"So what's your plan for tomorrow?" my mom asked, fishing below the foamy suds for the next plate.
My ears perked. Charlie had been a family friend for years, but I knew why he'd come over for dinner that night - He was in town to visit our high school. What he would do there was a good question, indeed.
"Lots of observations," I remember him saying. "Have to get by all the special ed classrooms. Meet with the principal. That sort of thing."
Because apparently that's the sort of thing you do on a school visit, when you're the Dean of Education at a state university.
"I wish you'd stop by one of my classes, instead," I said, inviting myself into the conversation, as usual. "You're going to miss seeing some good stuff!"
But he didn't.
Because when he walked into my English class the next morning, he saw my face, absolutely stunned.
I had never - not even once - considered gifted education to be special education, until that moment.
It can be hard to see it that way, can't it? After all, the gifted kids already know the answers, right? What special needs could they possibly have?
Well, as it turns out, quite a few.
They need curriculum enrichment and acceleration, so they can engage deeply with material at their individual level.
They need the flexibility to follow the rabbit holes of their passions.
And they need challenge, not repetition or busy-work.
When their intellectual needs are stifled, these children are at risk. Whether their boredom leads to detachment, disruptive behavior, or, worse, the loss of their love for learning, the consequences are disheartening.
In this light, it becomes very clear that identifying gifted children is not hanging a prize around their neck or stuffing them in a box marked with society's expectations for success; it's the crucial first step to meeting their very real, special needs.
That, in itself, is big.
But as a parent, identification is about more than academics. Knowing my children are gifted gives me a framework to help me better understand them and how they interact with the world.
It helps me 'get' their intensity and appreciate why they're inspired by everything around them, even when I find it exhausting.
Instead of being frustrated that they seem so remarkably older or advanced in some areas and so not in others, I'm able to be empathetic.
Their quirks (and let's be honest - the apples didn't fall far from the trees over here) make so much sense in the light of Dabrowski's Overexcitabilities.
And it reminds me to always be on the look out for the dragon of perfectionism, in all its various forms, so that I'm able to help my sons with strategies to scare him back to his cave, rather than becoming paralyzed with fear of failure.
Identification is the key to understanding these special needs, both intellectual and emotional. And it's the gateway to providing the special education services that will help gifted children, not just survive, but thrive.
Joining the GHF Blog Hop!
Head over to read more great posts on the importance of identifying gifted children.
And for more information on understanding giftedness and how parents and teachers can meet the needs of gifted learners, beginning with identification, check out these links and visit the GHF website for a wealth of resources.
Chart highlighting the differences between bright children and gifted learners.
List of characteristics of gifted children.
Guide to understanding and working with the intensity and asynchronous development of gifted children.
*I am a firm believer that ALL children (and adults, for that matter) have gifts - and that those gifts should be encouraged. I'm not a fan of the term "gifted," but unfortunately, that's the word that our culture is currently using to meet this definition:
“Giftedness is [neurological] asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.”—The Columbus Group, 1991.