Wading Through the Tide – Advice Needed

Madison has been ‘off’ this week. All of her quirks and sensitivities are in full throttle mode. I have been wracking my brain to figure out why. Life is much harder for everyone when she is like this, so figuring out the triggers is important to me. Not enough sleep? Lack of exercise? And then it hit me…control. Madison has to feel like she has some choices in her day. She has to feel empowered. See most gifted kids are introverts. Mine is a 100% extrovert who wants to be in control of her own destiny. She is in a camp this week from 9am-3:30. A cool camp. But apparently one that she doesn’t have the opportunity to make choices in. We had the same problem when she was in school. The same behaviors. Everything is heightened. Even down to the sensitivity to her socks. Socks are a HUGE issue for her. I am hoping by targeting her issues I can help her. I’m just not sure how. Does anyone have any advice? I need to figure out how to help her when she is in controlled environments where she doesn’t have choices and feels powerless. It is a huge problem for her. One I don’t think she’ll overcome with a ‘talk.’ 

Why is Advocating for my Gifted Child Important?

I remember seeing a tweet on Twitter from a gifted adult and she said, ‘I wish my parents hadn’t asked me why I couldn’t just be normal’ repeatedly as I grew up. This tweet hit home, because Madison wasn’t even 4 years old yet, and I had already said that more times than I could count. From that day forward I never said it again. I will however catch myself once and awhile asking her why she’s so frustrating, which is basically the same thing, so I need to watch that!

When most people find out their child is gifted they are so happy! Their child is smart and it is ‘cool’ to be gifted. When you look up  the definition of being gifted, here’s what you usually see:

Giftedness Defined by NSGT

That sounds cool! Yay!

But giftedness isn’t just those things. All gifted children are unique. Gifted traits tend to intensify as children grow older. Most don’t qualify until 3rd grade, especially boys. Many are missed because of misdiagnoses by the teachers.

The Hoagies Gifted Education Site provides Characteristics that are realistic:

Characteristics of the Gifted Child

When I found out Madison was officially gifted, the first thing I did was rejoice. To me it meant she wasn’t crazy. She wasn’t a horrible problem child and I was not an awful parent. And now I could tell the world. (And her teachers that questioned why she was the way she was). What I didn’t realize, is how many wouldn’t listen, care or understand and would view her in the same way. And that breaks my heart. It was my first reality check that she was going to have a much harder time in life because of who she is.

I also started to realize through research that there are different levels of giftedness. Some are just gifted in one area. And if you are blessed to have a child that is gifted in all areas, then they tend to have more quirks and sensitivities. So that explained why Madison had issues when others didn’t. That’s when I realized how much of an uphill battle we were in for.

So why is it important for me to advocate for my daughter?

Foremost because she thinks differently. I always have to ask her why and allow her the opportunity to explain before jumping to conclusions and assuming what looks like the obvious explanation. For example: When Madison started First Grade she told me they found a lizard inside and her teacher told the students she was pretty sure it was dead. Madison lifted her shoe over the lizard and the teacher screamed ‘No!’ Apparently just like anyone, the teacher assumed Madison was planning on stomping on the lizard. When Madison came home from school and told me this, my first reaction was to ask her why. She proceeded to tell me that she put her foot over it because if it was alive, it would run away. She then said, I think my teacher thought I was trying to kill it because she screamed ‘No!’ and by the way Madison described the situation, she was horrified her teacher could even have that thought. Madison just thinks differently and can explain it, but it’s not always how everyone else sees it and so she does a lot of explaining regarding her thought process. If someone doesn’t realize she’s gifted then from the outside looking in it would appear that she is spoiled and not disciplined.

One advantage I have is that many do not realize she will recount conversations and situations word for word back to me on her own. 😉 Then we have the opportunity to talk through them. I have yet to come across a situation or conversation that she has relayed inaccurately. I am very grateful for this because Madison is too honest to a fault. She knows when she is acting immature or has done something wrong and will still tell me all about it. This gives us the opportunity to discuss how she can handle situations in a positive manner in the future.

It is also important for anyone who teaches her as well to understand her.

