I recently attended a lecture on the unique emotional needs of gifted learners and how those manifest in “over-excitabilities”. The session was presented by the legendary Dr. Linda Silverman, one of the most influential, formative researchers in the field of Gifted Education. The session was fantastic and I’d like to share some of the notes I gathered.
“Know that you are not broken; you do not need to be fixed.”
“If school is so easy that you never have to struggle, then schools are robbing you of your right and ability to learn. Gifted kids need to struggle to learn.”
“Gifted kids think when you least expect it and go blank at the most inopportune times.”
External Struggles of Gifted Kids:
One of the first things Linda acknowledged was how the term “gifted” has become so demeaned nowadays and provided suggestions for how we can re-frame our terminology to more effectively talk about our kids and their needs.
- While Highly Capable is the common term, it is not accurate. The term Highly Capable can include kids who are not gifted, but are high achieving. The problem with this is that high achieving kids don’t have the same psychological/emotional needs.
- We should start using the term “Asynchronous Learner”. Saying “My child is asynchronous”, does not feel competitive to others.
- When speaking with people who don’t understand giftedness, the key is to make giftedness sound more like a condition, rather than a value statement.
When gifted kids aren’t being maligned for their designation, they are often treated as a societal resource.
“There is no other group in Special Ed where funding and support is based on what they will later give back to society.”
Linda called out that gifted kids are often ostracized because they are seen as “too everything”.
“The gifted are too sensitive, too intense, too driven, too honest, too idealistic, too moral, too perfectionist, too much for other people.”
Unfortunately, the result is that “Gifted kids are given Outsider status in a society that is suspicious of outsiders.”
One example Linda gave was perfectionism: “It’s sad that we, as a society, have demolished perfectionists. This has been denigrated by a society that loves mediocrity.”
Pushed into the ‘Closet’
All this societal repression and downright abuse pushes gifted kids back into a corner. So much so that they begin to hide their gifts—often giving them up altogether.
“Gifted is the only special ed group that can hide, but hiding comes at a cost.”
“Our children are taught to don masks before they recognize their own faces.”