PEGY 

the UK based support organisation for those
 involved with parenting and teaching 

Profoundly & Exceptionally Gifted Youth
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PARENTS AND CARERS

“The experts agree that the most significant way parents can help their profoundly intelligent children become comfortable with themselves is by providing them with a safe, supportive home environment where they are loved and accepted for who they are, differences and all.”  from Frequently Asked Questions About Giftedness

 

“Parents of profoundly gifted children often feel isolated in seeking solutions to these and other life dilemmas. Even parents of moderately gifted children may not be able to give much advice, as the problems they are seeing or the situations they are encountering bear little resemblance to the enormity of the issues as perceived by parents of the profoundly gifted.” from Profoundly gifted guilt (2001) by Jim Delisle

 

“Most parents greet the discovery that their child is not merely gifted but highly or profoundly gifted with a combination of pride, excitement, and fear. They may set out to find experts or books to help them cope with raising such a child, only to find there are no real experts, only a couple of books, and very little understanding of extreme intellectual potential and how to develop it.”

from Helping your highly gifted child by Stephanie Tolan

 

“When parents discover that their child is highly gifted it stirs up a myriad of emotions including pride, joy, clarity, frustration and fear. The guidance from experts is limited and local support is almost unheard of. Parents more than usually feel desperately alone in finding an understanding ear and sympathetic shoulder. The parent, then, must become the expert.” from Highly Gifted Children at Home by Karen Morse

 

let him be a kid - the kid he IS. "Being a kid" doesn't mean you are crammed into someone else's rigid model. It means you are free to learn and grow. It means you're loved, cherished and protected from harm, whether that harm comes from physical dangers or from ignorant, self-interested school administrators, defensive friends or jealous neighbors. It means that your basic needs are met, that your joy is valued, that your individuality is guarded. Your worries are kept small, your responsibilities kept manageable. It means that you have someone who will never give up on you - someone who will guide you, teach you, keep the flame burning in your heart as they lead you towards becoming a healthy, happy adult. Enjoy him as a kid, too. As you let him be a kid, you "be a Mom". Revel in the beauty of the world through his eyes, run through the sprinklers, cuddle him when he's afraid, tuck him into bed and read him a story he loves - even if it's one of Feynman's lectures. People tell you to "just let him be a kid", tell them simply - that's exactly what you're doing, thanks.”  from Hard Won Truths by Juliet Thomas

 

 

On this page there are links to articles in which you may find material which resonates with your experience and provides helpful insights. However, there is no substitute for making contact with others who have gone through or who are going through many of the same experiences. PEGY provides a place where parents can come together to share experiences and discuss decisions with others who are dealing with the same things.

 

 

“When a parent of a profoundly gifted child finally hears someone say those beautiful words, "Yeah, I know what you mean. That happened to us last year with our daughter," a curtain is lifted and the play begins.”  from Profoundly gifted guilt (2001) by Jim Delisle.

 

 

Identification of profound or exceptional giftedness can be problematic, so if you are not sure whether your child falls into this category but think the services PEGY offers may be useful to you and your child please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

It is not necessary to be exceptionally or profoundly gifted in order to make an outstanding contribution to many fields of human endeavour. Indeed, the intelligence range between IQ 125 and 145 has been described as “optimal intelligence”, where a person has the ability to be highly successful in any occupation, but does not usually have the differences due to higher intelligence which can cause problems.

 

On education:

 

The most frequently faced difficulty is that of finding an appropriate education.  Parents are often told “Don’t push, there’ll be plenty of time for learning” or “Just let him be a child”, and worse, “What do you think you’ll gain by pushing him, it’ll backfire on you in the end!” All these admonitions are valuable IF they are aimed at parents who truly are trying to force a reluctant child to spend hours and hours of their childhood in hothousing conditions.

 

“...when parents begin to say that their child began reading at 18 months, or that she asks questions about the origins of human life at the age of three, or that he is going to start taking a high school geometry class instead of third grade math, they begin to get funny looks. Some people listening to such parents think they are lying or making up stories just to make other children look bad. Others think these are evil parents who push, push, push their child for their own selfish satisfaction. Still others (and they are often relatives) ignore the comments altogether, refusing to see the profoundly gifted child as being anything other than a typical child who is just "a little bit smart."”  from Profoundly gifted guilt (2001) by Jim Delisle.