Here is an excellent article that explains so much and is necessary to read to understand my upcoming posts. It’s also an excellent article for anyone with gifted children or who teach children in general.

Gifted 101

The section titled Strengths and Problems of Gifted Children nails it. Madison’s strengths are mostly seen as problems and this is where she is very misunderstood. And she is looked down upon for that, but when in reality she’s an awesome little girl with adult level thinking, the tact of a 4 year old, leadership qualities that are taken as being bossy and who is extremely strong willed.This is where it is our job as parents to advocate for her by #1 not making her feel bad for who she is, but embrace and love her for her unique qualities and #2 explain to others so hopefully they understand.

The hardest part is explaining it to her. While she understands logically, she is very sensitive and it is hard to handle when people or other children are purposely mean. A couple of weeks ago she had a teacher who said, ‘Madison, you are the worst rememberer.’ This was after she humiliated her in front of a bunch of people by announcing a mistake Madison had made. Madison waited until she got into the car to cry.

Madison asked me, ‘Mom, why do people try to joke around and be funny by saying mean things to others and putting them down? They do it a lot.’ I didn’t have an answer for my 7 year old who’s eyes were filled with tears.

She has been accused of cheating at games because she ‘won’ too quickly, has been yelled at because when she is criticized without any positive reinforcement she shuts down and will completely ignore whoever is upsetting her to protect herself. Most kids wouldn’t be affected. Most could blow it off. That’s the double edge sword of giftedness that won’t be achieved by telling her to ‘get thicker skin’ or ‘to get over it’. It’s who she is for life and by doing those things I essentially would be telling her that something is very wrong with her for who she is. And she has now learned that you can’t change people. You can only control your own reactions and surround yourself by those who understand and care. A tough lesson for a young child to have to learn. It’s not easy and learning coping strategies has been one of our number one goals this year for both of us. 😉

I love my daughter more than anything because of who she is. Her characteristics and quirks are the core of her being. Once she is able to use them in a positive manner she will soar! I will never ‘squash’ her and try to make her someone she isn’t because her characteristics and traits are wonderful if understood and are what make her Madison. 🙂 So be proud of your Gifted child! Love and embrace their strengths and help them work through their problems with patience and understanding. All types of Gifted children are unique and wonderful!
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Summary of Our Gifted Journey

I’ve always noticed Madison was different, I just didn’t know why. Madison was born within an hour of my water breaking, I didn’t have time for drugs or for the doctor to show up. She had trouble transitioning and was put in the NICU for 10 days where she had Brady Cardiac arrests frequently. When she was born the nurses warned me that she would always be headstrong. I laughed. I was obviously completely clueless. The joke was definitely on me!

Madison continued to be a very difficult baby. She didn’t sleep for more than 15 – 20 min for daily naps. She screamed constantly. I could not take her out of the house. There would be times I didn’t leave the house for weeks. She was very strong willed. And exhausting.
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I noticed she met all of her milestones very, very early. It became extremely apparent between 12-18 months. I knew she was gifted but the rest of my family didn’t, so I decided to put her in Kindergarten without saying anything and to wait and see what her teachers/school thought. She tried to do her best to fit in, but she didn’t really and was coined as a behavior problem. I was lucky that her teacher was a Love and Logic teacher, so she helped Madison get through Kindergarten with positive reinforcement. She tested well in the Kinder GT test and showed many signs of giftedness so she was put on the ‘list’ to be tested for the GT at program in 1st, which is when they test for the program. And then came First Grade, aka Hell.

Madison and her teacher butted heads right from the start. So I set up a meeting and explained she was gifted and her characteristics and quirks. I immediately requested testing from the Gifted teacher at school. Madison was tested and only missed 3 questions on her COGAT test. I provided the documentation to her teacher to help her modify her teaching style, but it didn’t matter. The class was a dictatorship classroom and the problems got worse. Her GT teacher offered an after school enrichment class on her own time since GT pull out classes had been eliminated by the district. It helped Madison a lot, but not enough to prevent her from begging for me to Home School her. She hated school and dreaded it. I did some MAJOR research. I couldn’t figure out why MY child was having so many issues. Well, come to find out, there’s different types/levels of giftedness. And excitabilities. And all sorts of gifted quirks. Geeze.

