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.
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.
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.