It’s been decades since researchers – and other astute clinicians and educators – realized the social-emotional challenges that gifted kids face. Yet myths about them automatically succeeding in life persist.
I learned this early in my family’s G-word journey. About six weeks after learning that my son is highly gifted (I call them “kite kids”), I saw a social media post that disturbed me. It was by, of all people, the mother of a girl who had committed suicide due to bullying.
I’d started following her that summer because I was becoming more and more concerned about my own child. The bullying and exclusion he was experiencing seemed unfathomable – especially considering how young he was.
If anyone could understand the importance of accepting people for who they are, it was this mom, right? Unfortunately, no. Instead, she used her anti-bullying Facebook page to make a disparaging post about gifted programs.
Ironically, I had reached out to this woman a couple weeks before that to seek her advice for other moms on a mission to stop bullying. I didn’t tell her specifically what my blog was about; simply that I’d just learned why my son had been bullied from ages 5 to 8. And that I was trying to figure out how to channel my frustration in a positive way.
As outspoken as she was in her gifted program post, I can only imagine what she would have said to me if I’d mentioned “the G word” in my message. I didn’t, however, so her response was nice and supportive.
Not surprisingly, several teachers, and other moms with gifted children, were followers of this woman as well. And they’d also seen how often gifted kids are targets for bullies.
However, the anti-bullying mom didn’t think that was possible. She repeatedly downplayed opposing opinions and even deleted one gifted advocate’s comments, even though they weren’t disrespectful in any way. Then a couple hours later, the anti-bullying mom made a follow-up post saying she stood by her previous post. She also allowed other followers to continue ridiculing us.
You know the kind of remarks I’m talking about. That we think our kids are better than theirs. That we place ourselves on pedestals. It didn’t matter how much we disagreed. They weren’t interested.
The truth is, regardless of which end of the I.Q. scale a child is on, he’s more likely to be ostracized than a neurotypical kid. A child with an I.Q. of 135 will seem just as “different” to classmates as a kid with an I.Q. of 65. That’s because their scores are the same distance from 100 (“the norm”) – simply in opposite directions. In addition to atypical learning needs, these outliers act different in general. Neurodiversity doesn’t simply affect one’s ability to learn, it impacts the child socially and emotionally, too. You know, the whole kid.
In a society that, more than ever, claims to not only acknowledge differences, but embrace them, that shouldn’t be such a hard pill to swallow. But, for some reason, it still is…
Focusing on my mission
Women who are that quick to judge students due to how they score on psychological examinations aren’t my tribe; just like the kids who have ridiculed and physically threatened my son aren’t his.
For those of you who want to know who that anti-bullying mom is, or what her nonprofit organization is called, please don’t ask. This post isn’t about publicly shaming her any more than it is about school curriculum. She’s living through an experience no mom should ever have to endure; something that I was truly starting to fear myself just before the school district evaluated my son.
Instead of dwelling on untrue – and hypocritical – remarks, I choose to focus on “my why.” And be thankful I now have the most important piece of information I need to help my child navigate his social challenges.
Love and light to all families who know the pain of bullying.