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When you hear the word gifted, what immediately pops into your head? Do you think of the straight-A student? Or, a musical prodigy? A prolific artist? A pint-sized mathematician? Do you assume that everything comes easily to a gifted child? That he has a leg-up over his peers? Do you envision his mom as a tiger mom, hot-housing him from sun up ‘til sun down? Do you imagine his parents are the pushy, competitive type?
My 7-year-old son, Leo, is twice-exceptional; he is profoundly gifted and learning disabled
. As his mom, I’m forever frustrated by the gifted label.
The label makes you think that gifted is neat and clean, as it conjures images of beautifully wrapped presents with neatly tied bows. That’s far from my reality, folks. I love my son more than words could ever express but this journey has been anything but a neatly wrapped package. Instead, I’d liken it to a wild, white-knuckled, roller coaster ride. It has been messy, and loud, and fraught with various concerns. Why? Two words: asynchronous development.
A better definition of giftedness: giftedness as asynchrony
The current gifted label carries with it many misconceptions and assumptions. The reality is, the social and emotional functioning of gifted children is largely ignored by the general public.
I’d like to share my favorite definition of giftedness, and it is a stark contrast to that neatly wrapped present:
Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally. (The Columbus Group, 1991).
What is asynchronous development?
While most children develop in a relatively uniform pattern, gifted children are asynchronous in their development, and the more gifted the child, the more asynchronous that child may be.
Do you want to know which children are the most asynchronous of all? The twice-exceptional children, those children who are both gifted and
learning disabled. Children like Leo.
Many ages at once
It is often said that gifted children are “many ages at once”, they are quite literally out-of-sync. So, what does that look like, exactly?
Well, let’s take a look at my little guy:
This photo kinda sums him up, folks!
Chronologically, Leo is 7-years-old. And he looks like your typical 7-year-old, but we all know that looks can be deceiving. We had Leo assessed
last year and results indicated that his cognitive skills are above the 99.9th percentile across the board. That means that, intellectually, Leo is functioning at a level more than twice his chronological age. Socially and emotionally, however, he functions like that of a 5- or 6-year-old. In one moment, Leo can be extremely poised and mature, and in the next moment he can dissolve into a mushy mess of a boy. Just think about that for a second, folks. Can you imagine the frustration he must feel?
His mind - his cognitive functioning- is like that of a teenager and yet those thoughts are housed in a 7-year-old body, a body with 7-year-old emotions.