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  • Writer's pictureThe Knox School of Santa Barbara

Reaching Out To The Questing Gifted Child

By: Joan Franklin Smutny

Article excerpt

I received a call from a father who said that his nine-year-old son liked to discuss the nature of time. Was there always time? If it depends on the movement of the planets, then would it stop if they reversed course? He was particularly eager to discuss the possibility of life before birth. "I used to think that this was because he played with a friend whose family is Buddhist," his father said, "but when I asked, 'Harry, do you mean you wonder if you were here before?' he would say, 'No, not here, but somewhere. I just know I was somewhere else." And then he would argue that if time had to do with moving planets then why couldn't he have existed somewhere that was outside of that? He would put on his pouty, you-should-know-better look and say, 'If there's something after death as you told me when Pop [his hamster] died, then why not before too?' I couldn't answer of course. I also had the distinct impression that he was only telling me a fraction of what was going on in his head. How do we deal with these kinds of questions?"

Another child I know-a gifted middle schooler-wanted to talk to her parents about the inferior status of animals in human society. This fourth grader had read some rather dense, complex books on animals and conservation, trying to understand why people treated other species as beneath them. "My husband and I were a bit taken aback," her mother said, "when out of the blue our daughter said, 'You know, I'm probably going to end up a misanthrope.' I said, a misanthrope'? When did you learn that word?' She just rolled her eyes with an exaggerated sigh and said, 'If most people in the world don't like animals that much and only see them as playthings or meat to eat or whatever, I'm not going to like people very much and therefore I'll be.. ..well.... alone in this world.' I tried to assure her that there are, in fact, a lot of people who care about animals. But she just looked off into the distance and continued, 'If it's because people have more brains or something, then what about really disabled people? Do they lose rneir rights and get locked in cages and abused if they can't think as good a monkey who's extra smart? No. The monkey would still be in the cage. So it's got to be prejudice against nonhumans.' Anna has a really hard time dealing with cruelty, especially toward animals. I wish we could find ways of helping her through this."

The "Questing" Gifted Child

The following list is intended to aid parents in recognizing the quest of their own children. While not all gifted young people engage in such a quest- searching and probing complex issues in great depth- many highly sensitive and intuitive learners do. They have a tendency to be

* Interested in philosophical questions far in advance of others their age

* Paralyzed by the intensity of their feelings in the presence of injustice, cruelty, or self-centeredness

* Inspired by a sense of the wholeness of life (encompassing all beings and the universe) and feeling part of this large whole

* Subject to an acute sense of vulnerability in the world due to feeling "different" from peers and to difficult experiences in school

* Profoundly affected by daily experience and inclined to plumb its meaning to the depths

* Possessed of a highly developed moral understanding and strong convictions about fundamental principles (such as the right to a fair trial)

* Acutely intuitive about human and animal behavior

* Deeply drawn toward the creative, artistic, and the imaginative

* Interested in unexplained phenomena-UFOs, telepathic abilities, near-death-experiences, or visions of the future

* Highly sensitive and compassionate toward others, particularly toward those who are mistreated, troubled, or unhappy

* Able to take strong, courageous stands about ethical issues based on well-reasoned arguments for doing so and in spite of opposition. …

Copyright © Joan Franklin Smutny Reprinted with permission from the author.

Joan Franklin Smutny, Director of the Center for Gifted at National-Louis University in Illinois, teaches graduate students. Her books include Teaching Young Gifted Children in the Regular Classroom; and The Young Gifted Child: Potential and Promise, an Anthology.

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