Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Will I be able to see ...

inside the coffin when I'm dead?" asked Ian after waking up from a terrible nightmare yesterday morning (in the wee hours). This is just type of question we are bombarded with on a daily basis as the parents of a child with special needs. And I do mean special needs. I have been reading an awesome book on the advocacy of gifted children, and it has been just the resource I have been looking for and needing in regards to helping Ian.

People have come to think that "Special Needs" kids are those with learning disabilities, behavioral disabilities, physical disabilities. But there is another whole category of "Special Needs" kids that are being overlooked-
the gifted children.

How ironic it is to me that 2% of population (children traditionally known as special needs children-whether it be physically, emotionally, behaviorially or some combination of) have governmental mandates that see to it that they not be "left behind"-having resources like individualized instruction and paraprofessionals working daily with them on a one-on-one basis to meet their needs. And yet gifted children are left to sit much of their days reviewing topics they have mastered months or even years before. Being drilled on the mundane and not allowed to test out and move on to topics that stimulate their interests-that stimulate their minds.

Please, don't get me wrong-I completely sympathize (and empathize) for those parents of the traditional special needs child. It's not that I don't believe these children don't deserve a paraprofessional or one-on-one training and teaching, or every opportunity to thrive in this world of ours. But in a country where we pride ourselves on giving every one the chance of a free life and an American Dream-why should the gifted child not have the same opportunity? The gifted children are a population of individuals -that aren't having their "special needs" met. Who aren't being challenged in their current school settings. Who are not being stimulated in their current classrooms. Who may be learning topics at twice the age of their peers. Who have the mental maturity of years beyond their chronological ages and yet dwell in bodies of their chronological ages.

Why is it that it is OK for these children to be left behind? Is it because of their giftedness that we feel "If they are so smart they can figure it out on their own?" These are the children who are oftentimes raising the scores on the standardized tests. These are the children who have oftentimes grown to be awesome contributors to this world. These are the children who have the greatest POTENTIAL to be awesome contributors to life in this world-in terms of their inventions, their discoveries, their creations. However, POTENTIAL, it just that. If a gifted child isn't able to utilize and express his God-given abilities and talents-what's to happen to these kids? While some go on to be great inventors, CEO's, Nobel Prize Award winners, some of these gifted individuals drop out of college where they had full ride academic scholarships only to end up working their way up to manangement at the local superstore. Or worse yet, become so depressed an isolated among us that they feel the need to end their own lives or attempt a Columbine like situation. How tragic it is for these gifted kids who had so much potential-but never had the opportunity to shine with their gifts-because it was stifled in their early academic years by an inappropriate academic environment.

AGAIN,I ASK,WHY ARE THESE CHILDREN BEING LEFT BEHIND??? It's simply NOT OK to just accept that this is just the way it's going to be. It's not OK for any child to be discriminated against for any reason-INCLUDING their intellectual level.
For those of you who know me-I am a passionate person. And yesterday, when my little guy was trembling in the night-wrought with anguish as his little 8 year-old self was grappling with the acknowledgement and realization that he WILL die. IT was INEVITABLE. It was heart wrenching to both Mick and to myself. Trying to console a little soul whose brain works well beyond his chronological years and whose emotional maturity varies with each given situation. Why should he have to be wrestling with these heavy (even to adults) concerns?


This was another light bulb event for Mick and me that we are indeed parents to a special needs child. You can't just answer Ian's with simple answers. For gifted children (and for Ian), it just doesn't cut it. It's one question after another filled with a matrix of complicated analyses and more questions.

For Mick and me, we have always striven to be patient, striven to be supportive, striven to be understanding. The realization of it is-as frustrating as it is for us to answer all of the questions to Ian's satisfaction-it has to be even more frustrating for him to be thinking of all of these questions that are fleeting through his mind. But,we feel we need to give him every opportunity to express his ideas and concerns because he's most certainly not getting the opportunity in his traditional classroom. WE are, truly grateful that he gets at least one day out of his week where he is stimulated(in his ALERT class)And mind you, we do not feel this is the fault of his teacher (who is a delight and seems truly concerned for Ian's well-being)-we do not feel it is the fault of the principal (who is doing a fantastic job dealing with many big issues including a school population that is currently about 137 students above capacity). overhauled. I respectfully believe the "No Child Left Behind" had at it's core ideology-great intentions-but in it's implementation and in it's reality, it is failing desperately in the ability to meet the needs of the gifted. To meet the needs of every child. Failing to see that no child is being "left behind."

There's so much more I could write now-but I'm truly drained at this point and need to take a break. This won't be the last you hear about this, I just needed to vent. To reflect. To regroup. To devise a feasible, practical, pragmatic way to see to it that the needs of these gifted children are met. And to accomplish this before it is too late. Not just for Ian but for all of the others out there.

One other thing I'd like to change. The stigma surrounded the label "gifted" Not to change it solely for the child. But for the parents of these children. At times it can be a lonely place to be. Talking about the gifted to other parents who haven't had the privilege,the responsibility, the frustration that accompanies taking care of these kids-we POGO's (parents of Gifted Offspring) are often looked at as being braggart or audacious. Any one who takes the time to listen-will know that we "POGOS" are just wanting the same for our children as other parents want for theirs. To raise our children in environments where they feel safe, where they feel connected, where they feel welcomed, where they can explore their world, question their world and learn about their world without being stifled, without being under stimulated, without being LEFT BEHIND.

As I said above,I'm sure this won't be the last time I reflect on this topic-but I'm just tired of not being able to talk about it. Tired of worrying about what others will think. Thinking I'm some arrogant mom who thinks her kid is all that. For those of you that truly, I mean truly know me-know that is not what all of this ranting is about. It's about a boy. A boy that desperately wants to be challenged. That wants to learn. To explore. To discover. To invent. To let his ideas be known. To let his voice be heard.

'Nuf said!

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