Gifted Class: To Go Or Not To Go?

In the elementary school system, Gifted class is offered once a week for those meeting the criteria.  Often, kids with Asperger’s are very bright – even brighter than IQ tests can reflect, due to test-taking issues – make decent grades, and qualify for Gifted.

But first, do we really want our children to attend a pull-out class?

Here in Florida – I wish I could speak for everywhere, but my knowledge is sadly lacking – children are pulled out of their regular classes for one entire day to attend Gifted.  They are still, however, responsible for making up the work.

Bright But Perhaps A Little Different

What this boils down to is 1. disruption of routine 2. extra work 3. feeling different (as if they needed more of this) 4. enrichment.

I’m all for enrichment.  Tedium is difficult for our children to handle, and they suffer from boredom and lack of challenge.  So extra learning and fun work is great.

However, disruption of routine is a serious problem.  When one day of the week is totally different from another, it’s difficult for our kids to handle.  Especially if they’ve worked hard to understand rules in one classroom… and now they have to learn a new set of rules for an additional classroom and teacher.

I remember kids complaining about Gifted when I was younger.

I remember them telling me not to apply, that I really didn’t want to have to go off one day a week, and then still have to make up work.  That it wasn’t worth it.

I didn’t believe them.

After I married and we had our son, my husband made it clear to me that our boy was not to be forced to attend Gifted class.  He said that he personally was given no alternative, despite begging to return to normal classes, and didn’t want to do that to his son.

Unbelievable.

I couldn’t picture not wanting to go to Gifted class.  To me, breaking the tedium of the week sounded fantastic.  Attending a cool class where you could learn extra stuff sounded really fun.

But for our Asperger chidren, the week isn’t tedious.  It’s a balancing act of learning routines, coping with bad surprises, and surviving the day.  They’re overwhelmed with social interaction, sensory input (noise and activity), and trying to learn all at the same time.

Adding a class that disrupts this balance… it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

For instance, a few years ago a friend of mine proudly told me that her daughter was to start Gifted class.

Don’t get me wrong… it’s good for people to be proud of their children, especially after struggling with Asperger challenges and social ostracism.  It’s great to find the positives and help that facet grow.

But it didn’t work out.  Soon after joining, the daughter was asking to quit Gifted.  This request was not granted, despite repeated appeals.  A year or two later, a meeting was called, in which the school basically asked that she be excused from Gifted, due to her obvious unhappiness and conflict with the teacher.

The parent was devastated.  Of course.

We all know how difficult and soul-searing those meetings can be, regardless of the subject.  It is so hard to have a room full of people condemning your child – no matter how gently – and saying they don’t think X class will work out.  It doesn’t even matter what the class is.

If you have a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, you’ve been there.  I’ve been there more than once, and it’s very hard.  I’ve gotten to the point where I bring my own water bottle, because for some reason drinking water makes it easier for me to stop crying.

But when a child makes it clear that a class isn’t working out, we need to listen.

Because it isn’t about laziness.  It isn’t about shirking work or avoiding responsibilities.  There are things our kids don’t understand about themselves – how could they? – and so can’t pinpoint, but they know they don’t want to be there.  They know they’re overwhelmed and unhappy, even if they can’t express why.

Not all children will be overwhelmed by an extra class, or disruption of routine.  Some will benefit from the experience.  Gifted class is not evil.

But choosing to join a Gifted class is a major decision.  There are a lot of factors involved, some obvious, others less so.  It should not be a matter of status or recognition.

It is just a class.

There is no loss of prestige if a child isn’t in a Gifted class.  He or she is just as bright as they were before, whether enrolled or not.  You will love them just the same if they attend X class, as opposed to Z class.

So be proud of your kids, bask in their intelligence and abilities… but don’t feel like they have to be recognized as the little geniuses they are.  They will make their own way, and you will continue to help them no matter what.

Note: If you have a story about Gifted class, or information, please feel free to respond.  I’d particularly love to hear some positives about these classes, to present a more balanced view of this subject.

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About aspergerfamily3

Living in an Asperger's World, surrounded by a love of learning, interesting people, and daily challenges.
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One Response to Gifted Class: To Go Or Not To Go?

  1. Elisabeth says:

    I attended gifted in elementary school, and it was the saving of me. After my eventual breakthrough learning to read (I was undiagnosed dyslexic at the time) classes quickly became boring. My reading skills were far ahead of the class and I often got in trouble for not paying attention (reading ahead, playing with toys in my desk, etc.). Now, in New Jersey gifted was only a half-day rather than a full day (and mind you, this was, what, 25 years ago?) but I was able to make up the work fine and enjoyed the special content.

    In sixth grade, however, I had additional home responsibilities due to my parents’ work schedules. My grades suffered and I was taken out of gifted since I could not maintain the minimum grade required to participate. It was devastating to me, not only because it was one of the high points of my week, but also because my teachers didn’t try to understand why my classroom performance went through such a marked change. I felt that they were disappointed in me and I resented it- it’s amazing that my behaviour didn’t change significantly for the worse. Luckily the next year I was in a new school and was able to have a fresh start.

    Really, there are many factors impacting whether gifted is the right path for a child or not. In your son’s case, the schedule disruption might cancel out any of the good that the class can provide. But (and I know this may sound contradictory after my story) if he’s really interested I encourage you to let him try. With the coordination of his teachers, and practice and preparation, it might be extremely rewarding. And if it doesn’t work out? It was an experiment to try something different, and that is enough.

    I’m glad to hear that Gifted worked out well for someone out there. Thank you for writing.

    For someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, routine is not a thing to be taken lightly. Very often, it is the mainstay that helps them get through their day. Often, a disruption in routine can cause a freeze and panic, which can result in anxiety and meltdowns. I’ve seen this in adult AS people, as well, so it is not limited to just children. It’s also part of the reason why comforting rituals feature so highly in their lives.

    Quite frankly, their marvelous brains cannot handle alternatives and surprises as well. I think of it as a sort of compensation for the many other gifts they are given. I enjoy a break in my routine, for instance, but will never be able to quote Shakespeare for minutes on end or give the page number with a quotation from a book (and be able to visualize the pictures and paragraphs on that page)or be able to calculate pi out to some ridiculous degree without breaking a sweat.

    I’ve not yet heard of a case in which an AS person actually wanted to go to a Gifted class; on the contrary, many people have told me stories of being forced to go despite pleas to be excused.

    Every person is unique and some can handle what others cannot. It’s a serious decision that needs to take many factors into account, and should not just be leaped at as a matter of prestige or status.

    Of course, you are not saying this at all! You are very kindly answering my request for a positive view, which is much appreciated. Thank you! As always, I enjoy your input, and am a regular reader of your blog.

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