On Giftedness, Guilt and the thorny issue of behaviours in school– Parents, the System and the Seven Rebosos of Guilt- Leslinks- Ireland
Being wrapped in cotton wool, isn’t always what it seems….
In dealing with the thorny issue of guilt and childrens behaviours, parents often find themselves tossed back and forth between whole ranges of different coloured spectrums and strands of feelings … more often, and possibly, between different coloured wraps or (Rebosos- meaning a type of Mexican shawl or wrap).. They wear them around their shoulders, and sometimes carry their young children in them on their backs or front..or if older, the child may have the edge of the wrap drapped over their shoulder along with the parents loving arm. Guilt is a wrap that is hard for a parent not to have with them..may even fling this wrap up and over their heads and across their faces..to stop words coming, feels safer that way sometimes…
Not a major problem if the wrap is just worn lightly.. or maybe even loosely tied, when a little bit of healthy guilt helps us carry a load ie, a child or an issue happening with a child… forward to a positive solution/or resolution..
However, when the positives take a negative twist, there are some situations, and some issues that make guilt or the wrap progressively darker and heavier, and sometimes even responsible for changing the hue or, or it’s use as a cover up, the leaving behind of the wrap, or, most sadly of all be the cause a strangle knot.
I recognise that, this is not a weight that is carried by gifted parents alone, not saying that.. all parents, and perhaps even teachers, to varying degrees and in varying situations, may to a certain extent do too… There is just a distinct quality, and sometimes an intense quality that may make parents of the gifted, almost poignantly recognisable to other parents of the gifted. For example, during a school year, especially those parents who may be blessed with the moderate or PG’s (profoundly) gifted and or those that have children who are uniquely endowed with a larger than expected load of overexcitabilities may possibly be seen wearing at least one of the following six Rebosos (or wraps):
- The White, Lacey, sometimes gauzie Reboso: This is usually worn at the beginning of the year.. Feeling mildly uncomfortable with a child’s situtuation at school, something does not feel quite right, feeling like they should do something/say something, perhaps even tentatively touch on a childs advanced reading/math/skills w/teacher but quickly move away from topic due to response..(“all children are gifted”). Generally depending on intensity, it may range from bright white to tones of off white to dark cream.
- The Blue, closer woven cotton Reboso: This is taken on a few months into the school year… Feeling definitely uncomfortable with a childs perceived mild-moderate unhappiness with the pace/subject content of schoolwork and homework that is unmotivating stimulating… beginning to realise that this may be affecting thier socialising too… Wishing had said something in the beginning, perhaps writes a note to teacher, or does have a word, explaining that child might be happier/more engaged if given slightly more challenging/engaging material, making them easier in themselves and to get along with…would this be possible? The non-commital response from school is unsettling, leaving parent feeling like should offer some material from home, but unsure as to how teacher might react or perceive this so doesn’t. Intensity may be pale baby to deep midnight blue
- The Green, mixed fiber Cotton&Wool Reboso: This is taken on somewhere around Christmas time.. Things have gotten itchier now… child is now acting up in class, notes home.. refusing to do homework, or homework taking far to long.. Parent has term end parent/teacher meeting.. asks if there is anything they can do to help teacher, their child is stressed. The teacher says childs performance and behaviour is poor, and does not indicate (or alternatively deserve) any need for extra intellectual stimulation, what they want to work on is childs control and emotional behavioural issues.. Parent goes home pulling wrap around them.. scratching the itchy bits.. wishing they had brought in the extra material from home two months ago, had addressed problem more assertively two months ago.. thinking maybe, maybe things might not have felt so bad… Other parents begin to give them a wide breath..Intensity can vary between light pastel green through sea green and dark deep forest vert.
- The Brown light wool Reboso: Christmas is over, parent has had time to reflect, situation has gotten a bit chillier so woollen wrap is the handiest, although not too much heavier than the previous one, it is much scratcher. This new, sorer skin brings a new determination.. child having had time to pursue interests over holiday is very reluctant to leave home for uninspiring school, where they feel they are seen as ‘bad’.. Parent wishes they did not have to send them back, pulls wrap around self and child and marches determinedly up the steps of school, armed with a gift for teacher. Package includes several books which could be used to interest/keep child from the ‘b’ word (boredom) such as The Number Devil, Super Sentences and a copy of ‘Teaching gifted children in the Regular Classroom‘ hoping the information within will glean a better understanding of child and their needs, leave on teachers desk. As a back up they have stuffed 3 Roman mystery novels and 2 Horrible Histories in childs backpack.. just in case…. and a stress ball… They disengage their childs clinging hand, and flinging the edge of the wrap over their heads.. leave school hopefully unnoticed… hopefully child is coping.. hopefully teacher will.. hopefully…. Wrap may be rich, light earthy clay colour like the chestnut hue on a horses hide.. through to the dark, chocolaty darkness of very intense dark cocoa..
