Monday, December 8, 2014

Same Bat-Tropes, New Bat-Stations.

It's gotten to be almost an annual event. That someone has put their foot in their mouth and something needs to be said. Last year, it was a post about "All children are gifted, every single one." This year, it seems, there are some big names going on about how giftedness is a school-based construct, and doesn't exist. I'm rapidly reaching the point where I've run out of spoons to deal with people so catastrophically closed-minded as to not even acknowledge that not all people think the same way, and so now I feel an awful lot like the bitter old lady everyone knows in their childhood, bound and determined to just be grumpy. Kind of a shame, really.

A friend of mine spent the better part of the last week being bullied online. Why? She dared mention the word "gifted" in the wrong community. Apparently, gifted is a label parents use when they want to score more bragging rights.  Funny, the parents of actually gifted children (and the genuinely gifted themselves), are the ones screaming from the rafters that this is simultaneously curse and blessing, and which is more prevalent depends on the day. Another is watching stunningly ignorant comments coming in on her blog (particularly of the "anecdote!=data" variety). The common theme, however, seems to be that parents with children who are currently covered under special education laws are incredibly upset that gifted advocates have brought their "first world problem" to special education, with the intention of forcing out children who are already covered under that umbrella.

But the thing is, there isn't anyone involved in gifted advocacy (that I've seen, anyhow) advocating for any such thing. What we're trying to do is get children with special educational needs covered under the system (either the one in place or a new one) for children with special educational needs - nobody is saying that the children in special education programs should have their funding cut. In fact, quite the opposite. The vast majority of the people speaking up for the gifted children would like to see funding to meet special needs increased across the board. But, here's the thing.  Children currently covered by special education have legal rights. They are entitled, by law, to specific accommodations in order to achieve a Free and Appropriate Public Education. Gifted children, despite being as far from the 'norm' as their learning disabled counterparts, have no such legal protections.  Am I insisting that everyone shut up and listen, this is my kid?  No. I don't even have a horse in the race, since Mad Natter is homeschooled. But I do think that schools are doing this wrong, and it's primarily because those who make the decisions on who should receive funding for their needs are the ones farthest from the classroom, farthest from the children who are depending on them to ensure they are, in fact, receiving the appropriate education they are entitled to. Any funds earmarked for gifted programming, provided they haven't been cut yet, are given to those children who can and will demonstrate overachieving and teacher-pleasing attitudes - and that isn't always those children who are gifted. And that's a problem. And since the schools aren't properly identifying their gifted students, more and more parents of neurotypical children are attempting to shoehorn their bright-but-not-gifted children into these programs, and since they're enrichment programs, and not truly gifted programs, who can really blame them?

In the end, it boils down to one simple thing. People are perceiving giftedness as being a set of positive attributes, unfairly given to some students, and not to others. Further, they are assuming that giftedness is a condition that is exclusively found in children. Neither of these things is true. For starters, even straight-up gifted children have overexcitabilities which put them at risk for any number of issues, from simple intensity (impairing friendships) to boredom (leading to misdiagnosis of attention issues) and mental health concerns. For the twice-exceptional, there are those issues, as well as others, typically that the child's intelligence masks their challenges, thus leaving them functioning near grade level, but certainly not to potential - and unable to get any special education services at all, because they aren't behind grade level, simply well behind their own potential. I wish there could be some measure of "can't we all just get along" in this. And on my side of the issue (along with others that I engage with), there is no animosity, nor any battle - aside from getting children the services they need.  Unfortunately, other parents don't seem to feel that way, and we're now seeing the accusations fly that perhaps we ought to just take our weapons and go home, because all we're doing is hurting children - when what we're asking for is a level field for ALL children to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education.