Giftedness in a child isn’t always obvious, and sometimes can only be discovered through surviving many storms.
He sweeps through hallways, devours the world. He calls me Mom.
Packed with energy, and completely oblivious to the leveling in his wake, my son Sebastian has been a force since the day he was born. Smiley, precocious, restless.
One day in preschool, each kid received their own decorated cape and Superhero nickname. I remember spinning him around, curious what he chose. Tornado Boy.
How appropriate, I thought. I already called him that. My little tornado.
“Did you pick that out?” I asked as he shoved the last of his goldfish in his mouth. He shook his head.
“It just seemed so perfect,” his teacher giggled.
This is normal. My son is normal. He’s just an energetic little boy. Aren’t all little boys this way?
INTO THE STORM
At the start of my journey as the parent of a school-aged child, I naively anticipated that academics would come as easy to my kids as they had for me. Second grade was a reckoning.
Squeezed into a seven-year-old-sized chair, I was met with that wide-eyed, weary look recognized by teachers and parents everywhere.
“Ms. Kathryn,” the teacher smiled sweetly, “He’s very bright.”
She explained that my son is smart, polite….and disorganized, impulsive, and easily distracted.
We talked about dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD. Together we came up with a plan:: strategies, goals, and evaluations.
Year after year, the meetings would repeat. His teachers would grow impatient, and behavior charts would start to miss their little stickers. Treats and rewards I purchased would sit, unopened, gathering dust.
I can’t say I blame his teachers altogether. When you can’t make heads or tails of what works and what doesn’t, it’s easier to wave a white flag.
We’ve seen a lot of progress and twice as much heartache. Math comes easy. Science is his favorite. He reads well, hates writing, and is ever that bubbly and scattered child.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE
Fourth grade nearly broke us.
A panel of diagnosticians and specialists found that he had no need for Special Education testing. He was perfectly capable of making straight A’s if he wanted.
Meanwhile, Language Arts had me on speed dial. Unfinished assignments and discipline stole our evenings. His behavior cards were littered with notes. I cried more than once.
Then, a voicemail. Sebastian had done something amazing in class and the teacher couldn’t wait to tell me. I was giddy. That 4:30 pm phone call could not come soon enough.
Maybe it was the tone of her voice or the way she stuttered, nervous. The “good news” was simply a ruse.
I spent seven years in education, so I’m familiar with the art of “sandwiching” bad news to parents. Start with something positive. Then, what to improve. You end on a good note.
This sandwich was inside out and pretty heavy on the vinegar. She was trying, bless her, and she was fed up.
He refuses to do any work and he argues all the time. She’s unsure if he argues with his friends because she isn’t sure if he has any.
Easy with a smile, affectionate, always looking to make someone laugh- this is the kid with no friends?
I was crushed.
One day, a brochure arrived home in his backpack, a possible salvation.
Based on your student’s recent test scores…
…advanced learning opportunities…
Could my son be gifted?
An email to his teachers, “Do you think we should have Sebastian tested for the GT program?
No teacher has never responded so quickly.
Within a few months, two more little pieces of paper would confirm what we had only begun to suspect. Sebastian’s 4th Grade Math STAAR came back with a perfect score. Testing for giftedness came back off-the-charts.
To most parents, the news of giftedness would be cause for celebration. And I was happy, a little. Validated. My kid is not intellectually challenged, I always knew that. But would this new information help me solve the riddle of a little boy who would fold his hands neatly and refuse to do schoolwork?
If anything, I had more questions than answers. Giftedness did not feel like a solution.
Is this why he’s struggling?
How did I not know my child was gifted?
Why didn’t I have him tested sooner for giftedness?
Am I just a bad parent? Is he a bad kid?
He ended the school year with the Boldness Award. Not the “Kindness” award, or the “Comedian” award like almost every other kid in his class received. The Boldest.
Next school year, Tornado Boy will be in a program for academically talented students. New teachers, new peers, perhaps a new chance to love school again. We’re cautious and hopeful all at once.
To his teachers, I will fortitude and patience. I ask for grace. Sometimes it storms but please don’t give up on us now.