Essence of Giftedness: A Struggle for Survival

Whether life will continue on this world now depends on us
And whether we survive, and preserve a life worth living,
depends on the kind of selves we are able to create,
and on the social forms that we succeed in building.
(Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

I have recently finished reading The “I” of the Beholder: A Guided Journey to the Essence of a Child, by the visionary Annemarie Roeper. This book resonated with me on many levels. In essence, it sparkles with gems about the mystery of life and the very nature of identity creation. It is a book that I will hold dear to my heart and revisit frequently.

Annemarie Roeper provides exquisite insightful into a central task for all humans, that of “carving out a place that is known, a place that we can manage, a place that is safe, a place that allows us to grow our unique selves.” She defines this as our struggle for psychic survival. Our gifted children face this on a daily basis in every aspect of their lives and in all environments. Not everyone appreciates the complexity of raising a gifted child or indeed of living as a gifted adult. How do we go about heeding our children’s call to make them visible? How do we create safe spaces in which they can function holistically with giftedness fully integrated into their beings? It seems that most of gifted our children have a safe space at home yet struggle to find it when they engage in formal education. 

Joy Lawson Davis, inspirational keynote speaker at the recent SENG conference, raised the question, “Why after the many decades of gifted advocacy has our field made such relatively small steps? I had been asking myself the very same question. Why don’t we have equity with special needs provisions and accommodations that are more or less embedded in our schools?  Our gifted children are largely unacknowledged in many school systems. Their delayed development counterparts are often given priority.  While society sees this as ‘social justice’ I perceive a certain inequity in this approach. Children with learning disabilities are indeed entitled to the support they receive, but surely so too are our children who are developmentally advanced. In addition, our 2e children face a seemingly greater battle as they tend to receive support for their areas of weakness but are not encouraged, or have relatively little time and energy invested into their areas of strength. Many of these children are simply invisible in the system.

It is time to make our gifted children visible.  It is time, I believe, to overturn the insidious one-size-fits-all “inclusive education” policy which although ideologically sound, fails to meet the needs of those for whom it was intended. Dr Joy Lawson Davis spoke about the barriers or the facilitators of life as a gifted student and urged us to search for those within schools who can and will facilitate opportunities for our gifted children. She has urged parents to take up the challenge with renewed vigor to drive the change that is long overdue. It seems that perhaps our attempts to engage politicians and school administrators has been largely unsuccessful, it is the parents to whom we must now appeal.

In preparation for “The International Year of Giftedness and Creativity 2013” I am taking on board Dr Joy Lawson Davis’challenge and will work towards raising and increasing awareness of parents about the power they have to bring about equitable opportunities for gifted in our schools. Our newly formed parent support groups are intended to provide a safe space for our parents to connect with others, a place where they can hopefully realise that they are not alone. I am hoping that apart from the social, emotional and intellectual benefits of the groups they will also serve to build the groundswell of a parent body that will act as a catalyst for change so that we can “carve out a place that is known, a place that we can manage, a place that is safe, a place that allows us to grow our unique selves.” Our gifted children deserve this at the very least. Let’s help our gifted to soar!

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By giftedsue

9 comments on “Essence of Giftedness: A Struggle for Survival

  1. yes! power comes from the people who are willing to get out there and make noise! i use every opportunity, every link and article, to send to my public school principal who failed my son. this guy is open-minded and wants to do better and so i provide him with guidance into our world, a world that was unclear to me until my son failed out of public school as a fresh kindergartener who shriveled under the misunderstanding, misguidedness and maladaptive practices that his school demonstrated to us and to him out of ignorance.

    • I love your comment that you are providing the principal with “guidance into our world”. Keep up the excellent advocacy and share your experience- what worked and what didn’t. Other parents need strategies/signposts to help them on their journey, particularly in negotiations with the school. Many simply avoid it because they are unsure of how to go about it.

  2. Pingback: Essence of Giftedness: A Struggle for Survival | High Ability |

  3. The “i” of the Beholder is one of my favorite books to bring me back to what is essential when I feel things slipping away. Sue, what a gift you are giving to parents and children by helping them to know that there is another way to approach giftedness, that they can create that safe space that is so necessary. This is a lovely post. Thank you.

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  5. Sue, I LOVE The I of the Beholder, I have read and reread it. Wouldn’t it be great to see the parent groups that are popping up around the country (and world no doubt) gaining momentum and joining hands to really be an agent for change. I firmly believe that the parents themselves need that place before it can happen for the children, although sometimes you have to go in the back door, providing a way for the children to get together, which brings the parents together. Along the way they find teachers and individuals who are open minded, willing to take another step. It feels like the ripples have been moving soooo slowly, but fingers crossed things are speeding up. Social media is a wonderful way to break down the isolation and distance for parents, to let them support each other, and gain the confidence to get things happening. I am sure your post will provide parents with the confidence that they CAN make a difference.

    • Thank you Derrin for your very encouraging response. It is a continual search for “teachers and individuals who are open-minded and willing to take another step.” It is in keeping the heart and eyes open so that we recognise that glimmer of openness and empathy for our gifted children that we may be able to make a difference to lives. I keep looking for that secret door -sometimes the backdoor proves too rusty from lack of use.

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