Giftedness: The Unfunded Warriors
By Emma Kathleen
Ontario is fired up right now about autism (and with good reason)- funding that is both important and beneficial even essential in some cases is being stripped from children on the autism spectrum as the funding goes to other things- the wait lists are getting longer. Therapy sessions and sessions are getting shorter and it seems our kids are getting a “rush job” so the rest of the weight list can also get an underfunded rush job as well, but let’s take a minute and chat about those kids who haven’t gotten any funding and perhaps never will -those who fall on the distant cousin to autism (but perhaps in some cases equally as complicated spectrum) giftedness
I’m not here to discredit the struggles of autism because I can see from the incredible autism warriors in my life that is HARD. I am here to tell you that autism isn’t the only thing underfunded in this province. I’m quite sure you may be thinking now why do the really smart kids need funding?- and that goes simply back to what society has made of giftedness- so sit back grab a coffee or tea and let’s get at this.
What is Giftedness
I wish I could simply define giftedness- but not even the government of Ontario has a proper definition. Merriam- Webster, Oxford, Dictionary.com no one encompasses giftedness in a way that portrays the weight of it.
Our society likes to call giftedness having a high IQ or advanced/ natural talents. Which is a part of it- but not all of it? Giftedness is so misunderstood that I hesitate to let myself wear the label of it- because my IQ may be decent but when it comes to academics I am in no way the cream of the crop, I’m a musician but in no way, I am the best- because giftedness encompasses so many things.
Gifted people can be the dropouts and the ones who struggle the most- but I like to break the definition of giftedness up into a few different areas in the attempts of making it clear.
The “Stereotype” Stuff
Yes, this is the stuff everyone knows about- the ones that people can’t seem to stand at times “the enrichment kids” the ones who get the special field trips simply because of the numbers from a standardized test. This is a part of giftedness, but not every kid with that magic IQ number is truly gifted- because of what comes into play next.
For this one, I need you to imagine a few things in your head. One is a very tall sunflower that never stops growing- they may reach and surpass the sun but not stop growing. This is the brain of a gifted person- their thoughts develop at a rate far quicker than their body. This is that three-year-old who reads novels or the 12-year-old who is 100% certain of their career path. Now imagine a crazy all over the place graph- this is the emotional development of those on the gifted spectrum. One day an 11-year-old may have perfect 11-year-old maturity and emotions and maybe somedays emotions of someone almost twice their age- but other days they bottom out and they are stuck in this 11-year-old body processing thoughts on the average 19-year-old with emotions of your average 7 year old- this is asynchronous development the confusing and sometimes painful reality that those who fall truly and fully on the gifted spectrum live daily.
Those on the gifted spectrum tend to be incredibly emotional. In fact, those who are gifted can feel 6-11 times more deeply and intensely than the average human. This emotional intensity partnered with the deep thinking of Asynchronous Development leads to social troubles everything from not understanding when to laugh at jokes all the way to having no friend making abilities- some days for a gifted child it can feel as if you are living in a completely different world than those who are around you. It can be incredibly complex not to mention the overexcitabilities also known as the “super passions” or “super shutdowns” over random things (such as the people who literally jump around in circles when a song they love comes on)
These are just a few of the intense and complex mix of things that culminate into giftedness- and each one comes with their own set of gifts and fun girls but also with their own set of chaotic realities that overlap over one another making for an internally overwhelming war some days.
Not to mention not every gifted person is the same type of gifted- there are several types or “areas” of giftedness.
The Types Of Giftedness
Of those truly gifted people- who are blessed enough to be labeled by schools/ governments about 90% fall under this type. This is the high achiever, the dreamer, and the strong leader. This doesn’t mean that they don’t also live with the hard emotional end of giftedness- as my peers would say I fall into this type but my closest companions know that the next type I am about to share is also very much me. This is the top athlete or musician who also a pull 90’s in everything- These people learn to cope and can often hold together quite well in public- and are quite driven but they sometimes just crash and hurt. They become the burnt out and have the potential to become other types of gifted due to the pressure and the stress and the emotion of the season.
These are the people who can’t seem to fit in societal boxes- their emotions rage but they are highly creative in ways that aren’t truly acknowledged. This type of gifted person often has problems with peers, teachers, and parents simply because they are misunderstood by everyone around them. Their abilities often are recognized although they are screaming out and are the type of gifted that often possess the lowest self-worth but continually push themselves to try. These are the people who really work the system well.
