by Edward R. Amend
Summer is here — the SENG conference is coming and I am excited to have this opportunity to address the supporters of SENG in advance of my keynote at the upcoming conference. As I sat in front of the computer and reflected upon the message I hoped to send with my words, I couldn’t help but drift to the Internet. As I checked email in an account my wife and I share at home, a message popped up from a parenting site that said, “Your 29-month-old today.” It highlighted what my child should be doing by his age. Being a psychologist, I deal with developmental norms all the time, and frequently assess children in order to best determine their needs, either in school or at home. I don’t often do this for my own young children. I was compelled to visit the site — I thought it might be interesting, but I didn’t really expect to be surprised by what I saw. OK, I will also admit that my competitive juices started flowing and I decided to see how my children measured up to the norms on this site.
Well, I never actually made it to the norms since there was a comment from the bulletin board posted on the front page of the website — it was full of hate-speak and negative comments directed to a parent who mentioned that her child was ahead of the curve, very intense and competitive, and beginning to read at 29 months. The message, among other misconceptions, referred to a parent pushing her child and said something like, “That’s what we need — more gifted, neurotic overachievers!” I thought, “I need to respond — I need to educate and advocate — but I have other things to do tonight, like write a column for SENG!” And, plus, I am a “lurker,” not a “poster!”
Then, I reflected, “how many times do I think that?” Very often, there will be some information on the radio or an article in a newspaper or magazine that either focuses on or tangentially references gifted issues. I read them, and I usually think something like, “Wow, it is great that gifted issues are getting some press, but there are a couple of misconceptions there that I should correct.” Inevitably, days pass and I do nothing — an opportunity missed to educate others and advocate for gifted children. Life gets in the way, one of the kids gets a cold, or I get behind at work. It happens.
If we are truly to be advocates for our gifted children, if gifted children are to have the support and services they need, we must take every opportunity we can to educate others about the characteristics and needs of gifted children to fight the prevalent negative stereotypes. Call your legislators, write a letter to the editor, phone a radio show, make a comment to a fellow teacher or parent, or call your superintendent. There are many ways — both directly and indirectly — to educate and advocate for these children we call gifted and talented. You subscribe to this newsletter because you support gifted education. If you have not already done so, take the next step toward being an advocate for gifted children at every possible opportunity.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming SENG Conference!
Edward R. Amend is a former member of SENG’s Board of Directors and a keynote speaker at the 2006 Conference. He practices psychology and parenting in Kentucky, where he is president of the Kentucky Association for Gifted Education.