It is often the case that as we go through life, we lose track of people who were once very important to us. People such as a childhood friend, our friend groups in middle school and high school, college buddies, adult friends, and others. Sometimes losing track of these friends leaves one wondering about a particular person for many years. Now, with the wide use of social media, it may be easier than ever to find long lost friends and rekindle friendships, but that is not always the case.
While speaking with a friend, I recently learned of the life path of several children with whom I worked who are now adults. Now grown, they graduated high school and college, and entered the workforce and adult life. These children were important to each other as friends as they maneuvered life in the community together. They were in some of the same community activities: youth sports, county fair, church, scouts, and library activities, to name a few. While they did not attend the same schools, they saw each other often at activities outside of school.
A few of the children who were not readily accepted by the whole group were gifted children who stuck together during these activities. Most of them were either not identified as being gifted, or were misidentified as needing special education services. It was interesting to learn of the lifepath some of the children have taken. Most of the larger group either found a job or joined the military reserve after high school, remained near their home town, and are still pursuing those endeavors today. A few went to college and returned home to find a job, most outside of their major area of study. The gifted youth, who were not accepted by the larger group growing up and thought to be a bit odd, all went on to college across the country and pursued STEM study, graduated from or are in graduate school now, and have careers with major companies where they are thriving working in complex high-level fields. These were the children and youth who did not fit in, who most adults and children in the community and school thought were rather slow and were not going to amount to much.
I am not judging any person’s path to adulthood nor their effort to work and make a life for themselves and their family. All of us generally do the best we can. What strikes me, however, about learning about these gifted children who are now adults, is the striking difference in their path compared to their peers. What also strikes me is that even though most people, kids and adults alike, thought these gifted children and youth would never amount to anything because they didn’t fit in; clearly they were wrong. It is another example of gifted children and youth being misunderstood, underestimated, misdiagnosed, and yet overcoming how everyone else treated them to go on and follow their interests and their own path. They persisted and persevered because their innate giftedness would allow nothing less.
My message for us is to remember that each person has value, and children and youth who don’t fit in should not be judged or underestimated. They could have gifted abilities that preconceived judgments miss. Each child and youth should be given opportunities to thrive, especially those who others may think are not gifted.
Ask the Doctor