Talking About Giftedness: the Elephant in the Room

My favorite session at the 32nd Annual SENG Conference in San Jose, CA this summer was Elephant in the Room: How to Talk about Giftedness. I run into a lot of people in my daily work life (parents, students, teachers, administrators) who don’t understand giftedness, who don’t agree with the premise of individuals being gifted, and have just general uncertainty about discussing giftedness.

seng-conference-2014This session, presented by Sharon Duncan and Joanna Haase, was very informative and empowering. It provided imperative information addressing misperceptions society has about giftedness.

Duncan and Haase encouraged us to think of promoting awareness of giftedness as a social change movement, just as GLBT rights and Civil Rights required educating people and changing their perspectives. They encouraged us to correct myths about giftedness every single time we hear them being uttered. For example: “How can he be gifted, he doesn’t turn in his assignments?” “You call her gifted? She’s failing math.”

Furthermore, Duncan and Haase say we need to OWN IT; to make direct eye contact when we address people who are spreading falsehoods about giftedness. If we can’t talk about giftedness, then we cannot get support for it and we cannot educate about it.

They identified the roots of the problem many of us have about speaking up about giftedness as:

  • We limit the conversation of gifted solely to education (IQ scores, test scores, grades, etc.).  We need to educate that giftedness is a psychological phenomenon, not an educational phenomenon. Gifted is a technical definition, not an elitist word.
  • Myths are entrenched. Until we can speak up and dispel myths as they arise, myths and misunderstanding will remain firmly entrenched. (“All children are gifted.”)
  • The concept of intelligence creates discomfort. If we identify an individual as gifted, that must mean other individuals aren’t.  Nobody wants to feel “less than.”

And, while we need to create empathy, it is not advantageous to try and show gifted kids as victims. We change mindsets through education and exposure. Not by being silent, or by being aggressive.

Further, if we correct the perception that giftedness is not required for eminence, achievement, and success, then society may not need to perpetuate the myth that “all kids are gifted.”

We need to mandate education for all the people who are working with/treating our kids. Why are these mental health professionals that work with our gifted children not required to learn about giftedness?

seng-conference-2015The Elephant in the Room: How to Talk about Giftedness was just one of ten highly informative sessions I attended at this year’s three day SENG Conference.

Next year’s SENG Conference will be in Denver. I hope you’ll attend! Info here.


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