Posted: Feb 14, 2013 12:00 PM
Each child brings something special to the educational table, and certain children seem to approach learning with an outside-the-box approach. Not all aspects of raising a child bound for gifted and talented programs are easy to understand or to navigate, but author and parent Jen Merrill has insight and advice.

Gifted is wiring

Even the best-intentioned parents measure milestones against norms and averages. When a child performs ahead of expectations or exhibits certain behaviors, the question of giftedness may arise. Jen Merrill talks about the realities versus the perception of gifted children and what that label really means:

Society in general thinks giftedness is strictly an educational issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Giftedness is neuropsychological wiring that is supported by the education system. A person isn't gifted in something — he or she just is gifted. That person's giftedness might show up as very strong in math, or as a whiz in science, but that same person may have extreme difficulty with writing or existential depression (very common in the gifted). It's how a person observes, interprets, and responds to the world around him.

Gifted kids are just more

The word gifted implies a shiny package, something to be desired, so I asked Jen about the other part of the gifted label — the challenges parents will face. She answers:

When you have a kid who is two or three or more standard deviations from the norm, in either direction, it is advanced parenting from the get-go. I always recommend wine, because these kids are far from easy. They are just more. More intense, more sensitive, more emotional, more intelligent, require more movement, demand more intellectual input, more, more, more...

Find your tribe

Gifted children face the same frustrations as normal children, and with their need for more, their frustrations can manifest as more outbursts, more tantrums and more defiance. Unfortunately, parents of gifted children can find their concerns met with resistance from other parents. Jen talks about finding support on this journey:

My highest recommendation for parents is to find other parents in this same leaky boat, just so they don't feel so alone. And yes, it is lonely raising a gifted kid.

Resources for Families^

Jen Merrill is the mother of a twice-exceptional son and the author of If This is a Gift, Can I Send it Back? She blogs at Laughing at Chaos.

More about special needs

Develop a good parent-teacher relationship
Build a support system
Try not to compare your children