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When I was in grade 3, I was transitioned out of special education in order to enter “gifted” programs. I am still not entirely sure what prompted the transition. Maybe it was because I did so well in my speech therapy. Perhaps it was because I scored really well on some type of standardized test. Either way, it wasn’t the first time that people had been unsure as to what to do with me. Back in pre-school, a specialist from Honolulu had been flown in to test me, because I was largely nonverbal and didn’t interact with my peers at an “age appropriate” level.

I asked my mother what the specialist had said about me, and apparently, based on my drawings and the limited conversations he’d had with me, the specialist had deduced that I was “gifted” intellectually, but would also struggle socially and emotionally, probably for the rest of my life, without some form of what we would now call “early intervention”.

I asked my mother what exactly she had done when hearing this news, she kind of faltered and said, “Oh…. I just liked to think of you as gifted.”

We have a problem here, ladies and gentlemen. We can’t pretend that “gifted” is synonymous with “not needing any support or guidance in school”. We just can’t. It’s completely counter-productive, and hurts children like me who are gifted in some areas but face difficulties in others. In my case, I could have greatly benefited by someone saying, “Well, Leah is gifted, but she lacks organizational skills and doesn’t now how to manage doing certain tasks, and seems to lack the necessary tools for doing math, so let’s incorporate that into her schooling while she enjoys subjects she excels in.”

Instead, I was shuffled from special needs to gifted, and the shift between being ignored except when I did something wrong and having every little thing I did praised and heaped with words of encouragement and promise. I needed to know when I was doing poorly, and I needed to have my talents nurtured, not swinging on a pendulum between one and the other.

If you know a child is labelled as “gifted”, it doesn’t mean intellectually independent or ready to be told that they have no areas which require improvement. All children, gifted, special, etc, etc, need a chance to find their talents and areas which could use polishing. Don’t write off the ones that are labelled “special” as beyond any help, and don’t think the gifted kids will always come out on top.

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