by Dina Brulles
A sand-castle building contest,
Seeking moral courage,
This is not your typical gifted conference…it is a social and emotional experience!
I walked away from this conference with a strong sense that I am not alone…The SENG conference is about the individual, and about families. It is a time to immerse oneself in thought and experience alongside others sharing similar concerns and desires to learn. This is a time for people to build connections, to interact with and learn from parents and mental health professionals, a time to enjoy. SENG conferences bring us together for a unique experience: to realize that there are others who share and study what we may have considered unique to ourselves. It is a time to learn with and from each other.
My daughter has gone from seeing herself as ‘weird’ to seeing herself as ‘gifted’ and part of a larger community.
While waiting to board a return flight from my very first SENG conference with my fourteen-year old son, I suddenly came to understand the true impact of the conference. Busy solving a problem of decay on his calculator, my son looked up and asked, “Why is it so hard for me to make friends at school, and it was so easy here? Is it because these kids are like me?” (At the time, his personal identity revolved around the fact that he has ADD.) I answered him, “If you mean these kids are like you because they have parents who are seeking an understanding of what makes people who they are, then, yes, these kids are like you.”
At the SENG Children’s Program, children have the unique opportunity to simply be with their peers in intellectually- and physically-stimulating environments. They have freedom to approach new experiences and adventures with others who may, or may not, be just like them. The children make fast friends and hang on tightly. (Ask returning children about last year’s California beach experience for more details.)
Upon returning from a SENG conference a couple years ago, a parent, who is an elementary school principal and therefore used to attending many conferences, told fellow school administrators that the SENG Conference had been “a life-changing experience” for her. Her SENG experience provided her with a global perspective of giftedness and a deeper understanding of the parents and children in her life. As a parent and a school administrator, her SENG Conference experience will impact others’ lives, and this remains our goal, for this is not your typical gifted conference.
Dina Brulles, Ph.D., is the Gifted Education Coordinator for the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona, and President of the Arizona Association for Gifted and Talented. She is a member of the adjunct faculty at Arizona State University where she teaches graduate courses in gifted education. Dina is a gifted education consultant specializing in programming services for culturally and linguistically diverse students.