Parenting Gifted Girls
"Growing Gifted Girls"
An extract from the accompanying notes to a presentation by our Forum Moderator "Fidget". A wonderful personal story charting the highs and lows of bringing up two very different, but both highly gifted girls. Download the presentation.
The first thing I have to say about growing gifted girls is that it is a very expensive business! Hence the Euro signs pouring out of the watering can! By the time you pay for dance classes, and of course all the gear that goes with that; athletics clubs, and of course all the gear that goes with that, music lessons and of course an instrument . . . you get the picture. Not only expensive in monetary terms but also in time. A wonderful bumper sticker I saw once read “My kids drive me mad, I drive them everywhere else!” You do become a bit of a taxi driver!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We didn’t know anything about giftedness, had never even heard the word. Even with my husband having 20 years experience in the teaching profession at the time, the word gifted had never cropped up nor was it ever mentioned in any training or in service courses. Any ideas we had of gifted were of prodigies and ours certainly weren’t that, however as it turned out they were both very gifted and now we can see what should have been obvious.
Our eldest girl was obviously bright from the start, walking and talking early, and always asking millions of questions. Our other girl was a bit different and I was a bit concerned that by 18 months she really hadn’t said much, I decided that when we came back from holidays I was going to bring her to the health clinic to have her development checked. However during that holiday she not only started talking in sentences, she started smart mouthing! Something she continues to do to this day!!
Instead of us thinking “Wow! That’s really unusual for an 18 month old baby” we thought “Good, that means there’s no problem with her hearing!”
There were lots of signs that they were both gifted, none of which we took up on! Probably because with gifted kids, they keep you so busy that you don’t have 5 minutes to think!
We sent both girls to the local primary school, for a number of reasons, among them the fact that when the time would come they could walk to and from school themselves and so it would afford them with some independence. It was a teacher in this school that identified our second daughter as being potentially gifted and she pointed us towards CTYI. This teacher had taught our older girl the year before and hadn’t mentioned that she might be gifted; we found that a bit unusual as it was the older girl who would have always been" in your face" about knowing the answers etc.
It took us about a year to come to terms with the fact that our daughter might be gifted, in the mean time I read as much as I could about giftedness. I discovered that our daughter didn’t leave anything out where giftedness was concerned!! Having read as much as I could I began to wonder how I hadn’t seen it before! We then agreed to send her to CTYI for assessment. And of course she qualified to do the courses.
We then thought that if the younger girl was gifted then our older daughter most definitely was too. We sent her to do the CTYI assessment, by now she was of age to sit the senior CTYI assessment. She didn’t qualify! She wanted to try again the following year, and again she didn’t qualify! She was very disappointed, but we explained to her that it didn’t mean that she wasn’t smart, just her gifts lay in a different area other than the ones tested for by CTYI.
When it came to secondary school we again decided to send both girls to the local secondary school. Mainly for the same reasons we sent them to the local primary school. It was close by, the kids that went there were local kids, so we knew who they were hanging around with etc., really there was no reason not to send them to the local school. Academically, we knew there would never be a problem, so no matter what school they went to they would do ok with the academics. The one problem that would always recur would be the boredom. We met with the principal of the school before our youngest girl started and chatted with her about giftedness. She was really open to us and well prepared to help in whatever way she could.
The management and staff of the school were very well disposed to us and to the idea that our girl was gifted, but they had no real knowledge of giftedness. It was hugely helpful that they were open, and took our lead where differentiation was concerned. This was a huge plus.
Both girls went to the same school, and had the same teachers, but they both had very different experiences. One thrived, and really only went to school to socialise. The work was never difficult and she knew how to play the game. She did just enough to do well in exams, she had fun with her friends, right through exam years she kept up her after school activities doing just enough to get really good grades in her exams.
The other child hated secondary school, and spent many years feeling anxious during school, she seldom participated in any school activities and in general school seemed to be a real chore to her. She too did really well in her exams but she put a lot into studying and did nothing outside of school.
Transition year was excellent for the younger girl, she really got stuck in and took on every competition and challenge that was on offer, it was a brilliant year for her. She developed many more friendships and learned so many new things that she wouldn’t otherwise have had the chance to do.
It would have been better for our older daughter if she had not done transition year, it was optional in their school, and again hindsight is a wonderful thing. She would have been better to skip transition year and go straight into 5th year.
Both girls did really well in their leaving certs. Both had completely different reactions. One cried for days because she just missed her first choice by a few points, the other went out celebrating. The fact that she too had missed her first choice by a couple of points was neither her or there as far as she was concerned. She had kept her options open when making her choices.
Both girls went on to college, again same college, two completely different experiences. One girl is thriving and going from strength to strength, having fun, meeting new people, trying new things. The other girl dropped out after first year, but chose to go back again. She still continues to find it a struggle and we hope that eventually she will find what makes her tick and she too will go from strength to strength.
Raising gifted kids is a real roller coaster! Enjoy the good bits and join giftedkids.ie forum to help you cope with the bad bits. There is always someone out there who has experienced the same as you and will have a bit of advice to offer or simply a cyber shoulder to cry on.
Girls Who Are Smart But Ditzy
I'm not sure if my daughter would actually be diagnosed with ADD, but I have very strong suspicions! She is totally disorganised, very anxious, sensitive, unpredictable, defiant, talks incessantly and is completely unlikeable at times....but funny, sweet and loving at times too. Seeing her in the context of a child with ADD makes it so much easier to tolerate her erratic and sometimes obnoxious behaviour. Originally ADHD was seen as a thing that hyperactive boys had. Now it is becoming recognised that you can have ADD without the physical hyperactivity and that girls tend to have this form of it. They are the sweet, quiet little girls who sit at the back of the classroom and never cause trouble. They get labelled "sweet but a bit ditzy". If, as is usually the case, they are of above average intelligence, they achieve OK grades in spite of daydreaming most of the time. So good grades and no trouble means not recognised. It means report after report stating "could do better", "if only she would apply herself...". However, on the inside, these kids are in emotional turmoil. They can't maintain focus, so they feel on the verge of being overwhelmed at any minute. They are terrified of being asked a question in class because they probably won't have heard it fully or will have missed the context and will make a fool of themselves. They know they are clever but never seem to achieve as well as they feel they should. They forget their homework, are late for class, lose their stuff, fall out with friends and have no idea why, etc etc. Often, they put so much effort into holding it all together in school that they just have to let it all out when they get home. There, they are constantly chastised for being cheeky, disobedient, untidy, difficult…. In the end they have virtually no self esteem and go on to become underachieving, frustrated, depressed adults with a string of bad life-choices behind them.
I found all this out by reading a book called Understanding Girls with Ad/HD by Kathleen Nadeau. If your daughter sounds a little like this, get the book. Even if she doesn't have true ADD, it will give you a new way of looking at her. It has completely changed my relationship with my daughter, as instead of getting angry and exasperated, I feel sorry for her when she loses it and give her love and support. 100% of the time, she responds like a child who is relieved to be heard and understood. It's as if they live on the verge of panic much of the time and need constant reassurance and affirmation. If you are a teacher, please read the book as you will definitely come across many of these little girls in your classrooms. Speaking as the mother of one fragile little flower, and the adult version of one, I can tell you with certainty that you could transform a child's whole future by recognising this problem.
Disclaimer: This is not an expert site, it is run on a voluntary basis and as such is based on opinion and experience but we hope that it acts as a signpost for educational resources and other support services for Irish families with exceptionally able children. By using this website you accept that any dependence by you on such information, opinion or advice is at your own risk.