Talking Circles: Parenting the Culturally/Racially Diverse Gifted Child
By Tiombe Bisa Kendrick-Dunn
When parents first learn of their child’s disabling condition such as a learning disability in reading, Autism, or language impairment, it is often a very traumatic experience. In contrast, most parents are excited to learn they have an academically or intellectually gifted child. The average parents of a gifted child often find themselves in a state of bliss, as they are so proud of the human being they, after all, created. Many of these children will experience a life where their academic and social and emotional needs will be identified and addressed by their schools, society, communities, and families. As a result many of these children will mature into productive citizens and will go on to live satisfying lives.
As quiet as it’s kept, many parents of gifted children from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds have a much different experience upon learning their child is gifted. Many parents of gifted children from culturally and racially diverse backgrounds often become what some may label as “overly concerned” about their child’s future when they learn of their child’s academic and intellectual giftedness. These parents often ponder about a variety of issues their children will be confronted with throughout their lives. For example, some parents often wonder if their children will be provided with the necessary services and exposure in a variety of areas to be able to reach their full potential in life. In addition, these parents have learned (most likely from their own life experiences) that their children will experience a qualitatively different life trajectory than their gifted peers from non-diverse backgrounds due to past and present historical events and societal treatment of people from racially and culturally diverse populations. Although the latter is factual, mainstream society often ignores and/or denies this fact! As a result, many of these parents struggle with how to ensure the protection and preservation of their child’s culture from the cruel realities of the society and the world in general. These parents often worry about the following with their gifted children:
- the impact racism and discrimination will have on their child’s educational experience
- how to help their children preserve their culture and values while assimilating into mainstream society
- how to deal with adult “bullies” in work, volunteer, and educational environments
- how to teach their children to advocate for themselves as adults
- how to detect and effectively address covert and overt racism and discrimination.
All of these issues are rarely acknowledged by mainstream society.
It is very important that parents of gifted children from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds understand that there is no shame in acknowledging their worries and anxiety. These parents will need to prepare their children very early in life about the societal experiences their children will likely experience, otherwise they risk their children experiencing distress that increases the risk of mental health disorders. Parents of these gifted children should also seek and/or create opportunities and resources in their schools and communities to help these children become resilient. If parents find their children are experiencing distress due to racism, discrimination, injustice, or unfair treatment among peers, it is imperative they seek support through a culturally responsive mental health professional, religious community, family, or other community contacts.
Being parents of gifted children from culturally and racially diverse backgrounds is often stressful for a variety of reasons. It is important these parents understand the importance of preparing their gifted children for the ills of mainstream society that will surely confront them despite their coveted “giftedness.” Parents should become intimately familiar with the scholarly works of individuals who produce research with this population of children. Children in general are quite vulnerable to societal ways but those of culturally and racially diverse backgrounds are at increased risk of experiencing distress, injustice, racism, and discrimination and must be protected and informed.
Tiombe Bisa Kendrick-Dunn is a nationally certified school psychologist and is licensed to practice school psychology in the state of Florida. She has been employed with the Miami-Dade County Public School District as a school psychologist since 2005.
Ms. Kendrick-Dunn has a very strong passion for addressing the needs of gifted students from culturally and linguistically diverse populations and has been instrumental in significantly increasing the numbers of culturally diverse students participating in the Gifted Program at her schools. In addition, she has many helped parents find services outside the school district to help address the needs of their gifted children. In 2006, Ms. Kendrick-Dunn was a member of Miami-Dade Public Schools Gifted Task Force Committee and was also awarded the Mary Frasier Scholarship sponsored by the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC). In 2007, she was both appointed to the NAGC Diversity/Equity Committee and was awarded a grant by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Children Fund Inc to establish a resource center specifically designed for gifted students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Ms. Kendrick-Dunn completed her undergraduate work at Miami Dade College and Florida State University and her graduate work at Barry University. Ms. Kendrick-Dunn has presented at numerous professional conventions on the topic of gifted children.