So I set up another meeting with her teacher to discuss differentiation for Madison. That meeting absolutely tanked and she said some pretty horrible things about my child. I met with the administration wilth no avail.  I almost pulled her at that moment. The only reason I didn’t, was because an amazing thing happened…she got a Student Teacher. I’m not kidding, for Madison, it was a gift from God. Someone who made the world of difference in her life and was the reason she finished First Grade in the public school. I cannot even begin to tell you what a difference she made in my daughter’s life. In the meantime, I submitted Madison’s test results and she joined Mensa at the age of 6. I joined so we could find support. One of the best things I ever did!

I found a Psychologist that specialized in Giftedness. Our insurance didn’t cover her, but I didn’t care. I wanted to find out if my daughter was the problem or the public school system, and since she topped out of the COGAT test, I felt had to do more in-depth testing for answers. Dr. Lusby (who is very professional and I HIGHLY recommend) did a History Questionnaire and Parent Interview session to discuss what test would be best suited for Madison and to discuss why I wanted her tested. Then she administered the WISC-IV.  She did a complete write up on the results of the test and her behavioral observations of Madison and met with us to explain them.

I was so relieved because she saw the same child I know. It basically contradicted everything her teacher had said and documented about her. After seeing the results of the test and that there were no underlying behavior issues or disabilities (which can be masked by giftedness) my husband and I decided to seek out private schools. I loved the test Madison was given because it let us know her Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory, and Processing Speed. When you score highly in all areas, your success in school should be greater, not poorer.

I searched several schools and found the perfect one. We applied and she was accepted, but is 3rd on the wait list. There is one class per grade with 16 students. We were ecstatic, there was now hope!

And then I became very aware of Education Reform. As I saw why I loved the private school so much, I realized sending her back to the public school would put her further behind and God knows, neither of us could handle another day of her crying when she got home because school was so awful. We had too many of those days. That’s when I decided to Home School until a spot opens up at the private school. I am very excited, as so is she. I have researched Giftedness to death. I know now that I will have to advocate for her for the rest of her life. I know I will have to have special people in her life to teach her extra curricular activities and I am SO grateful for the ones we have now that she is successful with. She is not an easy kid. Jeff and I pull our hair out on a daily basis. She is very unique. There is a specific way to motivate her and specific ways that destroy her soul. And unfortunately, most of the way things are taught are the destroyers to her. But once someone sees how to motivate her without crushing her, then she does amazing things and it is so amazing and rewarding.

She has come so far with learning how to deal with her characteristic traits and not ‘loose it’ and I am so proud of her. This is definitely a journey. I have provided my favorite articles I have read recently below. Also the contact information for Dr. Lusby. She is listed on the Hogies Gifted Site as well, but it took me awhile to find a Psychologist that is truly educated on giftedness. I wish pediatricians were as well. It would have saved me from being told Madison had ‘Princess Syndrome’ and that she needed punishment (ex. physically holding her into a corner of a public place for a time-out).

That is why I am writing this blog. Because being a parent of a Gifted child is tough. It’s exhausting and most of the time a very lonely experience. Trying to deny a Gifted child of their characteristics and telling them they should be a certain way is WRONG! Regretting what one thinks they should have done differently isn’t productive and doing what you feel is right as a parent going forward is what matters. As a parent, you are the one that knows your child best!!!

I dedicated my time to figuring out what was ‘wrong’ with my child and I have learned SO much along the way. I am dedicated to helping others learn about giftedness too, because the amount of time it took to figure out what was going on and to find the best path for me to lead my child down was DAUNTING!

More posts to come! And more that are in-depth. 🙂

Dr. Lusby Contact Information and Website

My Child is Gifted: Do You Think I’m Bragging Now?

Why Parents of Gifted Children are Turning to Homeschooling

There are GREAT resources on Twitter by searching the hashtag #gtchat

I LOVE the following pages on Facebook:

Practical Homeschooling

Gifted Homeschoolers Forum

Supporting Gifted Learners