Sharon Lind

SHARON LIND

My name is Sharon Lind and my last name is spelled L I N D. I’m from the Seattle area, I’m an indepenent consultant in gifted education and I focus of socio-emotional needs primarily uh my my interests are are all in the whole field of gifted education but I feel there’s an absence of the need of of addressing the issues of socio-emotional needs in and kind of the at risk type students so that’s where I focus.

I think it’s very difficult to give a simple answer to anyone asking the question about who are the gifted and talented because definitions vary from region to region and from culture to culture, from city to city. Um when I’m talking about gifted and talents I tend to focus on those who are intellectually gifted and creatively gifted, people who are well above average in intellect and creativity and I do that because I think that they have some socio-emotional needs that are unique and different and then perhaps someone who might be academically gifted. But certainly there’s lots of realms and another thing I think we need to talk about in gifted education is we tend to have a narrow focus of who gifted and talented are. We don’t necessarily talk about what gifted and talented is to the Sioux Indian or to you know the African American who lives in rural Alabama and so part of part of what I think we need to do in the field is expand that.

To me one of the issues about identifying gifted and talented students is that there are a couple things that come to mind. One is that if an if if you’re in a school district or you have a program and you and you’re saying I want to serve this group of of gifted children it needs to be really clear to everyone who they are. One of the things I find when traveling all over the United States is that there are misconceptions within an individual school district or an individual classroom about how a child was identified. So for me one of the issues about identification is making sure everyone knows who it is you’re looking for. If you’re looking for kids who are academically gifted then they need to know why they were chosen for that program and the child who doesn’t succeed in that area understands why they’re not there. So the issues for me about identification have to do with knowing what your goals are in the program and then making it clear to the people whom you’re choosing or not choosing. Ah 2 other issues to me about identification are that we still have narrow focuses about who those kids are. Many place in the United States ac children who are chosen for gifted program are successful children. And we don’t look for children who aren’t successful and I think we need to broaden that scope.

Counseling the gifted is a tough issue as well because what when you say counseling the gifted to me a number of things come to mind. What comes to mind is what do we do in the school for the gifted child? What do we do in the community for the gifted child or adult for that matter? So in terms of counseling the gifted there are several things I think we we need to have to happen. In school districts or in private or public schools, it doesn’t matter, we need to develop programs that meet the affective needs of gifted kids that means we need to be training counselors about the unique needs of aca of of gifted children. Some of their needs are different than other children. For example we find highly gifted and highly creative kids tend to be more intense, more over excitable to use Debrosky’s term. Um an yet that’s the the behaviors that that are described in that paradigm when seen in a regular classroom are considered inappropriate behavior, so we need ot have people in a counseling role and in leadership role who know how to identify them and know that it’s it’s appropriate behavior not inappropriate or patha pathological behavior. So I think we need counselors who look at those kinds of issues, we need counselors who have the ability to to understand that gifted children have some unique issues just because they’re different as other other groups do because they’re different and they need a chance to have peer groups they need to have a chance to have focus groups to talk to one another, to share those concerns, and we need training for counselors to know that it’s important and to provide that for children. And outside of schools my experience is that there are very few cities and clearly not rural areas where there are counselors available who understand the needs of gifted individuals. But when that gifted child, that gifted adult, goes to a counselor and starts expressing their concerns, it’s frequently misconstrued. So again it goes back to education. If if I I had this talk that I give sometimes called If I Were God of Education or if I were Julie of Education or whatever one of the things would be to be sure that our counselors and our psychologists and our physicians learn about the unique needs of gifted individuals and have that in their reperitoire so that when that person comes into their office or comes into their whatever they can deal they can help that individual.

