Challenging Gifts in Our Children


Image courtesy of ddpavumba/

I am reading a science fiction story right now about an ever-increasing population of gifted children and the complications that ensue out of huge inequities between groups of people. Yes, you can expand the metaphor to many other things, but let’s think about the gifted and talented.

“Gifted” is a loaded term in education. It is laden with expectation and opportunities at some levels, but the more intense the gifts, the less the children are understood and encouraged by the system. Truly gifted children are often ostracized, separated and simply in a different world from those around them.

You see, we have just so much tolerance for those who are different from us. It is often difficult to communicate with them, and perhaps, at a very primitive level, we are threatened by what may be the next step in human evolution that will simply replace us. As parents, we think we would love our child to be gifted and talented. After all, who wouldn’t?  Right?

Maybe not.

The more gifted children prove themselves to be, the more challenging it becomes to raise them. I read many years ago, that every fifteen points or so in IQ creates an amazingly different world perspective.  Carol Bainbridge wrote an informative article that explains why that is true.  The further apart the intelligence levels; the more different the perspective. I have seen that played out between children with Down’s Syndrome and children of average intelligence, but it surprised me that such small increments could make such a difference.

Mind you, I am only talking about IQ that can be measured with our present testing here. I believe there are many other forms of intelligence that we haven’t figured out a way to measure yet.

I began reading at the age of four and was put into Kindergarten early. By third grade I had exhausted all of the reading materials in the SRA reading program. (SRA was a staple of reading programs in the 60s)

I moved on to the library and systematically read everything that was of interest. Yes, I would have been classified as gifted, but probably only in verbal and reading skills. Math was an impenetrable morass that only got worse when they introduced letters in algebra. I was so reading oriented, that I saw “x” and “y” as the letters. I remember looking at the equation; x+y and thinking…”Well, of course, that would be xy!” Many years later I took algebra classes in college and finally really got math, but it will never be my strongest suit.

When our daughters were in Elementary school, they were each invited to be tested as part of the “G&T” program at their school. I suspected that the older had reading gifts, and that the younger might have gifts in both reading and mathematics. My husband and I debated whether we should have them tested, but we were finally swayed by finding out that the designation would follow them through the rest of their schooling, and would automatically place them in more challenging classes with teachers who had an additional certification. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that if it was available to us?

The girls tested as expected, and both benefited from those classes and teachers through the years.

But I find myself wondering, “What would we have done if they were really, really gifted?” What if they were so far advanced from our IQ levels, that at an early age, we were no longer interesting or role models of any kind for them? What if their respect for our intellect equated to their respect for our authority? Yes, that would be trouble brewing.

I am grateful that our daughters are bright, well-rounded young women who can learn and achieve anything they put their mind to, but also I am grateful that we did not have to deal with the challenges presented by the children at the top of the scale. I can only imagine the mixture of pride and exasperation that must come with parenting the extremely gifted. I suspect it is no picnic.

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