Dear Good-Bad Dad,
I read your article the other day, “My Son Is Not Gifted And I’m Glad” and I agree with your title. You should be glad. But probably not for the same reasons that you wrote. You see, I have a gifted son. Actually, he’s twice exceptional, which means we deal with disabilities on top of the whole gifted enchilada.
Your post made me sad. My son isn’t better than your child. He might be smarter, and that’s ok. Higher IQ doesn’t mean a better person, a better character, or even a better job when our kids are adults. I know it feels like your son was rejected and that’s disheartening. As a parent who deals with rejection on a daily basis for my son and myself, I know that feeling. It sucks.
Being gifted isn’t about being better. My child is gifted, yes, but most of the time I would happily settle for him being bright or just plain neurotypical. Raising a gifted child isn’t easy. Raising a twice exceptional child is pure nightmare at times. Being gifted isn’t about getting straight A’s, it’s about a different way of thinking. When our child was a toddler we didn’t ask the doctors “is he gifted?” No, we asked them “what’s wrong with him?”
Let’s be real
Being gifted isn’t about smart kids having loads of fun. It’s full of challenges, tough decisions, and trying to overcome a one-size-fits-all school system. Gifted kids often have overexcitabilities: intense behaviors that are often over-diagnosed and medicated to help them succeed (i.e. sit down and shut up.) Gifted kids are wired differently, and that wiring can make it difficult for them to function in a typical school setting.
I agree that there’s way too much testing going on in schools. But, to argue the other side, how should the school identify children who need a more challenging environment or a different learning style? Testing for the gifted program isn’t to determine who learns, but rather how they learn. As the parent of a 2e kiddo who would surely fail the test for different reasons than your son, I agree that testing isn’t ideal. But, without tests, schools would be forced to rely on human opinions to place kids in the gifted program; arguably a more fallible method.
To your second point about pushy parents: I am a pushy parent. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t advocate for my son that his needs are ignored. His sensory behaviors are labeled “misbehavior” instead of disability. His learning needs aren’t met. I would love to sit back and let the school do their job, but that didn’t work for us. Even being a pushy parent didn’t get my son the IEP (individualized education program) that he needed to be able to function in school. So we decided to homeschool instead.
Choosing to homeschool meant sacrifice for us. Time, money, sanity… all of that. It’s difficult. I won’t lie. But it’s a great way for kids to learn, especially for those who don’t fit in a neat little box like my kid. One day we study the Great Wall of China, the next we cover human body systems: all while his age peers are doing typical letter-of-the-week activities in Kindergarten. I’ll admit, we spend a lot of time doing enrichment activities like those you mentioned because my son learns best with hands-on activities.
Boring isn’t cool
I completely agree that enrichment programs for gifted kids shouldn’t exclude neurotypical kids. Schools should promote more field trips and hands-on learning as a routine tool for all students, not just gifted. That said, it’s important that gifted kids get the kind of challenging environment that they need to thrive. Sitting bored in a classroom because they’re doing algebra when the rest of the class is still on subtraction is a waste of time.
Honestly, the school your child attends sounds amazing. In our local school system the elementary gifted kids get an extra 45 minutes every two weeks in a gifted class. Past second grade, they receive 45 minutes a week. It’s hard to see how that amount of time can positively affect a gifted child. Even 45 minutes a day wouldn’t be enough for my kid.
Please, don’t treat gifted kids with disdain. Just like special needs students, they have different learning needs than your son. That doesn’t make them better or less, just different. I’m teaching my son that it’s ok to be different. I hope that you are too.