Socio-emotional needs of gifted is a very interesting topic and I talk on it a lot and and there are many of us in the field of gifted education who who address the issues. And we all kind of go from a different perspective. But the truth is I think we’re all going at the same thing and essentially the kinds of things that we’re talking about are ways to emotionally support the needs of that child or that adult in an environment that’s not necessarily accepting of who they are. So to me there’s some key things we need to do for socio-emotional needs. One is understanding giftedness. You need to understand what it means if you’ve been identified or not identified. You need to know, I like to talk abut strengths, I get tired of the word gifted. I think sometimes I know it has a pajorative connotation in our society and and gifted has a narrow defintion in our society. So sometimes I like to say, I talk about strengths. What are you’re strengths? Know what your strengths are. Um and and I think we owe that to anyone who’s identified for gifted program to know why they’ve been identified and what’s what that means. Well I think we need to understand giftedness that’s one. Another one is that we need to understand about intensity. We find that there are more intense super sensitive, over excitable individuals in the gifted population than there are in the regular population. You need to know it’s ok to be that way, you need to have some strategies to deal with that. So that’s another need to me. Another need is find community. You need to find other gifted individuals who are like you and one of the things that happens, even in some gifted programs, is it doesn’t exist. So what can we do as parents or educators or partners to help that person find other kindred spirits to find affiliation to find connection. Um and there’s some other kinds of things that I think go along. One to me is to understand, have appropriate expectations. Gifted individuals frequently are perfectionistic. And and that term in our field right now is just has 8000 definitions. But whether it’s the person who who’s expectations were put on them by other people that they have to be phenomenal because they’re gifted or whether they’re the kind of person who sees in their mind the incredible things that could happen, they need to put it in a context that’s healthy for them. So we need to talk about appropriate expectations I think. Other kinds of things I think we need to worry about are there’s 2 more that come to mind. One is um is appropriate social skills. Um very often bright people, especially if they are intellectually gifted individuals, sometimes don’t have terrific social skills. And they get themselves into trouble. And I have a view, my view of teaching children and adult’s skills is you give them a reperitoire of skills and they choose to use them or not. If they don’t want to use them that’s their choice, but it’s inappropriate to expect them to have you know to say things that are not offensive if they don’t know how. And sometimes we find for example that highly intellectual, overly excitable intense individuals tend to be exceptionally direct and they say things like um that’s a stupid idea. Ok and they don’t mean to be unkind to the person who is speaking but they simply know that what they just heard was a stupid idea. Well they have to learn how to say it in a context that doesn’t make that person person feel badly. So that’s what I mean about social skills. I don’t want us all to be little clones wondering around, but I want I want people to have skills that will enable them to get what they need. Ok? And I think the other one to me that’s really important is stress. Um I I think when you’re different, when you’re not like everyone else, when you’re more intense and you may be perfectionistic, the odds of being stressed are higher and so we need to teach stress management. So those are kind of the ones that are my big passion.

Well a cup a couple of things come to mind. Having been involved with the National Association for Gifted Children for about 15 or 16 years, I I kept thinking that we have a lot of gifted individuals who come to our conference um you know and and their needs as individuals weren’t being met. They were coming to learn about the children or when I would be teaching parenting gifted classes what I discovered was that we were always focusing on the child and not the adult. But what I continue to hear from many adults were now that I’ve learned about gifted children as a teacher or a parent or am starting to learn, issues about my own giftedness are coming up and I’m having trouble balancing my own issues with raising my child or my own issues with my own issues with teaching a child. And so I really think in order for us to to help gifted children grow we need to be helping the adults around them as well. So I really like to focus on that whenever possible and to talk about what’s it like to be gifted adult in an environment that may not be conducive to that. It just um speaking to some people in Los Angles and and women a couple of women said to me things like I don’t have an identity any more. Once I gave up my career to have children and I like my children I lost my identity. Had another woman say I I go to work and I talk and everything I say goes over their head. That is so frustrating to me. So we’re dealing with those kinds of issues as well and I think we need to addressing those. Another thing is I think if we do and we can show adults it’s important to be confident with who you are and confident with who you are they’re modeling for children and and I have a premise that says if we aren’t dealing with the adults we never are really totally going to help the children.

Curriculum is not my biggest strength so I have to be very honest about that. Uh I have a number of biases however about the way we teach gifted children. One is something that goes along and I think with some of the problems we have with education in general which is that we can sometimes get too tied into one way to do it. My belief is that good teaching involves knowing a number of different techniques, a number of different models and you pick what’s best for that child in that environment. So that would sort of be my reaction to asking a question about curriculum. The other piece that I that I’m very concerned about is that most of the curriculum that I find, again in the United States, does not have an affective or social-emotional component. It’s pretty cognative, it’s pretty much about your head or you know your talents or whatever. And I would really like to see us do a much better job of incorporating social-emotional issues into the curriculum. There are ways to do it, I mean you can talk about perfectionsim in the context of science. You know we want our brain surgeon to be as close to perfect as possible, right, but there are ways to deal with the stress that comes I mean that comes with having to be that accurate. So there are ways to take social emotional issues and incorpoate them into the regular curriculum that would still help that child grow into a total person. One of my concerns sometimes is that we’re not talking about the total person, we’re just talking about the kind of part above your head or above your shoulders rather.

I think I think there are ways that children gifted children in elementary or middle school and high school are different and I think there are ways that they are really basically the same. And that sometimes we make assumptions that just because they’re in middle school they’ve changed. So I have, it’s a hard question for me to think about. Um I think frequently gifted children in elementary are still kind of in that honeymoon period where sometimes depending upon it depends on the environment. But sometimes the environment is still stimulating and appropriate for them and they have the social context that they need and then occasionally when they get to middle school, depending upon the middle school, sometimes the intellectual piece is not there any longer. Um I have another I have a lot of biases but one of my biases but one of my biases is the middle school models that are going on in many places in the United States essentially dumb down the curriculum and so everyone has to be equal and what happens to that intellectually gifted or academically gifted child is that their needs, their needs aren’t being met there. And when their needs aren’t being met intellectually it affects them emotionally. And and that that’s not an ok thing to do so, well I’m digressing. Let me think about that. What are the differences between the kids?

