Thursday, May 1, 2014

Gifted is Not Elitist

I don't throw the G word around in public freely. We parents understand that though it, too, is a unique need it doesn't compare to what mainstream society thinks of as a special need. Special needs garner sympathy and regional support but gifted gets neglected and will always elicit envy amongst those that don't live with it daily.  My children's energy is demonstrative.  We don't need to label their intensities out in the world as it is generally apparent to anyone who is around them for more than five minutes. Their giftedness is palpable.  

It would be wonderful if everyone understood the nature of giftedness and the support required to help gifted children develop optimally, but sadly that is not the current situation. In addition to high intellect comes a variety of perplexing behaviors that often get pathologized when necessary accommodations are not in place. Gifted children are quite different in how they navigate the world and we use the term to identify a set of characteristics that one can expect to experience with gifted children. The label is there like any other descriptive label, it is just that this label seems to offend the "normal" population.

Gifted is a loaded term because it connotes a gift, a privilege, a blessing, something fortunate and through the lens of the envious, but uninformed, it means better than and elitist. These are the myths. The myth that gifted is all a positive benefit with no challenge. Gifted kids are wonderfully awesome but they are also incredibly challenging and, in my case, our whole family dynamic is different because of it. I wouldn't change our life for anything but it is far from envious if you enjoy a "normal" life.  My child will never experience anything that resembles normal life which, of course, we don't care about now; however, it makes absolutely everything different.  Many neurotypical parents with nuerotypical kids think that parents of gifted children have hit the genetic lottery with our kids; however, we know what goes hand in hand with exceptional intelligence. The extremely sensitive, overly emotional, psychomotor energy mixed with the highly creative and intellectual mind makes for brilliant chaos. I embrace it. I have a feeling most neurotypical parents would have a hard time spending one day with my children.  They don't just go with the flow and follow along with the group.  The argumentative know it all character wears thin for mere mortals.  So, while we could certainly call gifted something new like emotionally intense, intuitively sensitive, radically accelerated, high ability, or unique needs we would still be using a term to describe kids with superior intellect.  Uninformed people are threatened by what they believe that it means without understanding the full picture of overexcitabilities, asynchronicity, social differences and non conformity as the underlying attributes that go hand in hand with high intelligence.

You can call it whatever you want but it doesn't change what gifted is and what gifted isn't.  Gifted is a neurological condition that permeates cultural, ethnic and socio-economic boundaries and has nothing to do with privilege or elitism.  

Those of us in the gifted world understand exactly what gifted means. We are here to support and educate gifted families on this unique and complex path. We know that giftedness and high achievement often are not always synonymous. We appreciate that giftedness is not a guarantee that one will have success in life.  We are aware that gifted children feel different from others and that may impact social opportunities.  We research and support gifted children with dual or multiple exceptionalities and how best to serve them.  We empathize with their depth of consciousness and acute sensitivities.  We embrace their alternative views about the world and help foster positive self-concept and promote authenticity.  We are cognizant that many gifted children have a deep emotional range that requires healthy, loving support.  We realize that one size fits all thinking will never apply to gifted children. We accept that being gifted is a lifelong journey of self-discovery. We understand that gifted is neuroatypical wiring.  

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This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”).  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at 


  1. I appreciate this article. I was a gifted child (and adult I suppose) and I "let my parents down" because they expected so much from me. I was an emotional basket case, was put on medication and in therapy at 14, and it took many years to get a handle on myself. Now, as an adult, I have opted to be a homemaker and mother rather than a scientist or doctor as my parents had always dreamed. My daughter is also gifted, though very young still, and hopefully my experiences have left me more than prepared to take on what's to come!

  2. Hi. I stumbled on this blog and are identifying right away. You must be a gifted adult too. I have 3 of the chaotic brilliance you talk about, a brothe who studied medicine and got depressed afterwards so he isnt practicing, a mother who speaks in parables and was never understood by her siblings- you could call it a generational string of chaotic bliss. I wound up a teacher though when I speak I get people confuse me with a lawyer or some Dr, I enjoy it but not for long. Dealing with giftedness can be awkward to say the least. When your 8 yr old asks you quantum physics in the middle of the mall and you have people staring at you like you are some serious show off! Am learning to survive it all gracefully though

  3. The world is full of jealousy anymore. People simply can't just be happy for others, be it regarding intelligence or good grades or being successful, no; they want to bring everyone to the same level, to fit everyone into the same "box" and life just isn't like that.

  4. Read this, maybe you have gifted child in home