I love talking with my tribe, the people who get it, the ones who can commiserate and for whom I don’t need to explain what 2e means or that gifted people buzz with intensity. And while it’s important to support each other, it also isn’t what’s going to change the world into a more gt-friendly sphere.
To effect change we need to simultaneously be present for one another and boldly go where no discussion of gt needs has gone before.
The desire to stop preaching to the choir and get out on the streets for outreach prompted me to exhibit and speak at the recent national conference for School Social Workers. True to the heart and soul of my fellow social workers, they frequented the exhibit hall, eager for new resources to bring back to their students. And most were receptive to the message that gifted students had unique needs and vulnerabilities. But there were a few . . .
I watched as several professionals stopped at every single booth, glanced at our signage, saw the word “gifted”, avoided eye contact, and scuttled away before I could start talking to them.
I had one woman graciously listen to my elevator advocacy pitch only to say with a laugh, “Oh we don’t have any of those kids at my school.” I attempted to help her see outside the box of what she thought gifted was, but she laughed again, said, “no really. We don’t,” and walked away.
But the kicker was the woman who listened to me describe giftedness as a neurodiversity, explain the vulnerabilities, discuss the unique socio-emotional needs of this population and then say, “I get what you’re saying, but I don’t get paid to work with those kids,” and turn away without even a hope of a chance to rebut her assertion. Not that I could have pulled myself out of my shocked state quickly enough to have an eloquent, persuasive rebuttal anyway. In truth, I didn’t even fully comprehend her response.
According to the School Social Workers Association of America (the very organization that was hosting the conference), school social workers provide a direct link between schools, home, and community, provide direct services to students and families, crisis intervention, community resource referrals. And why don’t gifted kids fall into the population school social workers get paid to work with?
This one professional’s comment proves the extreme lack of understanding of who are gifted people in our country. It was hard not to read through the spaces of her comment and presume she hears “gifted” and she thinks privileged, white kids who have all the resources they need. Shockingly (I say with sarcasm dripping from my fingertips), students of all socio-economic backgrounds can be highly intelligent. There are plenty of poor white kids, rich black kids, non-english speaking Asian kids, and rural, migrant Latino kids with intensities and IQ’s above 130.
Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say she wasn’t speaking through the socio-economic lens, but rather through her role as a team member to determine special education services. Her comment still shows ignorance, because there are MANY gifted kids who also struggle with learning differences or require special education services. So long as our school professionals continue to believe that gifted means achievement at school, a vast population of our gifted students will continue to fall through the cracks and not be given the resources they need.
I don’t blame her. Or the professionals who “don’t have those kids in their schools” or the ones who avoided the topic altogether. They simply are reflecting the ignorance and anti-intellectualism so pervasive in our world. They aren’t taught about giftedness in their professional development or graduate school courses. So how could they think any different?
Well, that’s where we all have to come in and advocate. We have to give voice to those gifted kids and adults who don’t fit the stereotypical mold.
We have to get out and talk about giftedness in places where it may feel uncomfortable. We have to explain what we mean when we say “gifted”.
We have to educate our state and federal representatives.
We have to suggest resources to our medical and mental health providers so they can learn more about the traits of giftedness and be less likely to misdiagnosis.
We have to step outside of our mixed up feelings regarding our own giftedness. We have to stop hiding and make ourselves and our kids, our joys and our challenges, visible.
We have to start talking about it to the people who don’t yet know they need to know about giftedness.
We have to support those in our community who are taking the risks and putting their names and their passions out into the world to raise awareness, acceptance, and advocate for change. Like Marc Smolowitz and his team as they are in production of “The G Word” film which explores who gets to be gifted in the 21st century. Like my fellow writers at GHF Learners. Like the parents who tirelessly advocate for their kids.
Our kids and future grandkids need us to speak and support those who are speaking. We need to continuously confront misconceived notions of what giftedness means and to stop excluding them from the resources they so desperately need.