 

But few parents of the exceptionally and profoundly gifted are pushing their children, rather parents are taken aback by the child’s speed and zest for learning, indeed they are often left floundering in the child’s wake. Most people understand that a child cannot be ‘pushed’ into running, climbing and talking fluent, adult, English much earlier than the average, but don’t see that the same child, far from being pushed, has been pushing his parents, demanding information, explanation and activity ever since he could make himself understood! Nor do they see the misery, the depression, and the anxiety which the child can suffer when he is in an educational situation which does not allow him to continue to learn.

 

“...they need to develop their astonishing potential. There is a strong internal drive to develop one's abilities. Thwarting that drive may lead to crippling emotional damage. Throughout the parenting years, it is wise to keep in mind that the healthiest long term goal is not necessarily a child who gains fame, fortune, and a Nobel Prize, but one who becomes a comfortable adult and uses gifts productively.” from Helping your highly gifted child by Stephanie Tolan

 

 

It is essential, as a parent, to keep in mind that teachers went into education wanting to help and work with children, and they want the best possible outcome for ALL the children in their care. However, very few have ever come across an exceptionally gifted child, and fewer still are familiar with research and best practice on appropriate education for such children. They may appreciate the opportunity to read the information on PEGY’s education and acceleration pages, and both parents and those teachers working on behalf of our children may find the information on the advocacy page useful.

 

“Most educators have never coped with a child identified as exceptionally gifted before. Few have read Hollingworth (1975) and some who have can't believe that our children could readily complete elementary education in one fourth the normal time or less. Such deviations from the norm are incredible to many educators.

It's important for parents and exceptionally gifted children alike to understand that educators do not misunderstand on purpose. What is normal for us is simply not believable to them; it's as if we are living in another dimension, trying to explain our world. They know their own world and its rules. After all, it has been suggested that schools that must educate the majority of the population should no more be expected to educate the 150+ child than to educate the severely retarded.” from Stuck in Another Dimension:The Exceptionally Gifted Child in School (PEGY’s emphasis).

 

If your profoundly or exceptionally gifted child is happy in school we would love to hear from you and would be delighted if you would contact us to tell us what has worked for your child. Every child and situation is different but we are always looking out for good practice we can share with others.

 

On peers and friendships

 

Parents may be concerned about their child’s social development. It is not unusual for profoundly and exceptionally gifted children in school with age peers to experience social difficulties. To the surprise of their parents, even those who are socially skilled and very popular with classmates may express unhappiness that they have no ‘real’ friends. This is quite common, and research has documented that children’s social and emotional development is usually more closely matched to their intellectual than to their physical development. In particular, see the landmark study “Play partner or sure shelter?  by Miraca Gross.

 

“It is hard for them to find kindred spirits, hard for them to feel they fit into the only world they know.

Highly gifted children may have trouble establishing fulfilling friendships with people of their own age when there are few or no other highly gifted children with whom to interact. As a high school student told his mother, "I can be that part of myself that is like my classmates, and we get along fine. But, there's no one I can share the rest of me with, no one who understands what means the most to me." For most highly gifted children, social relationships with age peers necessitate a constant monitoring of thoughts, words, and behavior.” Helping Your Highly Gifted Child

 

It may be helpful to talk to children about the concept of different friends for different things, together with examples from parents’ own lives if possible.

 

 “What else can you do to help highly gifted children find friends? It helps children to understand that there are different types of friends. They may play baseball, ride bikes, and watch TV with one person, talk about books or movies with another, and play chess or discuss astronomy with another. Some of these friends may be their own age, some may be younger, or more often, older. Only in school is it suggested that people must be within a few months of each other in age to form meaningful relationships.” Helping Your Highly Gifted Child

 

“If it is at all possible, at some point in early or middle childhood it is very beneficial for the highly gifted child to find a congenial friend of similar chronological and mental age. For some highly gifted children, having such a friend is a life-changing experience for them; it marks a time in their lives when they are able to integrate their intellectual, social, and emotional selves, discrepant as the development may be, and have another child understand, accept, and fully share that developmental experience.”  from Parenting highly gifted children: The challenges, the joys, the unexpected surprises by Kathi Kearney.

