On Gifted nests and Birds of a Feather

‘On Giftedness and Birds of a feather…’

Firstly, I want to say that I very honoured to have the opportunity to take part in the New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week 2012 Blog tour. As last year it does appear to be quite international again… and I may yet be inspired to write a second contribution before this tour is over, however for this contribution I have decided to focus on a past memory that might be helpful in  terms of sparking off some advocacy ideas… Do please feel free to click on the link below to follow more blogs along the tour….

Recently, I have noticed that there have been a few discussions from folk in different parts of the world tossing around the idea that if the gifted community wishes to educate, reach and or foster a greater understanding of our populations, we should not only be reaching out/speaking/working/presenting within our own groups, rather than just flying together,

we should also be seeking out opportunities to give of ourselves in other circles.  I believe this is a good thing, and brought back some old memories which did affirm this.

Many years ago, once upon a time and long ago, I happened to be the chairperson of a gifted organisation which no longer exists.  I had started to organise a conference for the fall of that year  (sometime around the turn of the century…  I like saying that.. makes it sound kind of ‘historical’.. teehee)…  using the ancient computer in my kitchen and a dial up connection… as one does.  I remember thinking that it would be good to try and see if we could increase our footfall and came up with the idea of reaching out to groups that might have a lateral component to our own.  I was also involved with a group called Spectrum, which kind of saw itself as an umbrella group for other groups supporting children with what we called at the time ‘hidden special needs’.  Things like ADHD, Aspergers, Dyslexia and the like.

And so.. a conference called ‘Coping with Complexities’ was born.

Careful thought went into the choice of a broad spectrum of speakers, all who were gifted advocates but also a good number  of whom  might have had an additional passion/interest/expertise in a secondary area.  These included folk like Dr. Shirley Kokot from SA who was also doing work in the neurodevelopmental area,  Dr. Sheilagh Gallager from USA, who at the time was also researching the incidence of Aspergers in gifted populations and Dr. Ellen Feidler (USA), who’s presentations on Intensities in gifted left not one person in the audience with a dry eye…  Dr. David Carey, who specialised in ADHD,   to name a few.

As there are a fair bit of crossover issues within some of the spectrum groups and our own, it turned out to be a good idea, as these groups became very supportive, and helped to promote and advertise the conference quite a lot.  It also led to peripheral interest groups making contact and wanting to advertise or attend the conference.  Folk that as a gifted community would want to reach, such as members of the National Educational Psychologists group,  Occupational Therapists,  Resource and learning support teachers groups, and a number of University researchers .  This in turn led to a wider interest from the main teaching and school community, which might normally not have attended a conference aimed at  strictly gifted and or gifted ed.  It also reached out to a wider parent community.

Along with those previously mentioned, we had several other local folks in gifted sharing their wisdom.  Among these were  Dr Sheilagh Gilhenny and Colm O’Rielly from CTYI here in Ireland and Julianne Stevens, MA,  who was working and teaching here in Ire, at the time, but was from Aussie and had trained in gifted and who was also   a committee member of our organisation.

Through the sterling efforts of the committee members that fall, and the generosity of the speakers, peripheral groups interest and a lot of interesting conversations we managed to pull off a very well attended conference, that had an incredibly diverse mix of attendees, including a large number of mainstream teachers ,  of which many that I spoke to where very glad to have attended and felt they had learned a whole lot.   At the time I recall that it felt very good to know that we had reached so many, many people who would otherwise not have been exposed to the information we wanted to get out there.

I spoke to many new, stealth-  ‘gifted’ folk who felt that attending the conference had made them comfortable enough to ‘come out of the wood work’ and interact in that community on that day..

come out of their shells…  perhaps even grow some wings and fly with it for a while…  A good day..

I mention all this, because sometimes it is good to hear about other s experiences, but also because sometimes the things we do can come back and show us an impact that we made which we might never have known about.

Yesterday, I spent time at another conference.  At this conference I was the ‘crossover’ speaker/presenter, as the conference was on for Teachers in Special Education.  Most of the issues that would have been dealt with were for children on spectrums somewhat different than our own. I was pleasantly surprised with the turn out for the session,  however the most  heartening and eye opening bit  for me was when two teachers came up to me after my presentation, and introduced themselves as two mainstream teachers that had attended the other conference so many years ago and had spoken to me at the time.  They said they had learned so much at that conference long ago, and that when they saw I would be at yesterdays IATSE, they had decided to attend  for the gifted session.  Life can be funny that way…

I guess the lesson here is that it is important for us to not be afraid, and try and reach out to many other communities if we can, especially those that might be carrying a feather or two of a similar colour, or who might, with a little nurturing grow some wings and fly with us for a while, maybe helping to contribute to the richness of the support we are looking for.

So next time you plan a conference, maybe, think about how you can attract others who might come into contact with our kids… or .. perhaps have a look at conferences in your area and think, could you perhaps be able to contribute a presentation that might just reach some important folk which could further  the cause?  You might be one of those that helps to add a few new members to our flock..  and grow a number of nice new feathers too… ;-D

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