While picking up one of my children from high school, I heard her call a friend a genius. Now, typically I wouldn’t pay attention to something like this since it’s such a common phrase it really holds no meaning other than a random compliment (or sometimes sarcasm, which is what I was actually hearing. I should not be proud of my daughter’s sarcastic nature. But man is it amazing!). And the comment would have just flown by me had I not been approached recently by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education. After the primary question of “Why is New Zealand looking at me?” haunted me for a little while, I began thinking about what I would say about this obviously generous and esteemed association. But something was bugging me. No, not the two teenagers sitting with me engaged in their typical antics. Well, okay, maybe they were a bit on the bothersome side this night. (Who am I kidding. They’ll drive me to drinking yet!) I thought about the term “Genius” and how often we use it as a slang word, not even coming close to relaying its actual meaning. And that is when I realized, we do the same thing for many words. Including “Gifted”.
Google Dictionary defines Gifted:
(I copied this to make it more impressive. How’d I do?)
That seems pretty simple to understand. But I needed more. I wanted to know why the term Gifted is so widely used, and easily overlooked. So, first I felt it might be a good idea to find out how the word was meant to be used, which means finding it’s origins.
Yeah, I’m not at all prone to tackling impossible tasks. That’s not ADHD at all…(insert eye roll here)
Well, I found something, much to my surprise. It seems the Oxford English Dictionary states that the word derives from religion.
a. A faculty, power, or quality miraculously bestowed, e.g. upon the apostles and other early Christians; a Christian virtue looked upon as an emanation from the Holy Ghost; extended further to endowments bestowed by heathen deities or some supernatural agent; occas. in sense of inspiration.
When God gives you a talent for something, it’s considered a gift from Him. Hence, the word stuck with anyone that could accomplish something in a manner regular people simply cannot. But, over the years, I’ve witnessed so many children be considered Gifted, except those with disorders. Now, I’m not saying we wouldn’t recognize someone with a disorder is also a gifted individual. For example, Mozart was considered beyond genius when it came to music. However, he also showed traits of some sort of psychiatric disorder. Many studies are quick to label him with Bipolar, due to his inability to control himself, manage his own money, avoid inappropriate behavior in public, depressive mood swings and the fact the man would work on his music for 20 hours straight, and then only sleep 5 hours before starting again. I believe they label him Bipolar because it’s an easy diagnosis.
I was initially diagnosed with Bipolar. And they were wrong.
Here was a man that shows inherent traits of severe ADHD. And he was a gifted musician. (That word seems so paltry to his genius, but I won’t digress). But the first place anyone goes for his issues is Bipolar.
Why are they so afraid of ADHD?
There is research showing that children diagnosed with ADHD are given proper attention to diagnosis and treatment, however, their creativity is blatantly overlooked. I have to wonder why that is? Is it hard to imagine a child with a disorder could possibly have some level of genius in them? Because let me enlighten those that wish to naysay this fact, many gifted children have disorders. The disorder is part of why they are gifted. To overlook this fact is simply denying this child the very assistance they require to achieve their full potential.
In simpler terms, if you ignore the package, you ignore the gift.
I have been considered gifted with my ability to write and direct films. My college days were filled with people jumping on me to assist them with their projects. My professors, counselors and even the head of the department were very interested in my progress. Then, the university had me tested, for their own records, for ADHD in an effort to provide me the assistance they were legally bound to offer. These results were passed along to the chairman and head of my department. And, just like that, I was no longer interesting. All the coaching and above the call assistance I was receiving simply stopped. It dried up. Why was my “disorder” considered so faulty that it overshadowed my talents and gifts?
This certainly didn’t help with my self esteem. Once again, the cursed ADHD ruined me. Self loathing commenced. It took quite some time to rebound from that blow to the ego. And, realistically, I never actually did. That is the story for most gifted and talented children. We are expected to excel, which places tremendous pressure on us to push harder than we should. I’ve seen very talented high school football players get pushed beyond their bodies capabilities by a parent wanting nothing more than to see their child excel. There is a 14 year old published author that is now expected to produce his talent on a deadline. Of course, that supersedes his need to graduate high school, or even grow up. But this kid doesn’t want to let down the people depending on him to make them proud, give them bragging rights and make them money. Add in the fact that their “peers” will not be so supportive. Jealousy and envy would definitely be an issue for such a youngster. But that would typically be overlooked for the sake of progress.
I cannot be the only one to see the problem with that.
But then again, is that better than what happens to most? Like what happened to me. Ignore the gift for the sake of the disorder. And the child is left to dream of a future they no longer believe they can achieve. Why should they? They’re considered broken. And they will most definitely label themselves as such.
Ok, I can already hear you shouting at me ( I will not question if the shouting is in my head. I will not! I’m questioning it. Damn…). Enough of the pity party and depressive monologue. Give us something to smile about! You got it. This is easy.
Not everyone wants to ignore the Gifted. As a matter of fact, New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education (still wondering how you found a Californian Blogger!) aims to do exactly that. Shed light on the children that deserve to explore their gifts in a safe and normalized environment. Check out their site, listed below, and see for yourself. They start them small! They find the Gifted child at any age and put them through classes with peers that understand them, services geared toward helping them grow naturally and even consulting services for parents that want to help their child but not over burden them. They found a need and are trying to fill it in ways most seem to miss. (Where the hell were you when I was a kid? Oh, yeah. The 70’s….).
They even have a blog tour yearly as part of their New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week, giving everyone a chance to have their voice heard about their desire to assist a gifted child, or hear from the gifted child themselves. They even have members of their Parliament contribute and read the blog (Oh, now I see how they found me. That doesn’t sound at all suspicious…) so as to assist in any way they can.
This is what we need. This is what will work. We need to create a different environment for these creative little minds. It has been studied and proven that an ADHD child with positive support and the freedom to explore their own creativity become vastly more successful than those that do not. A child with no support system is forced to try to negotiate their own self doubts and lack of self esteem due to their condition and find their place in a world that has no place for them. They need to create their own little world in order to function. And when they do, they do it exceedingly well.
I highly suggest checking out the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education. Especially if you think you have a gifted child, ADHD or not. Why wouldn’t you? You already know your child is a diamond in the rough. You know they’re meant for greatness and want desperately to give them the chance to be who they were meant to be. They’ve shown you just how amazing they are. Why not show the rest of us what they can do?
New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education:
Research for Gifted children with ADHD: