Sunday, March 23, 2014

If My Child Isn't Gifted Then Yours Can't Be Either?

How many times and how many ways can we say it? Not all children are gifted. All our children are gifts in our lives, all our children are special in our lives, but not all are gifted. The debate has been reignited online again recently in the US and our friends in that part of the world have penned brilliant, passionate and articulate responses to the blogpost which started it all again. The wonderful resource that is Gifted Homeschoolers Forum has compiled a list of all the responses here, and it really is worth a look.

Intellectual giftedness, which is what this debate is about, means a person with advanced cognitive abilities coupled with how that colours the experience of the world around them.  A gifted child will likely be apparent to almost everyone who interacts with them in the same way that a child who is talented at tennis or piano stands out from their peers. All children are not the same, they all look different on the outside and they are all different on the inside too. If we can deal with the fact that our children can’t all be athletic or artistically talented, why do we find it so difficult to accept that not all our children can be intellectually gifted too? Why is the idea that some children are brighter than others so threatening? Maybe it’s because parents are fearful that not being among  the brightest somehow devalues their child’s potential. Perhaps it’s because we know that in our western world sporting or musical talent may be meteoric but short-lived, but that “brain power” can be sustained and harnessed for a lifetime. Whatever the reason, the fact that not every child is gifted bears the brunt of our fears as parents about where our children land on the great ladder of potential.

But here’s the thing...just because my child appears to stand higher up the rungs of that ladder now, that is no guarantee that he will reach the top before yours. He may climb on up almost out of sight for a few years and then stop to take a look at the view. He may decide he likes the view from there and stay put, happy to watch others climb on up and up. He may be lonely up there and decide to wait for others because that is better than journeying alone. He may end up falling off the ladder entirely and hurting himself in the process. There might be nobody to teach him the skills he needs to succeed up there.

In the meantime, your child may climb up steadily, secure in each step she takes. She will probably have company on the climb, friends and teachers for support and guidance. So many other things could happen to determine our children’s futures that the idea that either of us could believe that being gifted or not gifted is a guarantee of anything at all is ridiculous. Being gifted confers no advantage or favour. It colours the journey, for sure, but it doesn’t determine its destination. It goes without saying that our children are special, precious gifts.  But insisting that both of our children are gifted does each of them a disservice.

Let’s be proud of our children for all that they are and all they may become.


  1. I'm finding lots of problems with the education system here in Ireland - mainly the short-sightedness of the Department of Education. For example, I'm in 6th year (final year) and am all ready to sit my Leaving Certificate (final exams in Ireland) but have just been told that I have to repeat a year on the grounds that I am too young, having only done my Junior Cert last year (3rd year exams). I've done all of the coursework and will be 16 by the time of the exams - I see this as being ageist. I set up a petition to let me sit my exams this summer - I'd be really grateful if you could take a look.

  2. Thanks for your comment Molly and good luck with your petition. It makes no sense to hold back students from moving on in our education system on the grounds of being too young. Several studies have demonstrated that acceleration should be among the options considered for gifted students. Would it be alright to share the link to your petition on our Facebook pages for Gifted Ireland and Dazzled and Frazzled?