Because I keep sharing this story over and over with individuals, I decided I should just write it once and send out the link. So here goes.
It all began on a summer day in June, of 2012. When baby girl Hinnant entered the world. We instantly fell in love with our miracle. Fast forward a few weeks, and we were desperately trying the 5 S’s to get her to sleep and still struggling. Enter the Graco Sweet Slumber Sound Machine (yes, that’s an affiliate link, and yes, if you have a baby and/or a child with sensory needs, you NEED one of these!!!). Amazingly, we started getting her to sleep… and sleep all night. Life was good.
I honestly don’t remember exactly the moment when I realized she was gifted… and I don’t remember exactly the moment I realized she had Sensory Processing Disorder. It sort of was a coming to be… a realization that happened over time. Maybe it was speaking complete, comprehensible sentences at 13 months old. Maybe it was recognizing her colors at a year. Maybe it was her ability to sort and pattern objects before her second Christmas. Maybe it was her insatiable love of numbers and grouping them. Maybe it was her ability to work puzzles that said “2+ or 3+” at 18 months. But when she started adding numbers and then the next day subtracting them at 23 months, I knew something was definitely different. When she wanted to learn about fractions two weeks later, and then was comparing to see which fraction was bigger a couple weeks after that, I was positive.
The teacher in me knew these things were amazing. When she taught herself to read at just over 2 1/2, I knew we were in for some stunning stuff. But before that she already had all the planets memorized in order, could fight for the reason why Pluto should be considered a planet, and was determined to be the first female to plant a Texas flag on the moon. This is truly not “normal.”
The SPD was a bit harder to discern at first. It seemed like crazy behavior. Like what sort of evil is in this child? And then I started really looking deep into her eyes and seeing not hatred or anger, but pain. Legitimate pain. I started researching and had a friend send me a survey to take that would pinpoint what areas she struggles with most. When I completed that survey, I knew it was true.
So does putting a face on the “gifted” monster help? Does putting a face on the “SPD” monster help? YOU BET. Does it change how I parent? Not really. But in some ways it keeps me on my toes. I would still do fun enrichment activities with my kids and take them places and teach them how to cook and work puzzles with them and read them books. But realizing that she is gifted and realizing that she is learning at such a rapid rate – and much faster than normal, allows me to be willing to let her set the pace. To buy her a 100 piece floor puzzle and then work with her to put it together when she reaches frustration because her attention span isn’t quite as advanced as her brain.
It has made me do more research about asynchronous development. Because I see it everyday. It’s very frustrating to be her parent. Because she can tell me how a shirt is made, but she can’t put one on or take one off by herself. She can sing me every song about the potty she has ever heard, but rarely can recognize her need to use it. She wants to learn how to tell time, and can count many different ways, but counting by 5s still evades her. I have learned to allow her a variety of sensory inputs, and to find ways to let her be who she is – in a safe and family/furniture-friendly way.
Is it easy to be her parents? No. We often sit up at night and chat about her. We watch her on her video monitor, as she sleeps in her room with the light on and her bed full of stuffed animals and chews on her chew bracelets… and we listen for her cries over the sound of her sound machine, which she can’t live without. Truly, she can not sleep without it. Her crickets are vital in her life. They aren’t some passing fancy. Her brain truly can not shut down without hearing them.
There’s so much more I could say here. But to any parent who has a young child and you’re wondering if they are gifted, ask yourself these questions:1) Does my child think inside a box, or is the universe not big enough for the ideas inside his/her head? (gifted kids don’t have a box… but they might want to know how one is made!)
2) Do I see asynchrony in mental capacity vs. physical ability? (gifted kids are VERY asynchronous in their development.)
3) Are the activities my child is doing all age appropriate? (With the asynchrony, you’ll see a child who is doing activities well beyond their age, and then some that are way below their age. If your child is falling right at all normal age standards, then congratulations – you’ve probably got a high achiever who loves to show off their skills!)
Rather than go on and on with these questions, please click over to my friend Colleen Kessler’s blog to these posts about the various types of gifted learners. I’m including links at the bottom of this page. Reading her posts helped me pinpoint exactly where Becca is in the gifted world, and they will help you, too!
What does it change if your child is gifted? Hopefully you’re providing enough enrichment activities like museums, landmark visits, etc, that you won’t have to change anything. Because ALL kids deserve enriching activities, and ALL kids learn from them. However, it WILL help you better understand your child… and sadly, will help you learn what NOT to talk about in public. The criticism is real. Someone will criticize this blog post. (Though I won’t allow it to go public, someone will write something and I’ll read it, and it will still hurt.) There is a difference between THINKING your child is a genius, and really having a child who IS a brilliant mind. It’s frustrating, and it’s scary. But I feel so blessed to have found a group of parents on Facebook who are really supportive and are going through the same things we’re going through! It’s fabulous!!!! (And they are the reason why I wrote this post! Thanks for the inspiration!)
So if you are looking for support, look no further. I’ll hook you up. If you aren’t sure if your child is gifted, or what activities to do at home with your little one who is… go through my archives. Make sensory boxes and do lots of hands on activities. Make habitats come alive for them. Bring art alive by taking fun everyday objects and running them through paint. Not sure what you are looking for? Send me an email. I have a list of about 25 blog post topics I’m hoping to get time to type soon. So if you’ve got something pressing that I haven’t written about, I’ll push it to the top of the list! 🙂
Check out Colleen’s blog for gifted learner information here:
Her definitions of a gifted learner.
What Does a Gifted Child Look Like?
Understanding the Cognitively Gifted Child
Understanding the Academically Gifted Child
Understanding the Creatively Gifted Child
Plus just be sure to check out her entire blog for lots more fascinating articles about gifted/intense/2E kids!