This one is those who hide their talents- the closest artists who just want to fit in. This is often anxious teenage girls who feel the need to conform themselves to fit in. They try with all of their might to turn off the gifted in them and although their skills can be put away the emotional end can’t. These are the people who fear what others think the most and are the ones who can be found looking up to the popular ones in the group/ crowd.
These are the gifted students who allow their emotions to lead them into angry and destructive places- they have felt rejected by the system and by peers this is the generally depressed group of gifted people- this is often those who do not understand what they are facing and choose not to pursue answers and instead take on an I don’t care mentality. These people may appear to be withdrawn and defensive but deep down inside want to flourish but have been too hurt by society to try.
The double labeled (also known as twice exceptional or 2E)
These are the gifted people who also possess an emotional, physical, or learning disability. These are the people that society generally believes can’t be gifted therefore these people don’t have an outlet. They often also struggle to phrase the intensity within them and have the drive but lack the support to be totally successful. These people may have a very specific niche they are very gifted in but otherwise, aren’t acknowledged for the fullness of being gifted.
The autonomous learner
This is the small percentage of gifted people who don’t really fit the system but their personality and skills make the system work for them. They are loved by parent, peers, and teachers and tend to be very successful. They often have high- self-worth but also often tend to carry an ego. These are the people who are major risk takers as they know that no matter what they will be supported. This is a very small fraction of the gifted but these are the ones who tend to have things “most together”.
Our Broken System
So we have these incredible humans who have so much untapped potential simply because our government doesn’t understand or acknowledge the end of giftedness outside of IQ- gifted people tend to feel hurt, misunderstood and overwhelmed.
Gifted children in Ontario lack diagnoses. I reached the age of 13 before the label of giftedness was presented to me- for 13 years I was misdiagnosed, misunderstood and felt like I would never be known or grasped by a society and even now my only information on giftedness comes from a few Australian therapists/authors and Mommy bloggers of gifted children and youth who are also learning as they go.
It breaks my heart to see people live in misdiagnosis of anxiety, depression, bipolar, BPD, ADHD autism and anger issues among other things as NO child deserves to be told they need to keep their anger in check and to be forced into counseling for issues they do not have with counselors who lack the knowledge of information to diagnose and grasp what these little people are facing.
So why do these specially gifted people need funding?
The lack of social skills- It can take years for gifted people to be able to make friends for themselves no one deserves to live a lonely life.
The emotional intensity they face can be overwhelming and tends to lead to heightened suicide rates among gifted people particularly those who are misunderstood.
2E- those who are twice exceptional deserve not to just be labeled by their disability but also their giftedness.
To turn the disability into the ability it should be- with the right tools today's dropouts can be tomorrow's mechanics, lawyers, engineers, and doctors.
The acknowledgment- for those who have lived years unknown, unnoticed and unacknowledged to those who hearts silently break and who cry over everything but love so deeply it hurts- these people deserve to know what they face is both valid and genuine.
This is just the tip of the reasoning iceberg.
Who does Giftedness Affect?
Being a parent of a gifted child can be EXHAUSTING as one of those peculiar people I know- if I make myself so tired I cannot imagine what my word vomit does to others. The parents of those who cry themselves to sleep literally over spilled milk, the parents of the 6-year-old who only wants to talk about physics and the parents of those who talk a mile or minute or those who refuse to speak and ditch class daily.
These parents are also warriors- they deserve support and help and to know they aren’t alone in this.
I’m sure it is tough to have to teach the kid with all the potential who doesn’t try, or the kid who shouts out every answer because they have nothing else to do.
I have been so blessed in my education journey to find teachers who have bent over backward to accommodate for us confusing children. These teachers who have given me the extra assignments I desired- researched the topics that made me happiest so I could too find joy in learning.
Without educators, gifted children would simply be confused, broken and lonely adults.
Sometimes that gifted kid is the one who ruins the family gathering with a temper tantrum because their food is touching. Families of those who are gifted can often feel as if they are walking on eggshells- or waiting for a ticking time bomb to explode. It can be scary as often those who are gifted do not understand the magnitude of abusing their words and actions can bring. The families take the venting, and the crying but they also get the deepest of love and the biggest smiles. The families know best the heart and soul of giftedness.
