"There's a kid that's all set up to play dungeons and dragons if you want to try that out" our greeter was saying as we followed behind her. He took a deep heavy breath. The visible kind when his chest and shoulders rise and fall. I just knew he was thinking, "what has my mom gotten me into now?". To my surprise when I asked him later, he said had heard so much about the game and was nervous about playing it for the first.
After dropping him off to play games with the other gifted children and walking to the parent gathering, I heard 'Gods plan'. Those two words popped into my head before I could even comprehend why. I repeated the words this time trying to make sense of it. 'God's plan?'. Before the night was over it all made sense.
This night my son had the best time I'd seen him have in I a while! I spent so much time in that room with my hand covered over my mouth in awe of God. Talking to parents, hearing their stories, and watching so many other children show their capabilities. I sat in awe of every life event that led us to this place in time. I truly believe that there are no accidents and this was the case.
This journey hasn't been an easy one in fact its been no short of tears, anger, resentment, frustration, misdiagnosis, more tears, guilt, know it all people, inept teachers, amazing teachers, and me protecting my cub by going full mama lion on a few folks a few times. Don't worry it didn't happen often but the few times it did, his needs for fully addressed.
But because this has been a long journey, I want to write about it. I want to share what I've learned because there are challenges of gifted children.
When he was in 2nd grade someone told me I needed to get him tested for ADHD and it was better to address it early. He was always super busy and energetic, but I also knew labels were prominent with black children so I shook it off. He'd done so well in school academically, that it wasn't an issue on my radar. When he started getting in trouble was when I started looking into it. I requested his teacher to fill out a form and informed her that I was considering getting him screened. I wasn't announcing it to the world but I was looking into it. My brother was diagnosed with ADHD and my mom had horror stories of what the medicine did to him. While things have changed over the years, I was still apprehensive about it.
She filled out a form and wrote me a letter along with it. She was the first person that recommended the testing from a place of care for my son as her student. She said that he was extremely bright but maybe paid attention about 60% of the time. The other times he's off in la la land or doing his own thing. She proceeded to say that none of this was affecting his grades because even the little bit of time that he was paying attention he was always able to comprehend what she taught with ease. She went on to say that she could only imagine what he could do if he had help staying focused. That was enough for me to seriously consider it. I had an incredible doctor willing to work with me and ease us into medication. When it was time to fill the prescription the obstacle I faced was the options that I wanted to start him on wasn't covered by insurance. So that path stopped there. Thankfully it did, because gifted children are often diagnosed with ADHD, mental disorders and autism. Which brings me to my next topic.
Around 3rd & 4th grade he calmed all the way down without medication. However, other things were happening as well. He'd preferred adult conversation to having conversations with his peers. Didn't have many friends and began to become withdrawn.
In fifth grade, his teacher got full mama bear action. I asked her to test him for the gifted program and she said that she honestly thought he would fail. I continued to have problems with her persistent negativity in regards to my son. I asked her if she had anything positive that she noticed about him and she had nothing. At that point I knew that she wasn't a teacher who genuinely cared about his wellbeing. An email to the principal, a principal/parent/teacher conference and with my compiled evidence and complaints, he finished the new year in another classroom. I told his dad that I was tempted to write her now. I think I will in the future if she's still teaching at his old school. I can't stress enough how important teachers are to our kid's future. Instead of being an advocate she chose to be a roadblock. As parents we have to be willing to step in when educators are no longer acting in their best interest. This was the only incident with an instructor that I had to force my hand. I truly believe that educators if given the right resources, training and parental support have the power to change the trajectory of the world one student at a time.
First two years of Middle School
In 6th he began to withdraw into himself even more. Middle school was a whole new animal. He stopped smiling as much. Actually, he would smile if you did something to make him laugh, but other than that you're getting a blank face and him speaking at an inaudible level. He and I would have great conversations about science facts resulting in me always learning something, but his behaviors were changing outside of the home and even within. He wasn't the active kid I knew. For a season I thought he could be undiagnosed on the Autism spectrum. So I started to research, but it didn't fit.
He was pretty consistent in middle school, but not in the way you'd think. It's as if he'd stopped trying as hard academically. Things I knew he could do he wasn't doing. He was making basic mistakes like not starting a sentence or even writing his name with a capital letter, etc. I almost felt like I was watching him regress. Then his 7th grade state test score jumped dramatically. I remember posting it to FB because I was so excited about it. Sad part about it was that I actually had to hear it from a relative. No one from the school ever called to tell me. What's funny was many of the people were surprised and thought it was a fluke. Me? I think it was due to him joining band. He struggled to fit in. Was picked on and suspended several times for fighting nonetheless, but he was excited about playing the trombone (an instrument that he didn't pick, but was one of the only ones left). On the fighting note, I had to go full mama bear on the principal. I actually liked his principal but the fights were with the same boy constantly suspended for messing with other kids. The boys remained in band together because honestly they both depended on it for different reasons, but they were separated in any other classes they had together.
I read that gifted children can often give up on school, but if you never understood how important the arts are... please do. He found something that he loved and kept him connected.
It'll be a year in June that we relocated to TX. I had this strong urge that I needed to be here. It started years prior, but I held the move off two years when I decided to dedicate some time to help build within my community. Now I see why I had to move.
Last year in Middle School - In a New City
It was the first parent teacher conference I'd been to where every teacher just lit up when we were approaching their table. They loved him! Now he wasn't the outgoing kid, he was still being himself, but they had experience with gifted kids and were more adept at recognizing them for their individuality.
"He's now reading with his books above the table. In my other class he was putting his books under the desk to read them" she said. I'm so thankful for a teacher who knew how to spot a gifted student. She recognized him hiding amongst her students, reading his books under a table where the other students couldn't ask questions. After the test confirmed it she was happy to move him to her advanced class. "He's now reading above the table. He's in class with students who love to read just as much as he does".
After a night filled with fun and smiles (yes, smiles), and being among the last to leave. I called his father back home to tell him what happened and sent him a few pictures of the night. He said, "You've got me tearing up". I think we both exhaled a little that evening.
As a parent I feel better prepared and supported to navigate the next part of his journey. We still have work ahead, but now anytime he wants to speak at an inaudible level-- I tell him, "Don't Shrink. It's your time to Shine". I think he gets that now.
Check back in a few days. I want to share with you everything I've learned so far and how you can be your child's advocate.