Special thanks to Dr. Jim Delisle for his informative presentation in Frisco, CO (10/9/2013)

“Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.”– Annemarie Roeper

The Gifted and Talented Stigma

The opportunity to attend a presentation from a renown educator like Jim Delisle in our small mountain community was a chance I certainly didn’t want to miss. However, I approached the topic of “gifted and talented” with trepidation. I had memories of my younger sister attending the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) school after she passed an IQ test. I too had taken the IQ test and did not have the same results. At the age of seven, I decided I was not the smart one. I threw my energy into athletics and struggled through school until I landed in college.

Years later, while teaching in my high school classroom, the “GT” acronym hauntingly re-appeared. This time, it was on my roster. Certainly, the kids being identified were bright. Yet, so were many of the other kids who didn’t have the GT label next to their names. Ironically, in the state’s struggle to identify each student as unique, a list of acronyms labelled nearly every student in my class. To name a few: IEP, DP, ELL, LD, and now, GT. I questioned: What makes these identified children more “gifted” and “talented” than the rest? Aren’t all children gifted and talented in different ways? After teaching for over ten years and having two children, I often found labels to be damning.  The stigma of the GT label had certainly been damning to my own self worth as a child. Since Jim Delisle was in town, I hoped he could help me understand what it meant to be gifted.

Deconstructing the Gifted and Talented Stigma

Giftedness Redefined

During his presentation, Delisle quickly and plainly deconstructed my ideas of “GT” that I had based off the shameful IQ test. He stated, in a single word, a salient descriptor of gifted and talented children: INTENSITY. He continued, “…intensity of thought, intensity of purpose, intensity of emotion, intensity of spirit and soul.” Chills ran up my spine as I again remembered my childhood. To avoid school, I had spent hours reading novels in my closet about the hardships of others. I had always felt emotionally and physically compelled to encompass the pain of others. As soon as I graduated from college,  I threw myself into the fray of third-world suffering. My friends and family often laughed at my escapades and called me “crazy.”

Quickly, my mind jumped to my five year old daughter, Eliza, and her insatiable sensitivity. My husband and I are constantly telling her to “lighten up” and to “stop being so sensitive”- both equally debilitating expressions for a gifted and talented child. Like the years of insomnia I had experienced, Eliza was also having trouble shutting her mind off at night. In an attempt to quiet her exasperating questions, Brian and I leave her room at night with stacks of books and art supplies.  She is such a perfectionist. She is so intense. People tell me I am intense too. Could that mean, despite my poor IQ score, that we are gifted?

Gifted and Talented Children at Risk

Because of the emotional sensitivity and intensity that gifted and talented kids experience, they are often at risk of feeling isolated by their peers. These particular students tend to gravitate towards adults since their perspectives are more relatable. Often GT kids feel a necessity to “dumb down” their  ideas and vocabulary in hopes of being understood and to not appear bizarre. Inumerous questions by GT children makes them appear demanding or annoying rather than curious. All of these characteristics often lead to alienation, which can be socially and emotionally damaging.

There is a misconception that the classroom is a refuge of enlightenment for these kids (maybe it was for Socrates). However, it’s often quite the opposite. The rote tasks of school become burdensome and boring. Many gifted students have trouble finding an engaging niche at school. Sadly, if social and emotional learning is not implemented during formative educational years, these students feel lost and end up dropping out of school.

Gifted and Talented Resources and Support

We all want our children to prosper and aspire. Whether gifted or not, we understand our children have some challenging years of development ahead of them. Thankfully, there are a myriad of resources available to enrich academic development while supporting emotional growth. It’s essential to allow kids to explore their passions, to allow them to foster their greatest strengths- allow their intensity to shine.

Resources:

  • A Nation Deceived – The Templeton National Report on Acceleration

    • Contains research and data regarding the effects of accelerated learning for GT students. Presents a variety of options for acceleration that go beyond early entrance to college and how to successfully implement accelerated learning.

  • Davidson Institute supports and nurtures GT development and provides tons of GT opportunities

  • Bring on the learning revolution!

    • A TED talk given by Sir Ken Robinson who challenges the way we view education and the variable ways in which we should define intelligence

  • Imagine is an excellent magazine published by John Hopkins, a highly academic read that’s great for teenagers, parents, and teachers. It also provides tons of advertising for programs

Gifted and Talented Enrichment opportunities:

  • Calling All Hackers– providing innovative ways to introduce computers and robotics

  • The Young Storymakers– engaging young writers in the development of voice and prose through sensibility

  • Social and Emotional Learning – using mindfulness techniques to help gifted and talented students bridge the gap often associated with gifted and talented students

  • To the Atom and Beyond – introducing to STEM using hands-on activities and experiments and inquiry-based thinking. Topics range from applications of chemistry in food science to pyrotechnics, to a discussion about space-time travel.

  • National enrichment camps

    • Resources provided by the National Association for Gifted Children

Local contacts:

  • SAGE (Summit Advocates for Gifted Education) – Summit County

  • GET (Gifted Education Team) – Eagle County