Well certainly I and maybe the things that come to mind as a counselor about the needs for gifted kids at different age levels have to do with social implications, have to do with the acceptability of being gifted. Um it and it it seems to depend more to me on the school culture than it does on the grade level. The more I think about that question I’m not sure what to do. Um in some high schools for example, it’s it’s easier to be an intellectual in international baclaurette student um than it would be to be um in an elementary school where you’re taking 6th grade math with 6th graders but you are a first grader. So I think it maybe depends, to me it depends on the environment I think the social issues are big, where it’s accepting, um and it’s fitting in. very often we are finding now that the that the the girls and the boys are starting to they start out in school very often and they are pretty comfortable with who they are but when they are not fitting in they find ways to change, you know become more more aff you know in football they become the cheerleader, whatever it happens to be to fit in. So I think those are the kinds of issues.

Underachievement is a a a oh achievement in fact is an issue I think that we need to be thinking, maybe we need to reframe how we’re thinking about achievement and underachievement with gifted children. Most definitions of underachievement are based upon the schools belief in in how the child should be performing. So at a certain grade level I should be performing at a certain way and I should be writing in a certain way and I should you know follow those kinds of paradigms. And and I have a concern that some of our children who are underachieving who are not meeting those standards are perhaps meeting standards that are higher in their own way or or look at those standards and go that makes no sense what so ever, why would I want to do that? So I have a couple of issues about underachievement. One is we need when we identify an underachiever I think the first question we should say is the system doing something that’s causing that child to behave in that way as opposed to automatically assuming there’s something wrong with the child. So that would be number one for me. Um and then if we have children that we really are concerned about I there I have different ways that I like to look at underachievers. So I think that sometimes people don’t achieve for different reasons. We have people who underachieve or aren’t successful in school I think sometimes because school is meaningless to them. And and they just don’t see any reason to be part of that program and so part of what we need to be doing as educators and parents is showing meaning or finding ways for that to have meaning for them. Um I have a couple of descriptions that I have for kids who are underachievers. One of them is what I call the inspiteful learner and that’s a kid who learners inspite of the system. This is the person who gets A’s on tests and no one knows what’s going on, he doesn’t want to do the busy work. You know why should I be doing 27 examples of a problem I already know how to do. And so and and doesn’t see why the lab is important in in chemistry or whatever it is. But in fact if you really looked at how much they know they know as much or more than other children and even sometimes than the teacher, but they’re not passing, so that kind of student has different needs to me than the student for example I would call a kind of the compliant learner who’s the one who does just enough to get by and maybe doing that for all kinds of different reasons. Well the way we address the needs of that child is different the needs for the inspiteful learner. Where the child is doing it just to make everyone think they’re wonderful. So part of it to me for about underachievement is knowing the source, we need to figure out why the child’s doing what they are doing in order to help them. And then the overriding issue with underachievement and gifted kids is being sure the curriculum is appropriate. And that has to be the very first question and when that’s taken care of we can start looking at other causes I think.

I started in the field of gifted education because I am a parent of a highly gifted child. I didn’t even know gifted education existed until I had my daughter. And so I have a very strong attachment to parents of gifted children because when she started in school there really wasn’t there wasn’t much literature, there weren’t a lot of programs and she’s 26 and there really should have been then. And there were some but there wasn’t a lot. So my council to gifted parents, parents of gifted children, um is is to first of all cherish the uniqueness of that child. In some homes giftedness is put on a pedestal. And and the child is given kind of a is revered in a way that is not appropriate for a child. In some homes it’s not ok to be different. And so there’s issues with that. So my my first thing to say to parents is to cherish the child that you have and the strengths that they have. Um my second thing it to be sure that parents understand that they need to know what’s going on at school. You need to be involved with what’s happening there. If you’re not a person who’s going to in and help them teach math that’s not a problem, it doesn’t mean you can’t cut things out or whatever. But you need to be you need to advocate for your child in a positive way. You need to be involved with the school and and be willing to tell them not only when things are going wrong, but when things are going right. So to me a big part of parenting a gifted child is to advocate for them. It’s to foster those strengths and to be sure that they have choice. I think it’s really easy as a parent of a gifted child when you see this incredible ability to cut to start wanting to push them in some direction or encourage them to you know, oh my gosh you’re such an incredible dancer you have to be in ballet, and I think what happens is sometimes children have to try to try to live through their parents expectations. And so a big part of this is backing up a bit and saying what will be appropriate for the child or what do you want to do?

I think if I had a magic wand and I had only could have one wish to help the gifted person, a child and an adult both, I would somehow make our culture in the United States celebrate diversity. I think that one of the biggest problems we have here is that that in an effort through the years to have equality for people to to be sure that people were treated fairly that we somehow kind of tried to homogenize things and and one of the things I try to advocate for is to celebrate diversity. To celebrate the fact that I am I am a learning disabled gifted adult and I am a learning disabled gifted adult. I have wonderful strengths, I have a horrible time reading. I have a writing disability, that doesn’t make me a bad person, it doesn’t make me a broken person. But I have strengths and I am learning what those strengths are and and I need to be able to celebrate that celebrate the fact that my daughter has totally different strengths and my husband, or the children that I teach. So I think if I had a magic wand I would do that.