by Therese Clifford
My husband needed a laptop. It was getting tense around here as he sweated through the decision making process. So many variables…so much choice… I finally decided to help him out and turn to the first group of experts I always consider, my gifted email listserv. I have known many of these people for close to ten years. These are people who found each other in cyberspace because of a yearning for information about how to deal with giftedness. From that connection has come about friendships and a sharing of information on endless topics. I knew that I would receive an immediate and helpful response. Many of these people have been computer experts for quite some time. They were, after all, early adopters to the world of searching out others and establishing chat areas online. When the responses began rolling in, I had to smile. I thought, “What a true snapshot of the world of intellectual giftedness.” The responses were well thought out and very reasonable. The opinions were also diverse. It reminded me of the observation of how very different from each other the gifted really are!
In recognizing that vast diversity within the world of giftedness, both with individuals and with the variety of theories, I am left feeling a great deal of admiration and gratitude to those who have chosen to pursue and sustain involvement in this field. It cannot be easy to continue on in an area that is misunderstood by so many and supported by so few. I am grateful to those who work so very hard to bring about challenging, rigorous and relevant curriculum in the schools for those gifted students who, with needs met, have the potential to thrive in a traditional academic setting. I am thankful to those who have championed the causes of highly gifted, twice exceptional, ELL/gifted and impoverished/gifted who generally face great challenge in fitting into our systems. I hold such gratitude for those who understand that there are good parents who have spent year after year practicing “tough love” with their children in an attempt to help them fit into a traditional system at the expense of an enriched family life, and often to no avail. I wonder about the adults in this world who continue to insist that a child is a blank slate and the way the child “turns out” is solely dependent on the way the child was raised. I wonder about our definitions of happiness and success as well as the criteria we use to judge those things. I hear comments regarding the key to success as being held by those who have all aspects of themselves aligned and working efficiently. When Warren Buffet commented that there are people with a “500 horsepower IQ who possess elementary aspects of behavior” and are therefore unsuccessful, I wondered why it seems few bother to go to the next step of looking beyond that observation and deciding that perhaps it would behoove us all to become involved in the lives of those diamonds in the rough with the 500 horsepower IQ and try to help them with their “elementary aspects of behavior.” Perhaps in such a situation we would all win! I applaud school districts that recognize the needs of current students and strive to create programming for them rather than sitting back waiting for conclusive research that will only come once yet another generation has slipped from our grasp.
As my term on the board comes to a close, I am happy to know that the mission and central focus of SENG remains steadfast. Each day it becomes more and more evident to me that the mere existence of this organization is mandatory. It has provided a lifeline to many individuals who could not find support anywhere else in the world. The fact that this field of gifted is so very small has become even clearer to me. I know that the misinformation and misunderstanding shown by others is hurtful. I know that it becomes very tiresome to hear things such as, “The gifted will be OK, they can figure out how to take care of themselves”, “A gifted program would be good for ALL students”, “All students are gifted”, “Giftedness is a choice”, “You can be a gifted child and then NOT be a gifted adult.” … and after so many years, these comments continue.
There is work to be done. My heart goes out to the families, the teachers and administrators, the health care providers and the researchers and authors who care about gifted. I am especially grateful to the many individuals who devote hours and hours of volunteer time helping others. These volunteers include the members of the SENG board. It is my deepest hope and belief that under the leadership of the new SENG officers: Shari Hill, President, Dina Brulles, V.P. and Rosina Gallagher Sec/Treasurer, that SENG will continue to grow and make a difference in this world!
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Therese Clifford has been involved in local and state gifted organizations for many years and served on a gifted design team in her school district. Her interests focus on social and emotional needs of both the highly gifted as well as children and adults with multiple exceptionalities. She is the parent of a teenage son. Therese graduated from Cal Poly University and works as an economist.