'gifted' is actually referring to. When I read the following list, lightbulbs were flicking on all over the place.

  • Nonconformist behaviors
  • Need for mental stimulation and preoccupation with understanding
  • Perfectionism
  • Anxiety
  • Heightened sensitivities, particularly emotional intensity
  • High expectations for self and others
  • Fluent, concise self expression
  • High levels of comprehension for age. (etc. etc.)

It is really hard being a gifted kid, and it's really hard being the parent of one. People don't understand these challenges, and you can't talk about it outside the 'gifted' circle, because then you are showing off. But then you become 'elitist' because you have these cliquey 'Mums of Gifties' groups.

When I talk to you about my kid being 'gifted', I am not bragging. I'm not actually convinced it is anything to brag about, apart from the fact that our school is flipping amazing and I love telling people about their GATE programme. I am just trying to make sense of this new world we have been thrown into, one in which I'm only beginning to accept we belong, given Bean does not conform with traditional understandings of 'giftedness'.

If my child had an illness, or was challenged by autism or ADHD, there would be no stigma attached to me talking about this with the parents of non-affected children. Please allow me the same right, without judgement, as we navigate the situation given to us and the pros and cons that come along with it.

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash


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