 

Publicity and the media

 

In the past, organisations helping highly gifted children have recommended considering obtaining media attention as almost a last resort in the struggle to obtain a suitable education, and some families found that a local newspaper feature on the plight of their child did indeed help persuade schools that something needed to be done. However, with the advent of the internet the situation has changed. Information is no longer limited to the local paper but can become global within hours. Once published on the internet information is accessible for ever, from anywhere. Consider whether this will be in your child’s best interests. We would strongly advise parents thinking of contacting the media to consider the points made in these articles “Indecent Exposure: Does the media exploit highly gifted children”, “Highly gifted children and the press” and this presentation “How global media exploits the gifted” .

 

Finally...

 

Sometimes we parents look back and wish we’d done things differently, made different decisions, wish we’d known then what we know now.... If only we had, we could have spared our child so much pain....

 

“Misplaced parental guilt is a monster I know all too well. Seducing you with what might have been, it wastes your time, erodes your confidence, devours your energy, and distracts you from what is – which is the only thing you can do anything about.

Let me tell you about Rooster. He became depressed in first grade;.....

...I don't think he'd see himself as irreparably damaged. I don't think he'd see himself as damaged at all. He would acknowledge the pain – but most people suffer pain in this world, from one thing or another.  So you deal with it and go on. And that's the key – the thing for Rooster to focus on, and for you and your child to focus on, is not the road behind you, but the road ahead. You move on from where you are.  Not from where you could have been if things had gone differently – you don't know where you'd have been, anyway. But you know where you are, and you've got a journey ahead of you, starting right here.”  

Fighting Guilt  Copyright Charlotte Riggle, 2003  (Written for parents of twice exceptional children, but relevant to everyone.)

 

 

Recommended reading

 

Tips for Parents: What we Know from Longitudinal Studies of E/PG Children (2006)

If you only read one article, it should be this one! (Longitudinal studies follow the children from an early age over a period of time, tracking their development and studying the outcomes of different educational paths.)

 

Exceptionally Gifted Children by Miraca Gross. Essential reading for everyone in contact with a profoundly or exceptionally gifted child. Detailed information on 15 exceptionally and profoundly gifted children and the adults they become, based on a longitudinal study which now includes 60 exceptionally and profoundly gifted people.

 

Profoundly Gifted Guilt (2006) James Delisle

 

Survival kit for parents of exceptionally gifted children by Elizabeth Meckstroth

 

We knew he was bright...  “The problems and joys of parenting a profoundly gifted child will be outlined from a personal viewpoint. The difficulties which we as "first time" parents faced in identifying giftedness and the educational options (including part time university study) which we gradually selected will be reported. Behavioural problems have loomed large and long in our experience and these will also be discussed.”

 

Guiding the gifted child  by Meckstroth, Webb and Tolan. Still one of the best books around.

 

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids  “many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential. On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.”

This article makes excellent points, but also points up the need to make sure the child has an educational placement where he or she needs to put in an effort to learn from an early age. You cannot genuinely praise effort if your child does not need to make any!

 

 

“Raising a profoundly gifted child can be agony, ecstasy, and everything in between. Adults must perform almost impossible feats of balance; supporting a child's gifts without pushing, valuing without over-investing, championing without taking over. It is costly, physically and emotionally draining, and intellectually demanding.” Stephanie Tolan

It is generally agreed that bringing up children in today’s society is no easy task, and exceptional or profound giftedness adds another dimension of difficulty.

 

We recommend that if you already know your child is exceptionally or profoundly gifted, or are wondering whether he or she may be, you inform yourself as thoroughly as possible on the subject. Knowledge helps enormously! On this website we have provided links to a wealth of resources on identification, education and other topics.

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