PARENTING THE EXTRODINARY
My anxious gifted asynchronistic child won’t go to school. It’s called “school refusal”. She argues that she now has the ability to learn anything she wants better and faster than the school can teach her.
Adding to her frustration is the knowledge that our education system has changed little over the last hundred years or so, and it was designed for a 19th/early 20th century world of laborers and factory workers.
I must admit, these are tough points to debate, and though there are some good social/emotional reasons to be with peers, she would argue that they are not her peers anyway.
That is another blog post altogether.
The reality is that unless you are an analytical, rote and reason type with a generally passive personality, there isn’t much room in the current educational practices for individuals to develop their strengths outside the school model of read text – take timed test – get grade-repeat.
Sure, there are accommodations and projects kids can get to augment or build on other “less fruitful” skills, but the reality is that average to smart kids are the ones that schools work best for. The other 20%, well, not so much.
Modern curricula can feel rigid and formulaic, and for anyone who may be a kinesthetic, hands on learner, or even an auditory learner, the challenge grows exponentially with every passing school year.
If we are honest about it, not reaching these kids is a huge societal loss, and a real psychological heartbreak, because more than half (recent studies suggest it’s closer to 80%) of all truly gifted children are asynchronistic and have processing challenges which can create problems with organizing, learning from written text, and hand writing information and of course social/emotional regulation and tolerance.
There are a lot of theories as to why these pupils are left behind, segregated, put into special education or just lost in the system, but the reality is the school system, including programs for the gifted and neurodivergent, cannot seem to accommodate most of these learners.
Think about that for a minute.
Half of all gifted people cannot be taught to meet their potential.
To make matters worse those same students are not just working below their potential, they are put in situations where their brains cannot process and regulate (according to the “norm”), and thus they experience shame and despondence because they are being told they are lazy, not trying, or are being put into special ed classes, or behavioral programs.
We haven’t even touched on what these things do to their social status, or the trauma or shame that come from being ostracized as different.
Again, a whole other blog for just that topic.
All these “interventions” inevitably lead to serious problems with anxiety and depression which can lead to behavioral issues such as shutting down, outburst, anger, frustration, school refusal, and sometimes, when they are backed into a corner over long periods of time, violence. These kids then get labeled “Mentally Ill”.
One would hope this sort of thing was rare, but it’s not.
There are kids out there who have been given all kinds of labels like autism, anxiety, processing disorders, ADHD, and gifted, (not to mention the infuriatingly ignorant oppositional defiance label). Not only are they unable to perform in “normal” academics, but too many end up over medicated, over labeled, stressed out and giving up… all because they were being made to learn in a way that works for most, but definitely not all.
Combine the rapid increase in human intelligence with our inability to teach in multiple learning styles, we push these “different” kids into tough situations.
We wonder “Why is there such an epidemic of anxiety and depression?” Could it be that we, as a culture are making it so that people feel that they only have value if they are lucky enough to learn, behave and think in a very specific way?
We are being told to embrace diversity, yet we are expected to be just like everyone else.
I personally had to pull a gifted asynchronistic child out of the system because the school, even though well intentioned and informed, could not manage to get through a day with the understanding that my child had a increasingly common processing challenge. She needed to be taught kinetically, and at a slower pace, but she was not “slow or of lower intelligence”, which is how they unintentionally treated her. Slow, as we know does not mean less intelligent, as a matter of fact, it’s often the opposite. The people in our district really cared, and yet their educational hands were tied by the system that binds them through rules and ideas that are increasingly out dated.
I should note we were in a good school that was trying hard to accommodate, which makes this story sadder still.
The school system is embarrassingly out dated and nondivergent.
So, what IS the point in sending these kids to school if they cannot be taught there, or worse, it damages or traumatizes them?
As a parent, I can tell you, there are not many options, although the system will recommend a plethora of ideas: OT, talk therapy, social learning programs or the most damaging of them all, and the model by which too many schools still work… ABA (applied behavior analysis), which, if you do just a little digging has been proven to be mostly ineffective, and even damaging. So why is it still recommend? Same thing with social learning programs, it’s not that most of these kids don’t know how to behave, it’s that they literally can’t get their brains to process through the prefrontal cortex (where consequences are considered) the way neurotypical brains do. Of course there are exceptions, mostly with those who come out on the lower end of the spectrums, but the majority of recommendations not only don’t work, they cause damage by punishing a kid for not being ‘normal’, or worse, demoralizes them.
To quote Dr. Ross Greene, “Kids do better if they CAN”.
We now live in a world where we have access to learning in many different forms, but school is STILL predominantly taught through text, books, worksheets and behavioral models. This is not only eliminating the educational potential of a large chunk of kids, it leaves them feeling shamed and discouraged, opening the door to bigger issues down the road.
The system, and I don’t think anyone can argue this, is bogged down by outrageous amounts of bureaucracy and archaic inflexible thinking. So, when you do find those educators who get it and want to help, they are doomed to either follow protocol, or rebel against the system. Ironically, in these cases, both the teacher and the student lose out.
I realize that what I’m saying here makes me part of the educational underground movement, but I am hoping that by sharing these thoughts, and starting conversations about thinking differently about those who are uniquely wired, we can start to enlighten the educational structure that currently leaves them out.
As parents of these nontraditional learners, it’s our job to challenge and inform the “professionals” who too often push us to medicate or punish our children into submission, or push them to read more, do more repetitive worksheets, or show their work in a maddening attempt to make them skilled at doing things the exact same way as brains that are wired very differently.
The number of neurodivergent kids is growing quickly as the human brain continues to evolve, and yet we seem to be missing the point of education, to grow the mind. All minds.
Why send a kid to school if the mind isn’t allowed to grow?
If the educational system doesn’t catch up fast, we will have a epidemic on our hands…
Oh, wait, we already do!
Follow The Thought Wrangler and Parenting The Extraordinary Blogs for relatable, real life stories, information and comfort on this journey by subscribing to receive the latest blog articles fresh from the keyboard!
Hi! I’m Yvette Marie a Thought Wrangler (an intellectual nomad looking for understanding and hope in all things). I created this blog space because I believe Flexibility and Flow in Neurodiversity is not only possible, but necessary for living a full life of health and wellness.