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The Gifted and Talented Title should have a spot for those with Special Needs
we should be past discrimination due to "labels"
It's very interesting. My 8 year old daughter tested as "gifted and talented" when she was 6 years old. As a result she is being enriched with a curriculum that is geared for children who test on that level. I do agree with this assessment, I am often amazed at the statements she makes and with the level of artistic ability she possesses at such a young age. We first noticed her gifts when I took the children to a family fun night at my middle child's school. The craft was painting. My two year old daughter painted an apple tree. It was incredible. It absolutely resembled an apple tree. She had no assistance she was allowed to do whatever she wanted, which I, as the mother of two brothers ahead of her, was prepared for a mishmash of colors that would be adorable and I would proudly display on our refridgerator. Never in a million years did I expect an actual painting of an object from this toddler.
Now that she is 8, our home is littered with her work. She recently established a portfolio, which she shared with her Brownie Troop while earning her Hobbies Try-It badge. She also has a love for acting and music. She is constantly making up her own songs which even my former music teacher husband is quite impressed with. They make sense and have interesting melodies. Her principal suggested with place her in an acting program last week when I visited the school since she has a flair for drama. Being a teacher, I laughed at that figuring that had a double meaning, she was probably being a bit "dramatic" in school and the principal was looking to channel that energy. However, she is correct.
As I ponder how to develop these wonderful talents my daughter is fortunate enough to possess, my thoughts turn my my eldest son. He has a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. He also is quite talented. He has a wonderful singing voice. He has perfect pitch, he is never off key and can sing any song we put in front of him. He was able to learn how to play the drums, even though he has sensory and fine motor issues. In fact, the drums were very good for him. We are looking to teach him to play the piano, since both my husband and I play. He picks it up rather quickly. He can also act. He can repeat back full episodes of television shows, with intonation mind you, not just echolalic, from his memory. It is part of his Aspergers, but that too is a gift, not a curse.
When he was given a brief moment to take part in a play in middle school, he was wonderful. He knew all of his lines and was able to let the character completely take over who he was. He became enveloped in his role. He can do that. It is far easier for him to do that than be who he really is. Being himself is incredibly hard. Acting a part,.well that is peaceful and simple for him. Think about it, its a perfect match, he has a photographic memory. He memorized the entire play. He could fill in for anyone at a moment's notice. He can be whoever he wants to be, except of course himself. I associate the Superman Song by Five For Fighting with his life "it's not easy to be me". The best day he had in first grade was Halloween because he was allowed to wear his Superman costume to school and therefore he was Superman in his head all day. He especially loves to pretend to be historical figures. He loves Thomas Jefferson and can quote him quite easily. We often act out the play 1776 with him because he enjoys portraying Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee.
However, he is never given the chance to show off his talents. We have asked for the past four years, two schools, if he could be placed in the school chorus. He has an excellent singing voice. We are told that they are trying to fit it in his schedule. He take honors classes and has a full time paraprofessional to attend classes with him. He has an 97 average. The middle school we believe simply did not want him in their performing arts program because they did not want to deal with diagnosis. They were afraid that it was ruin the performances. I can understand their concern since the other children had worked so hard, they did not want to run the risk that one child could take away their moment in the spotlight. But when he was given the chance, he did not do that. He never has. We have fought this battle for years, and when it comes down to the actual day of the show, he is perfect, he is wonderful. It is fear, ignorance and discrimination.
Now he is in High School. He does not want to do his work. In the end, of course it gets done and he scores his usual high grades and makes the honor roll. We have suggested that if he had an outlet other than schoolwork he would be more motivated. The counselor agreed with us. But it is the middle of the school year, in fact near the end technically, and nothing has happened once again. His talent wasted once again. I would love to place him in a theatre group outside of school, but between his homework, his therapies and the fact that the outside groups are seldom equipped to handle his diagnosis, it has not worked out. I am being optimistic that when I find his sister a group, that might lead into something for him. I have thought of church choir since I could go with him, (I sing also), therefore noone would have to "deal" with him. Since there is only one boy in this group right now, they may welcome another. However, this does not help in making his school experience more enriched which is the point of being in a school activity.
My point is that my daughter who has similar talents and intellect, is classified as "gifted and talented" but my son is excluded because he has some neurological issues that are not his fault. Many disabled people are extremely gifted. They are creative and artistic. They write beautiful poetry, novels, paint, sing, act, build computers and illustrate cartoons. They are capable at times of reaching levels that "neurotypicals" could never dream of because they are wired differently. Many of the world's geniuses are dyslexics, or have ADHD. Why are those with special needs still discriminated against in the year 2010? It's completely ignorant and unnecessary. We are supposed to be a society that above labels. We are not and shame on us.