Mary Budde, WATG Treasurer and Board Member
As parents, we fully throw ourselves into the most important role we will ever have--raising our children through the years, teaching social skills, nurturing emotional needs and promoting educational growth. For those of us in the GT world, the constant quest for appropriate educational challenges is something which has, at times, consumed us. We feel the struggles of our children, and celebrate their successes along the way. We advocate for them, and we ultimately teach them to advocate for themselves, so that they are prepared to embark on adulthood.
Sounds like I’ve had it under control, right?
Not entirely. As much as I thought I was prepared for dropping off our son at college five hours from home, I was less than calm in the days leading up to it. I was sure I had forgotten a whole bunch of things that at some point I had thought he had to take along. There must be some form we forgot to complete. We didn’t test the refrigerator to see if it worked before packing it. And on and on and on …
I did manage, though, to keep most of that turmoil inside by focusing on staying present. I didn’t want to add to anyone else’s stress, especially our son’s, nor did I want to miss any moments before he left. For his part, he was, at least outwardly, confident and ready to attend a college all of us thought was a perfect fit for him. So, we packed up the van and headed out on Moving Day.
And you know what? We were all fine. We didn’t forget anything critical. He has found the local stores, in addition to Amazon, for the few things he needed that he didn’t have. He enjoyed the first month of school even more than he hoped he would and is thriving on the academic work. He and his roommate (whom he first met in person on Moving Day) get along. He has the beginnings of lots of new friendships. It won’t all be idyllic, but a good start is worth a lot.
Above all else, we want our children to be happy in every aspect of their lives; sometimes that means we have to let them experience on their own and risk less-than-great situations. We have to trust that while we may not have done it perfectly, we did our best to prepare them for whatever the next stage of life brings.
I can’t wait to have him home at Thanksgiving. After all, I am still his mom.
Did you know that the plural form of octopus is octopodes? Yup, octopodes. (pron. ok-TOP-uh-deez) Who knows this stuff? Better question, why do I know this stuff?!? I’m not a marine biologist (though I do have goldfish) or some kind of grammarian. Nope, none of that. I learned this from my then-11-year-old daughter when I (incorrectly) used the term octopi.
Apparently you can’t put a Latin suffix on a Greek root. Sigh. I took a vacation to Washington DC with my daughter when she was going through an architecture phase. Specifically, an architectural columns phase. That was a long trip. I have to say, I never dreamed that there could be so many columns of so many styles in one city and I swear that every single one of them was pointed out to me and explained in detail!
I am a mom of gifted kids. And as a gifted kids’ mom I am privy to all kinds of random knowledge and facts. This is just everyday life for us.
So where am I going with this and why do you care? Well, because over the years I have heard many parents share how much they have learned from their children about parenting, themselves, and the world around them. How blessed are we that we get to learn all of that AND the random trivia! Add to that a side of intensity and a dash of asynchronous development and now we’re really having fun! It can feel lonely here in the trenches of gifted parenting. That is why I am so excited about WATG’s upcoming conference. With parent sessions where we can connect, support, and laugh with one another, I walk away feeling refreshed and not so alone in this adventure we call parenting. Come and join us for a day or two! I truly hope to see you there! -And I promise not to point out the columns or correct your grammar.
WATG Board Member
While the official title of the SENG, 2019 conference was "Exploring New Frontiers," a more apt title could have been "Gifted: Equity, Quality, and Life." The constant themes of the presentations centered on the fact that giftedness exists and talented people need services, equity includes giftedness, and giftedness does not end at grade 12. Attending the keynotes and various workshops each day, strengthened the resolve to continue advocating for this diverse population.
The conference began with the keynote, "On A Mission to Advocate for Underserved Gifted Students." Dr. Esquierdo spoke about the importance of building the assets and challenging misconceptions since "gifted children exist in countries that don't speak English." It is crucial, to begin with, an understanding of heritage and what the student brings into the classroom. She pointed out that we, parents, educators, and advocates, must understand that children know their abilities; it is up to us to teach who they are now and push them to become their best selves.
Equity encompasses all children, including those with exceptional giftedness. More than an IQ score, the critical issue that differentiates moderate, high, and profoundly gifted centers around the discrepancy between mental and chronological age. Dr. Kane observed that while profound giftedness is a statistical rarity in the population, affecting all aspects of the individual's development, it is becoming more common. Significant challenges faced by these children include lack of peers, placing a lot of "stock" into their giftedness, and not knowing what to do when something gets hard. Strategies to help profoundly gifted children include finding mentors, acknowledge their worries, and help them develop a sense of agency, promote both/and vs. either/or thinking.
The development of an asset model approach to the identification requires building innate student abilities. I presented research on the importance of art education for underrepresented gifted and talented youth. The science of poverty is shocking; empirical research confirms that poverty adversely affects the cognitive abilities of all people, severely impacts children's brain development, and creates adverse health outcomes. Along with these sobering findings, research confirmed that art education supports students from Low-Economic Status and minority enclave communities. Providing the arts does more than offer a special treat for children; it helps build fine motor skills, perseverance, and abstract thinking.
Equity extends to the social-emotional needs of gifted populations. Mr. Hess stated that asking gifted children to "act normal' is highly insensitive; they are "acting normal." Normal, after all, is a highly subjective word. Dr. Gato-Walden explained that the higher a person's level of giftedness, the higher their worry meter. One reason for this problem? Gifted, 2e and Highly Gifted people tend to live in their heads and being smart, they have a hard time letting go of their beliefs. Co-presenters Ms. Harlow and Mr. Hunt explained that anxiety and giftedness are related characteristics. Helping children grow into their cognitive and problem-solving includes strategies such as realistic goal setting, participating in real-life problem-solving activities, and providing parameters for them to follow both in the home and at school.
Twice-exceptional (2e) children are diverse, and many mask their exceptionality because their giftedness compensates for the needs. Dr. Sanguras shared research confirming that the development of grit influences performance, self-discipline, life satisfaction, and happiness, all traits that impact life long-term. Dr. and Mrs. Postma focused on the challenges faced by 2e kids and the importance of building system capacity to serve these students. Ms. Brown shared that misidentification leads to frustrations in life-long success. As advocates, parents, and educators, it is essential for us to understand our children, to identify early, and develop safe zones for them to be themselves.
Raising and advocating for gifted children requires acceptance of who we are. Ms. Merrill, the second keynote speaker, focused on the importance of developing an adult superpower toolkit. She explained that parents of GT kids never know where this ride will take them, or what others, well-meaning and otherwise, will throw at them. Strategies that help parents include recognizing the infinite patience and constant vigilance it takes to deal with the overexcitabilities of their children. She recommended fostering radical self-forgiveness and perspective; parents (educators and advocates) do the best they can with the information they have in front of them at that time.