James T. Webb, Ph.D., the lead author of six books and numerous articles about gifted children and adults, has been recognized as one of the 25 most influential psychologists on gifted education. He founded the nonprofit organization SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted), and he has served on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Gifted Children.
His latest book is Searching for Meaning: Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope.
I am very grateful to Dr. Webb for accepting the invitation to write to mark Gifted Education Awareness Week.
I am very pleased that Ireland has created a Gifted Education Awareness Week. In 2008, the organization SENG created a National Parenting Gifted Children Week held annually in the third full week in July of each year, and we have found this to be an excellent way to focus on relevant issues.
Regrettably, there still is a widespread myth that bright, talented, gifted children do not have any special needs, and that they will simply “make it on their own” without special understanding and accommodations. A Gifted Awareness Week in Ireland, and in other countries, can help overcome this myth and serve as a focal point for sharing of relevant information. National Parenting Gifted Children Week in the United States, now placed in the National Special Events Registry, is intended to celebrate the joys and challenges of raising, guiding, and supporting bright young minds. Each day focuses on a special area, such as:
- Challenges of Parenting Gifted Children
- Underachievement Issues
- Advocacy for Gifted Children—Teaming with Educators and Legislators
- Identifying and Recognizing Giftedness
- Special issues for Gifted Minorities, Gifted Boys, and Gifted Girls
- Misdiagnosis, Depression, and Suicide in Gifted Youth
- Parenting Supports and Resources
We hope other associations that work with parents of gifted and talented children will follow the lead of countries such as Ireland in proclaiming Gifted Awareness Week. In particular, I hope that their organizations will publicize their own local or national efforts to inform and support parents of gifted and talented children. Parents, in my opinion, are the most important single factor in the long-term outcome of gifted children. Yet parents of gifted children continue to tell me what a lonely experience it is for them. Even when their children are quite young, these parents recognize that their child is different than other children of similar ages; their children seem unusually intense, curious, sensitive, strong-willed, questioning, precocious, impatient, and sometimes just quirky about things like food or lights, or noises, or tags in their shirts. These parents have few places they can turn for information and support, and they have few other parents with whom they can talk. This is why we wrote A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children and why SENG particularly tries to reach out to parents.
Another major area of need is that of misdiagnosis of gifted children and adults. Because extremely few physicians and psychologists receive any training in this area, many gifted children and adults receive incorrect diagnoses of ADHD, OCD, Asperger’s Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, etc. Additionally, gifted children who are twice-exceptional (2e) often find that their unusually high abilities are camouflaged or overlooked. SENG has launched a SENG Misdiagnosis Initiative worldwide to educate professionals and parents and information is available at here and on Linkedin here and also here.
In addition, I would refer people to our book, Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults.
When intensity and sensitivity are combined with idealism, as so often happens with bright children and adults, good things can happen because they can keenly see how things might be. But this can also lead to frustration, disillusionment, and unhappiness. Sometimes this prompts perfectionism; other times it results in existential depression. Through our relationships, we must provide understanding and nurturance so that they do not feel alone and helpless in a world that seems so paradoxical, arbitrary, and even absurd. We can help nurture their idealism, and indeed we must if the world is to become a better place.
Gifted Education Awareness Week in Ireland, and similar efforts, focus attention and understanding on the characteristics and needs of gifted children and adults. I want to encourage you and to applaud your efforts!