Why the Recent “Gifted Doesn’t Matter” Article Did Not Make Me Mad

If we haven’t met, let me introduce myself.  I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in providing mental health therapy and support to gifted kids, adults, and families.  I am a board member on the Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted, the statewide agency that advocates for awareness and support for gifted and talented (GT) individuals.  I present at healthcare, educator, counselor, and mental health conferences about the unique needs of GT individuals.  I write about GT needs on thefringybit.com.  I talk about GT needs on The Fringy Bit podcast.  I parent GT kids.  I was pulled out of mainstream classes for GT programming.  If anyone would have been offended or angered by the recent (2016) HuffPost (& now Scary Mommy & the countless other similar articles that pop up every so often) article entitled, “Maybe My Child is Gifted.  Maybe Not.  Maybe It Doesn’t Matter,” you’d think it’d be me.  But I’m not.  I’m not mad.

I’m sad.

I’m sad because the misconception of giftedness is so rampant.  I’m sad because giftedness continues to be thought of only in terms of education and intellect, when in truth, it has very little to do with education.  It has to do with living and experiencing life more intensely.  It has to do with being wired differently.  Which, trust me, has some great benefits and some great disadvantages. 

I’m sad because studies have shown that gifted individuals, when their needs are being met, are no more or less susceptible to mental health issues (with the exception of existential depression).  And yet, when practicing as a therapist at general community health facilities, I estimate that, even though gifted individuals make up 2% of the population, at least 30% of the individuals I worked with would be classified as gifted. 

I’m sad because I have personally seen the transformation out of depression and debilitating anxiety, simply when I normalize a gifted person’s experiences.  Multiple clients have told me that truly understanding what giftedness means was the cornerstone out of the depths of despair and toward healing wellness.

I’m sad because the misconception of giftedness affects our whole society, not just the kids who enter my office and tell me they’re certain they are an alien from another planet because they are just so very different from everyone else.  Some of our most creative, thoughtful, innovative, bright thinkers are getting lost to the misunderstandings.  They are being invalidated.  They are being bullied.  They are being made to feel like their differences are bad.  They are being silenced.  Imagine what our world could be like if we provided a nurturing and strong scaffold for these minds to grow and build upon!

I’m sad because the misconception of giftedness is dangerous.  It is dangerous for the lives of these individuals, but even bigger than that, it is dangerous for our society.  We are creating a world in which bright, creative minds are being devalued.  We are creating a world in which sensitive, intensely imaginative and empathetic kids are being chastised and put down simply for being who they are wired to be.  This creates despair and it creates rage.  A disproportionate percentage of school shooters from Columbine to the early 2000's have been identified as gifted (see also Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children and Adults, p 65).  Does that mean that most GT students are violent?  Absolutely not.  It means that when needs aren’t being met, people can get desperate and can take extreme measures.  And when desperate people also have efficient and creative brainpower, the desperation can turn devastating.

I’m sad because I’ve had parents cry from relief when I’ve validated that parenting these gifted kids is really hard.  These kids are intense, which makes parenting them intense.  But parents aren’t informed of this and so they internalize and believe they are failing as parents, because everyone else makes it look so much easier. 

I’m sad because I live in a world where we can freely discuss and promote the giftedness of an athlete, even find it inspiring, but the giftedness of a mind is put down, shunned, and mocked.

I’m sad because thousands of gifted kids and adults are being misdiagnosed and incorrectly medicated, directly because giftedness is misunderstood.

I’m sad because the term giftedness continues to be falsely linked with a presumption of success.  Ask any parent of a gifted kid, and I bet they’d tell you that at some point (or maybe many points) they’ve kinda wished their child wasn’t gifted.  It would make success more attainable.  It would make their child’s life less of a struggle.  It would alleviate the intensity of their child’s pain and heartache.

So, no.  Despite being a staunch advocate for gifted children, youth, and adults, I’m not mad.  I’m sad.