Wednesday, August 6, 2014

You are not alone! Finding gifted community

In last week's Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Gifted Friendships I shared the research on the importance of gifted friendships in Gifted Friendships: You Are Not Alone!. This week, I'll help you find community!

One of the earliest things gifted parents discover is the sense that they are alone. If you're not in a gifted community, you learn quickly that while other parents can share and brag about their kids developmental, sports, and even academic accomplishments, gifted parents may NOT. For other parents, it's just normal, everyday parent conversation, but for us... so many parents think we're bragging, or worse, just making it up. We learn early that everyone can share about their kids... except us.

We are alone.

If parents lucky enough to land in a gifted community early and often, we may be lucky enough to have a place to share about our gifted kids, too. But even there, there are things we can't talk about. Have a kid who's not as perfect as the rest of the kids in the very gifted community? Better not talk about it, or we may be "blamed" for somehow causing their uniqueness. Or worse, we fear we'll be drummed out of the community, the one place where we feel comfortable sharing all the great things our child is doing.

We are alone, even in our own crowd.

The most important thing that gifted parents need to know, and be reminded of early and often, is that you are not alone! Got a gifted kid? There are many of us out here just like you! Live in a rural area, where it seems none of us are nearby? We might not live next door, but we are in equally rural (or urban, or suburban) communities, feeling similar isolation. Have an exceptionally or profoundly gifted child who is still far different from the "pleasantly" gifted child, a child for whom the normal gifted program is like giving individuals blades of grass to a hungry dinosaur... it's good, but not enough for the dinosaur to know you're feeding it. You are still not alone, even if you feel alone in the local gifted parents group. Or you have a wildly diverse gifted child, who is extraordinary good at some things, but extraordinarily weak at others? You, most of all, are not alone. Even if there is no other child exactly like yours (and there likely is someone, somewhere), there are many other parents struggling with Twice Exceptional (2e, dually identified) kids like yours.

Gifted community is the lifeline for all of us. It's the place we can talk about parenting these wonderful kids. We can share the struggles of education, or the resources of homeschooling. We can commiserate on the lack of programs at early ages, and create our own programs with our critical mass and our unswerving need. We can find a place to brag and to beg, to share the past and consider the future. But how can we find these amazing, amusing, accepting gifted communities?

There are public and private, open and closed communities. We share on Facebook and mailing lists, blogs and boards, behind firewalls and in real life. We meet at formal conferences and casual gatherings across the country and around the world. No matter who or where you are, you are not alone!

Electronic communities are a great way to get started. For open communities with tons of participants, sure to be folks who live near you, start with the major mailing list communities. TAGFAM and GT-Families offer mailing lists for general gifted topics for families and teachers, on lists of the same names. If you're homeschooling your gifted kids, TAGMAX is the list for you, with nearly a thousand other subscribers who share resources and ideas for homeschooling, unschooling, deschooling and more. GT-Special is the list for parents of those tricky-to-parent, challenging-to-educate twice exceptional (or 2e) kids. And TAGPDQ is the community for you if you're the parent of a "more than just plain gifted" child, those exceptionally and profoundly gifted kids who often require more extreme educational options.

Visit Hoagies' Gifted Online Communities: Mailing Lists for subscription instructions and links for these plus hundreds of other more specialized mailing lists, organized by population, country, state, and district or locality. There is a mailing list for everyone!

Looking for a casual community you can just "drop into" when you need a little support? Though they are more public, check out any one of the great Facebook communities for gifted: Hoagies' Gifted Education Page, SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted), and Gifted Homeschoolers Forum are three popular Facebook gifted forums. And there are plenty more. Just search for Gifted and your other interests (your town, your school district, homeschool, etc.) on Facebook.

Looking for something less electronic and more real-life? Check out the U.S. and International organizations listed in Hoagies' Gifted: Organizations. Many offer conferences, summer programs, meetings and more!

If you have testing and your kids qualify, one of the best U.S. gifted communities is the Davidson Young Scholars program. It costs nothing to join, and offers a wide slate of support options, including electronic and real-lie gatherings. Even if you use nothing else in the program, be sure to join your local DIG mailing list, and attend some of the DIGs (Davidson Informal Gatherings) to meet and enjoy others in the Davidson gifted community!

Whatever means you choose, be sure to explore the online and real-life gifted communities so that both you and your kids learn that You are NOT alone!

Don't miss the rest of last week's Gifted Friendship Blog Hop. With nearly two dozen blogs on gifted kids, teens, young adults and adults, plus a couple blogs on the value of "invisible friends," there's something for everyone!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gifted Friendships: You Are Not Alone!

Gifted friendships are hard to define, and often even harder to find. Gifted kids in a classroom full of kids who want to play with them and invite them to parties, may feel alone and crave this rare commodity.  Gifted adults may feel alone in spite of lots of acquaintances at work and in other activities. There are lots of people around us every day, yet we feel strange and isolated. What are we missing?

"When gifted children are asked what they most desire, the answer is often 'a friend'.   The children's experience of school is completely colored by the presence or absence of relationships with peers." (Silverman, 1993).

Miraca Gross has researched gifted friendships, not only in children, but over the lives of young and now middle-aged adults through her longitudinal studies.  And I am lucky to count Miraca among my acquaintances, one who I would very much love to get to know better, who could easily become a friend... if only she didn't live on the other side of the world.

"This difficulty of the gifted child in forming friendships is largely a result of the infrequency of persons who are like-minded.  The more intelligent a person is, regardless of age, the less often can he find a truly congenial companion.  The average child finds playmates in plenty who can think and act on a level congenial to him, because there are so many average children."  (Hollingworth, 1936)

But what makes the gifted child less able to find friendship among all the other students in her age/grade classroom?  Is the student somehow biased towards kids identified as gifted?  No. Are the student's parents influencing her to befriend only the gifted kids?  Not at all.  Miraca's research shows...

Gifted children were beginning to look for friends with whom they could develop close and trusting friendships, at ages when their age-peers of average ability were looking for play partners.  (Gross, SENG article)
Gifted kids feel differently, and seek friendships among those who feel similarly!

Gross's and other research shows other factors influence friendships.  Gender plays a role: boys are, at some point, 2 or more years behind girls in their concepts of friendship, which accounts for the elementary years cliquishness of girls not being mimicked in boys until early middle school.  Age plays a role.  Levels of giftedness are also key to finding gifted friendships.

The years between four and nine are probably the most likely to be beset with problems. (Hollingworth, 1936)

The question is, what can we do to help our gifted children find friendships?

Ability grouping and grade advancement can be of invaluable assistance in the early years of school to young gifted children whose accelerated conceptions of firendship are urging htem to see the sure shelter of a relationsihp of trust, fidelity and authenticity, at ages when tehir age-peers are seeking playmates or casual conversation.  In the case of exceptionally and profoundly gifted child, it is difficult to justify, either educationally or socially, the inclusion of these children in classes comprised of age-peers whose conceptions of firendship are so radically different than theirs. (Gross, SENG article)

The most important thing we can do for our kids is to help them find this "community" they seek, and let them know and experience that they are not alone!

For a quick summary of Miraca's research, read SENG's "Play Partner" or "Sure Shelter": What Gifted Children Look For in Friendship. For her full presentation, visit Hoagies' Gifted: "Play Partner" or "Sure Shelter"? Why gifted children prefer older friends..

This blog is part of Hoagies' Gifted Blog Hop: Gifted Friendships.  Visit the other great blogs in this month's Hop by clicking here.