Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Misunderstood Child


This has been a subject that has weighed heavy on my mind ever since we started the journey of trying public school, and now sift through everything making the transition to homeschooling. Actually it has been an issue this past year, as we heard so many people who do not really know Selena make remarks such as, “She is ADHD” or “Is she drug or alcohol affected from mommy?” I have even had people make comments like, “You’ve taught her too much.” or “Give her a break, she doesn’t need to be learning ALL the time.” Every time someone made these remarks my heart ached and broke a bit. I know my heart really broke when the public school failed her in the fourth day of school.

I have been reading so many articles, many written by the gifted child, now grown, and just how misunderstood they were as children. Their stories really touch this Mama, as this is what I am beginning to see with Selena. She is so misunderstood in different situations. At one point children older then her, stare when she knows how to read better then them, or knows information they have never even thought of. It’s not only the children but many times their parents will make comments, gasp, or ask, “Is she really reading that?” or “Is that true?” Even the pediatric psychologist at times has turned to me asking for clarification about facts that Selena shares about different animals, plants, or things from her world. I say to these adults, not so much the children since they do not always understand, but the adults, “Give her a break, just because she has these abilities or knows this information does not make her a freak, a geek, or some odd child with something wrong. She is as normal as your child, she loves to play, sing, run, jump, act goofy, and use her imagination just like any other child.”

I often wonder if we were to round up all the children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, but very bright, or on the Autistic Spectrum, and remove these labels, and allow them to use their brains, talents, and explore their world, how many would truly be gifted, and not what their labels say they are? I know of one in real life, who is as bright as they come, but he got labeled as ADHD and placed in contained classrooms, special education, and there he has sat. His mom has battled to remove the label, to get him out of these classes, and to see more school work given to him. He will be graduating from High School and still is not being giving the opportunity to prove himself. I know him very well, he is the son of my best friend, he is not ADHD, he is very bright, and sees the world in a very sensitive and caring way.

When we went through the experience we went through with the public school, I came under ridicule by many who felt that Selena should be tested, placed in contained classrooms, receive special education and we needed to just except the fact that she wasn’t alright. Why? Only because she demanded more of an education then she was receiving, she was getting bored sitting and coloring pictures for two and half hours, she didn’t handle the teacher talking about the same subject matter over and over again every single day. Sure she could have remained seated like asked, she could have behaved a little bit better then she did, but put yourself in her shoes if you can for just a few hours. Think about hearing stop, stop, stop, stop or this is how you become a good friend, friend, friend, friend over and over again while your mind is thinking of all the wonderful things you want to explore and learn during these precious hours. I don’t know about you but I would be having anxieties and looking for a way out of the room myself.

Now that we are homeschooling again, and have started our new curriculum, which I must say Selena loves, she wants to learn all the time. She even asked for a little school or homework on Saturday. She wants so much to be learning all the time that I have to get creative and find things that she can do to keep her mind going. If her mind is going, she is able to sit for hours. Just before sitting down to write this post, Selena was trying to help Papa with something that just was inappropriate for her to be helping with. I quickly went and got all these little cardboard shapes I purchased last year from an Etsy shop, scraps they were called, and asked her to sort them by shape for me.

DSCF1195 While it was a very simple task, Selena lost herself in this activity, examining every angle, all sorts of ways of looking at the shapes to determine what pile they would fit in, then just having some fun sorting them by size, and creating art with them. Was this something I had planned on doing, sorting all these pieces, no not at all, but thanks to my granddaughter who just wanted to feel like she was busy helping, they are neatly sorted, back in their little bags by shape, and ready to be used for something down the road.

When we truly see the side of Selena that is less appealing, is when we allow her the time to get bored, we are learning to keep as many workbooks available for her to grab and work from as she chooses, we keep books available for her to read, at the table, at her desk, in the living room, as well as in her bedroom, and I continue to look at the things in my home from simple things I would normally throw away, to things that have been sitting for along time on the shelf or in a drawer and rethink how we can turn this material into a fun learning activity at any given moment.

I have come to forget the words that once hurt so bad, and to forgive those who have said these things, as they truly just do not know Selena the way Papa and I do. I am thrilled to have her ask me 20 question in the 40 miles we drive to Olympia, or her constantly telling me how to drive as she reads every road sign posted along the roadway, as well as her funny little antics she comes up with to explain all the things she sees, from tree mountain, to big, little pond. I couldn’t imagine trying to ask her to for one minute think any other way. I love her just the way she is, and I want her to love herself for all the wonderful insights, and talents that she has and will discover through her journey in life.

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  1. Well said, my friend, well said.

  2. This is a great post. I agree that many gifted children are misunderstood, especially in the places where children are expected to be a certain way. I am pretty sure that Selena would have had a very different experience in the school Anna goes too, where 80% come to school being able to read and some being able to do so much more. At least she has you - her grandma, her friend and her advocate. She is a lucky little girl!

  3. I tried commenting earlier, but for some reason the comment box was gone. It's back now.

    There's a series going on right now over at Raising Lifelong Learners about Gifted Kids that'd you probably love, her post today had me thinking of Selena and some of the disagreements you've had with the school district:

    I get so frustrated with all of the labels kids are given today, most of them are rather useless and overused.

  4. When I just read that you were homeschooling again, I scrolled down and found this post. I am so glad I did! Selena is so lucky to have you as her advocate. You are so right. Labels truly limit a child. People have a preconceived notion of what a child can or cannot do when they are labeled. It is not an individual child they are looking at, but a label with all its "limitations." My now 13 year old son is gifted and didn't fit inside the school's "box" either. I know exactly how you feel. It was not a fun journey, actually, for any of my sons. I will never regret the decision to take them home. My daughter has never had to experience a brick and mortar school and I am grateful for that. Hope you have a great weekend!