Thursday, May 1, 2014

The G Word.

We all know "those" words.  The F-word.  The S-word. "He-double-hockey-sticks." There are as many different ones as their are families, and as there are creative ways to swear.  What I didn't expect was to spend most of my adult life trying to skirt around one of my own.

The G-Word.  There are people the world over who seem to have an off-the-cuff opinion on The G-Word.  They "know" it, and they either feel they can somehow disbelieve it (as if choosing not to believe in something impacts whether or not it exists), or feel they know enough about it to disparage it.  I often wonder, if we'd had another word, one that wasn't quite so loaded, one that made people look up what it is, and then treated them to ALL the disadvantages... Would we still have things like this?  Would people still choose to not believe? If looking up a term like... say "asynchronous learner" led to a list like this, would we still see people screaming about how "elitist" meeting a child's needs was?

Asynchronous Learners: 
Specialized learning needs

Frustration in classroom setting
Low self esteem
Underachievement
Increased rates of suicide
Increased rates of existential depression
Increased rates of depression and suicidal ideation
Rapid internalization of learning
Ostracization by peers
Potential for large amounts of excess: energy, imagination, sensory input, curiosity, emotional outburst
Potential for large discrepancies between chronological and behavioral age, fluctuating at any point

Seriously, do you think anyone would look at that list and shout "sign me up!"  Because that's the reality. We're dealing with children who have an awful lot of highly specialized needs, and who are marginalized on a daily basis.  Not only do these kids have to deal with people who believe they're exactly like everyone else, despite the fact that neurologically they are not at all, but they also have to learn to navigate the world while trying to meet their needs covertly.  They can't ask for what they need, that's elitist. They can't speak up about their challenges, that's bragging.

Then we have their parents.  They have those same challenges, plus the challenges of trying as hard as they can to raise these complex children... only to have their noses shoved in it daily.  "You know, he needs more than you can give him at home" is common, right along with "if you sent her to school, the other kids would take care of that..."  People don't know how hurtful these types of statements are.  In the first, if you can find a school that can give 1:1 student to teacher ratios, as well as individualized learning, and the ability to tailor learning to interests and abilities, that might be true. But right now, even small class sizes sit at 20 children to 1 teacher.  Individualized instruction is just not possible, and funding for these learners is minuscule at best, so finding the specialized classrooms is needle-in-haystack difficult.  In the second, you're advocating to let the other children in a classroom raise your child. This screams Lord of the Flies to me, which is never any kind of good.

The parents are stuck talking to each other in code. If it's another parent with this kind of child, they will understand.  If it isn't, you haven't just completely ruined your (and your child's!) social outlet. If it comes out that your child does something unusual, you often will hear things like "sure, Billy could read at three, but he's almost six now and can't tie his own shoes!"  Parents forced by social convention to cut down their own children so they aren't accused of bragging. So there's hope they, or their child, might make friends.  Because instead of knowing the full story about Giftedness (see? I said it!), people only know "very smart" and "prone to excel" and then extrapolate "teacher pleaser" and "excellent marks" from that, and suddenly there is no downside to being Gifted. It's just a gift. Something given to you, that has no drawbacks, like a free million dollars. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”).  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at                                               www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_the_g_word.htm