The Gifted Ones
These are societies unacknowledged and confused warriors. They are labeled falsely and misunderstood they are the world changers, but also the broken ones I will allow these words I once wrote to sum it all up.
After years of searching, they finally put a word to the battle in my mind
The battle between angels and demons
Who I wish I was
And who I truly am
They call it giftedness
But it doesn't feel like a present
It's not the gift that children anxiously wait to open
That keeps them awake the night before Christmas
It sure keeps me awake though
As my thoughts constantly torment me
My entire existence put into question as the clock hits 3am for yet another night this week
Tonight's topic of thought: What if Hitler never really died?
What if Nazis showed up in my room this very minute, and shipped me off in a train full of people
Put me into their gas showers
And in an instant..Dead
Hitler was gifted
And they call it a gift.
They finally put a word to the quirks that make me, me
Giftedness- One of few words where Merriam- Webster is so wrong
One cannot capture my entire essence in a 5-word definition
And gifted is what I am
“Having a great natural ability”
All of society screams of labels
They are label makers
Type what you please
Stick it on
The minute someone with more letters behind their name then me says it
It becomes truth
So I’ve kept my mouth shut
Because I don't want to be defined by inaccuracy
There is more to me than natural ability
If that was it
What a gift it would be
But the gifted is not just the smart
They will not always be the next Einstein
Leonardo Da Vinci
Or Benjamin Franklin
In Fact, the gifted can be the dropouts and the outcast
The misunderstood, and the broken
Gifted is not just defined by an IQ
If it were it would be a gift
But instead, it is defined by
Asynchronous behavior and overexcitabilities
By heightened emotion, and all the anxiety raging within me
The anxiety that beats in tune with my booming, banging heart
but it’s not just anxiety that defines me
nor is autism
nor anger issues
misdiagnoses that define the gifted
inaccuracies that give conflicted self-views
leaving the gifted nothing but a confused contradiction of crashing cares, and emotions
nothing but giftedness
They finally put a word to the thing that makes me fear myself
I am scared of the word that tells me what I am
my mind like a sunflower
the only difference is the sun doesn’t usually shine for my mind
my body is me nothing more nothing less
and my emotions a graph
the kind where data isn’t steady and the only conclusion that can be
made is inconclusive.
is that what I am to be defined by
no wonder I am scared of myself
some days my own skin haunts me
the thoughts my head produces
intertwined with the mixed emotions my heart is screaming
makes me scared
no wonder I have never had the guts within the fire raging within me to call myself gifted
they finally put a word to the thing that drives my friends away
the word that defines me scares others too
because the demons in my mind block the part that tells me I am moving too close to you, or I am too loud or talking too fast.
that my fingers are typing far too quickly for it to be normal.
yes I would be scared too
what about those little things
the references to musicals that make me squeal
the never-ending desire to engage in debate
the constant humming under my breath
the things that make me- me
they call overexcitabilities
the things that spark the passion
that fuel the flame
that cause me to get really loud, and really fast
yes I would pull away too
they finally put a word on who I am to help me understand myself
but no amount of mommy blog posts and university reports are going to explain me
because I am gifted
I am different
we all are
every person with the label of gifted put on them in silence
is scared to speak, for fear of being misunderstood
because our world is wrong
gifted is not an ego thing
we aren’t better than you
we don’t want to be
we just want to be loved
I want to be loved
so I’ve remained gifted in silence
because every article on this planet cannot explain the full extent of me the way I can
they finally put a word on who I am
I am gifted
and Miriam Webster is so wrong
my brain a sunflower
emotions an inconclusive graph
I will not die in silence
I am gifted
the war in my mind against angels and demons
who I want to be
and who giftedness has made me
it keeps me awake night after night
the thoughts that gifted tendencies have sparked in me
they have finally put a word to who I am
they call me gifted
Let me close by saying this:
Giftedness isn’t all bad- in fact some days it is quite a remarkable gift but other days as you’ve read it can be remarkably frustrating and painful.
If our autistic are hurting (and justifiably so) imagine life for those whose diagnoses has a name which is surrounded by nothing but misconception and where real funding has never been in place.
And they call that a gift.