- The Black heavy wool Reboso: Easter, spring has arrived.. again, parent walks child up steps of school after break, clinging begging for her not to leave.. steps into classroom, notes box marked ‘stretcher sheets’ . Notes sheets are photo copies of material she supplied teacher. Remarks to child how glad she is to see these and aren’t they lucky.. child looks up bemused and confused. Parent takes a sheet and shows it to child. Child says eagerly..2Oh, can I? Those are usually for the ones that are good, I’ve never done one before….” Parent adjusts wrap, skin burning.. goes to Principal, explains. Principal sympathises but says hands are tied.. teacher feels child is a behaviour problem and would parent not consider having an assessment, perhaps with a label time outside classroom could be secured.. Parent leaves shifting wrap around uncomfortable.. Label or not to label.. pro’s and con’s… con’s and pro’s… very scratchy… covers head and sits on bench.. What to do? what to do?.. The intensity here is ranges from charcoal grey to intense, no- turning -back black. Would a change of accomodation help my child? An assessment for behaviour? and, what will that do to my child??. To diagnose, or not?.. will this lead to a possible a misdiagnosis… Is it really necessary?
- The Nondescript sackcloth Reboso: End of the year wrap, parent drained of colour. For the last month child has receded into self.. not communicating much.. no longer protests.. wanders aimlessly in classroom.. appears not to hear teachers voice. Is short tempered and cries easily at home.. Parent in desperation, flings all wraps off and goes for assessment.. hoping it will bring some answers.. Child responds wonderfully as quite fascinated by all the difficulties posed by assessment instruments. These confirm childs great ability, but also assessor notes EBD (emotional and behavioural difficulties).. Next year, if parent agrees to further treatment (not for giftedness, but for the EBD).. child may qualify for learning support.. There is no mandated help for giftedness. Parent wonders if the result would have been the same, at the beginning of the school year, when child did not appear to be exhibiting these behaviours and was more positive in themselves…
A Strangle Knot of self doubt and questioning: Parent feels guilty.. how did this happen.. Does EBD occur in Gifted Children? Does teacher have training in identifying unhappy Giftedness, EBD? .. can they tell the difference? Is there something really wrong with my child? ..What is EBD? .. am (are we ) the cause of this EBD?.. is it really? is OCD, ADHD, PDD,SID an EBD? or is it none of the above and really EBD like behaviours (possibly negative sides of overexcitabilities) brought on by sustained inappropriate provision and misunderstanding of an exceptionally able childs special need? They weren’t a good enough/strong enough parent.. would this have happened if they had made a bigger fuss with the school? .. pull the sackcloth over their heads and try to fade into the crowd.. not comfortable talking with other parents who may only see a ‘pushy parent of a smart child, with bad behaviours’ whom others don’t really want to associate with, or their child, whom others may feel is a ‘bad influence’… These and more questions whirling all around.. Do they accept this offer.. and gain help through a second label? Do they try to explain how childs treatment in school/lack of understanding may have had an effect on how child is reacting? Do they just change school?, would they be strong enough to drop out of the system all together, and homeschool?
Hmm.. what would you do??
It is a pity that these Rebosos need to exist at all for some parents.. .. as inclusiveness should mean acceptance, and equality should not mean that some students or their needs are more equal than others in respect of getting their needs met. One thing for sure.. No parent should ever be made to feel a guilty wrap for just wanting to do best by their child.. These sustained feelings of guilt, which may surface year after year… are not healthy, harder still if you haven’t a supporting peers to share with..
Below is an older definition of giftedness, but is possibly my favorite and in my view the closest to my experience of parenting and teaching gifted children:
‘The Asynchronous Model of Giftedness – The Columbus Group, which consisted of a group of Parents, Practitioners and Theorists defined giftedness based on a childs differences from the norm
“Giftedness is Asynchronous development in which advanced cognative abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (Columbus Report, 1991)
Question/thought the Seventh, Transparent Reboso: Could a system, that through it’s very structure, without targeted support, a legal mandate to provide both appropriate training for teachers and a neglect of understanding, and the childs right to appropriate and knowledgable provision and resources for their “unique needs”, be at fault?. Could it be the cause, of a vulnerable child with special educational needs such as those outlined in the above report, Columbus Group, 1991, acquiring a second, more sinister ‘need’… which, they may not originally have had, and if so..
Could the system itself, not the child, parents or teachers, be seen as wearing a Reboso? Should the system (government, legislation) instead, really be wearing a the main wrap? Through the thin viel it certainly looks as if it could be seen as ‘Guilty’. And in some instances, dare it be said, if one looked closely enough, guilty of almost child abuse?