"
 
Picture
For the past dozen or so years, I’ve been involved in one way or another with parents seeking support for their gifted children—casually on park benches, in spontaneous parking lot meetings, and during more formal gatherings in classrooms or auditoriums.

It was one of those groups of parents, in fact, that prompted my move to social media—and several years and tens of thousands of followers later, there I remain. And this is what I’ve found: Whether it’s 23 people or 23,000, in real life or online, parents want the same things.

Comradery. The business of parenting isn’t always easy, particularly when you’re parenting members of a population to which typical child-rearing books and resources don’t apply. When you’re the parent of a gifted child, you realize early on that, in order to find others who can truly relate to your experiences, you have to do some searching—often while simultaneously dodging accusations of elitism, zealous pride, or even an overactive imagination (yeah right, your kid didn’t really start speaking at 5 months, master preschool puzzles at 12 months, or begin reading and performing calculations at 3 years with no formal teaching). Finding a group of people who get it, or even one other parent who does, can be a substantial boost to your understanding of your child and to your overall sense of sanity.

Empathy and respect. And, with the discovery of like minds, comes compassion. It’s human nature to want to feel as if we’re not alone—that others can relate to what we’re going through. When a group of like-minded people come together, there is the opportunity not only to exchange information but to provide comfort and to form bonds that sustain us as we face the challenges of advocating for our children. We all crave a safe haven where our choices are honored and we don’t feel judged simply for doing what every good parent tries to do—the best for our children.

A voice. We each have a tale to tell, and the proper venue can provide a safe place to do that. Many parents of gifted children have learned that it’s not really alright to share stories of their children’s successes or even their challenges. We are so often met with an audience that has bought into the myths: “gifted children will do fine on their own,” “gifted children are at the top of their class,” “gifted children must be so easy to raise,” “gifted children don’t have to manage a learning disability.” And it becomes tiring trying to explain the realities to less-than-receptive listeners. This is where a strong parent group can do the most good—creating an environment for open dialogue, a place where all voices are heard.

Resources and tools. But gathering with other like-minded parents is only part of what the majority of group participants are after. What most end up needing to do—what many times will cause them to seek sources of support to begin with—is to advocate. And, to do that effectively, they need tools. Collaboration can lead to a collection of materials and experiences on which we can all draw. The leader of a group often is part librarian, part sounding board, and part coach: offering parents techniques to help them garner services for their children; providing information on self-care; and directing them to books, organizations, and Internet resources to help them build the knowledgebase required to become their children’s best advocates—until those children are ready to take the reins themselves.

Confidence to pay it forward. It’s been my experience that those in the learning community—gifted or otherwise—are willing and often eager to help others who find themselves in the same boat. After being involved in a real life or online group, many people are inspired to attempt forming their own. I would encourage those who can’t find a group to consider starting one—repeatedly, if necessary. Your tribe is out there and eventually we all find one another.

That is perhaps the biggest takeaway from my founding Supporting Gifted Learners:


One person can make a difference and can initiate a community of learners to come together for a common purpose—to support, empathize, and encourage growth. Parents, educators, and gifted advocates of all varieties play a part. From schoolyards to social media, there are opportunities to get involved, for our voices to reach a broader audience. And I can tell you, from personal experience, that there is immense satisfaction in being part of the process.

This post is part of the April Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop. Click below to read more!

Graphic designed by Pamela S. Ryan
 


Comments

04/02/2016 3:49pm

Well said, Ann. I so enjoy reading your writing! You're such an articulate advocate.

Reply
Ann
04/02/2016 9:16pm

Thank you for your kind words, Paula.

Reply
04/02/2016 7:57pm

Well done!! I hope to join you later this month

Reply
Ann
04/02/2016 9:23pm

Thank you, Joy! I'm not sure what you're referring to later this month, but I certainly welcome the chance to see you anytime!

Reply
04/03/2016 9:18pm

I'm grateful for your wisdom and advocacy! I love what you said about comradery and advocacy. Thank you for this post and for all you do!

Reply
Ann
04/04/2016 1:56pm

You're welcome, Emily! And thank you for the kind words! I'm glad the post resonated with you.

Reply
04/09/2016 4:46pm

You are so right. Advocacy is always easier in a group of like-minded individuals. Great post!

Reply
Ann
04/10/2016 5:16pm

Thanks, Natalie! It's always a wonderful feeling when we find our tribe. We're all in this together!

Reply
04/12/2016 11:32am

Groups are so important - add such value and support. Great post.

Reply
Ann
04/18/2016 8:59pm

Thanks, Gail!

Reply
04/16/2016 10:28pm

It can definitely be isolating having gifted kids. Finding a group or even 1 other person going through similar issues is such a blessing.

Reply
Ann
04/18/2016 9:02pm

It certainly is. Whether in person or online, groups have great value to parents of gifted kids!

Reply
Carrie
07/10/2016 10:44pm

Could anyone offer suggestions on the best places to find these groups? I am this mom--just starting out on this new road--hoping to advocate for my daughter to the best of my abilities. I would love to be pointed in the right direction.

Reply
Ann
07/15/2016 12:42pm

Online: Facebook pages such as Supporting Gifted Learners are a good place to start. There are also some Facebook groups that you may find helpful: Raising Poppies and Hoagies’ Gifted Discussion Group are a couple of options. If you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, or wish to take a more active role, you can always start your own Facebook group. It may seem overwhelming, but it can also be quite rewarding. :) In person: If you are interested in starting a group that meets in person, you may want to begin by contacting your state gifted association and asking for guidance from them. There may already be a group in your area. Or, if not, they may offer direction on how you can start one. Another option is reaching out to your intermediate school district to see if there are any groups or supports in place for gifted children. In my personal experience, every parent group I’ve belonged to has been initiated or managed by me (sometimes with help). Some formed organically. Others were formed with the input of the state association, intermediate school district, or local school district. Supporting Gifted Learners began as a small local group, which has long since disbanded. I took those humble beginnings and grew them into the page, website, etc. that now exist. Best of luck to you, Carrie!

Sue
05/31/2016 10:37pm

Thanks for writing this, my 9th grader is struggling this year and I feel completely unable to share it with anyone that will understand. Your post is so very true.

Reply
J. English
07/11/2016 12:06am

I am a public school special education educator and my own children have been identified as gifted. My efforts to seek out opportunities for my children outside the traditional pubic school setting have not been supported. It is acceptable to seek out and pay for "select" sports for children who excel athletically, but perceived as elitism to do the same for a child who's gifts are academic or artistic.

Reply

Your comment will be posted after it is approved.


Leave a Reply