Gifted. Genius. Bright. Intelligent. 2E. Smart. Excitable. Intense. Quirky. Outlier.
If you’re reading this, I imagine you have some relationship to giftedness – your child, a student, yourself or a spouse. So you’ve faced the dilemma of figuring out how to talk about being gifted. Like me, you may have bumped up against sensitivities and biases that other folks have about the language you choose. You have learned to navigate these discussions.
Two things about me inform how I approach conversations about giftedness.
- I’m very straightforward.
- I think that everyone is different and those differences make us interesting. Talking about our differences humanizes us and helps us empathize with other people.
That said, I tend to treat intellectual ability as just another fact of life. It is what it is – good and bad. I’m certain that approach is not comfortable for everyone and that’s fine. This is what works for me.
If I need to have a conversation about giftedness, my approach veers toward the analytic and the quantifiable. I find that those terms are less emotionally laden. Over the years, the language I use has evolved, and I use different language with different audiences.
Teachers, Doctors and Therapists
These are the folks who should know the technical terms surrounding IQ measurement. In conversation with them, I’ll geek out and talk about standard deviations and percentiles. If it isn’t a technical conversation, I may use shorthand – profoundly gifted or PG for Patrick and 2E for Davis. This isn’t an attempt to be elitist; rather it is a method of communicating succinctly. No need to belabor the point – technical terms provide some boundaries to direct the conversation.
Parents of Other Gifted Kids
Honestly, this is the group where I have discovered the most sensitivity about language. I imagine this is because, like us, everyone has found their favorite way to describe their unique situation. Language is powerful and emotive. Raising a gifted child is tougher than it appears and talking about it brings up lots of those mixed emotions. So we have all found ways that work for our families. When my way is different than another parent’s way it can expose raw emotion.
So what do I do? I keep it short. I keep it factual. My go to phrases are gifted, profoundly gifted and 2E. I try not to amplify the point and instead get into a discussion about our experiences – the joys and the challenges.
So this is my exception to using clinical terms to describe intellect – talking with an acquaintance who has no known connection to the gifted community. There are times when I get a quizzical look when talking about my kids. Most 10-year-old boys don’t regularly discuss astrophysics in depth (Patrick), nor are they able to tell you basically any stat about any professional sports player for the last 10 years (Davis).
In a situation like this, when an acquaintance wants to understand more, my favorite phrases are something like “crazy smart” or “phenomenal memory.” The phrases are short and convey a lot of meaning, but they are also meant to be light hearted. If the acquaintance wants to know more about what that means, I’m always willing to discuss.
There really is no right way to talk about being gifted. I’ve found that avoiding elitism and not conveying judgment are good guidelines for our family. What word to you use to talk about the realities of being gifted?
Check out other folks’ take on how they say “gifted” on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Blog Hop.