Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Life and Death of a Prodigy (The New Yorker)

The 1/16 New Yorker has a long, sad story from Blood Relation author Eric Konigsberg on the suicide of Brandenn Bremmer in March of last year. It's worth picking up a copy (the story was not available online when I checked).

Brandenn was 14. He liked video games, the Middle Ages and composing music. He had an IQ on the old Stanford-Binet Form LM of 178, though there's some controversy about that test and Linda Silverman, the educational psychologist who gave it to him. In 2001, an 8-year-old boy she tested who had scored "298-plus" threatened suicide and was found to have been coached on the test. An earlier test found Brandenn had an IQ of 146, but that was probably low, as he didn't like the whole testing process (small, gifted children, no less than other small children, don't necessarily hide their feelings!)

But the number doesn't matter. Nor, really, do the various fingers one can point in blame for why this young man decided life wasn't worth living. Konigsberg is careful not to throw his weight behind a particular thesis. Brandenn had a rough life, even if it didn't seem so from the outside. He was a social boy, but because his parents thought he was a prodigy who wouldn't do well in a standard gifted program (the article says Silverman told them this), he was homeschooled and took correspondence courses. Homeschooling works well for many kids. But extroverted kids who don't have brothers and sisters at home may need a lot of time with other kids if they are homeschooled. Brandenn's parents led a fairly monastic farm existence in Nebraska -- just them and the animals. In emails and conversations before his death, Brandenn said that he was lonely, bored and depressed. He was happiest at get-togethers for other gifted students. He was probably a perfectionist and quite sensitive, like many highly gifted kids. All these things together, coupled with the general angst of teen life, and the trials of being different, may have pushed him over the edge. His access to the .22-calibre rifle he'd been using to shoot skunks that got into the barn made it easier.

None of these factors would have been easy to change. The Bremmers had roots in that small Nebraska town that went back generations; moving so Brandenn could be part of a program for the highly gifted somewhere would have been difficult, even if it would have given him the peers he needed. Perhaps the family should have been more open about the definition of Brandenn's peers (as gifted prof Tracy Cross of Ball State says in the article, "I don't believe there's much difference between a person with an IQ of 160 and one with 170 or 180." Maybe that's not entirely right, but Brandenn likely would have made good friends with kids with IQs in the 150s, whatever his tested IQ was.) Maybe he shouldn't have had such easy access to a gun, but a rural child who's been shooting, without incident, since age 6, seems trustworthy. Maybe the boy should have been in treatment for depression. But teen troubles come and go quickly, and Brandenn was good at hiding any long term suffering.

Which leaves the reader wondering what can be gleaned from this horrible story. Maybe nothing. Not all deaths teach us something. Two years before I attended the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities, the school suffered through a spate of suicides and attempts. This was around the time of Kurt Cobain's death; researchers have found suicide can be "contagious." The school cracked down. We used to joke that any hint of depression could get you sent home. That was a problem because many students went to boarding school precisely because their home situation and local schools were intolerable. Going back really would make you depressed. Unfortunately, we live in a world where gifted children have trouble fitting in. They're different. And unfortunately, some people who feel different may find it's not worth staying on this planet.

But that's not unique to prodigies. A girl I knew at my first high school committed suicide as well. Perhaps the one lesson that can be taken from Brandenn's story is that gifted kids, like other kids, need to be with kindred spirits to feel like they have a stake on this earth. It's harder to find such friends for highly gifted kids. But it's worth trying.


Anonymous said...

As a parent of gifted boys, ages 12 and 10, living in a rural area, I can tell you it's hard to find kids who can relate to ours. It's a simple matter of statistics. Our middle school serves five towns and includes grades five through eight. It has roughly 300 students. There are no multi-age classrooms. So, any grade will have roughly 75 students. Only eighth graders switch for all classes. Sixth and seventh graders are looped with the same class for two years. And there's no clustering.

So... our answer is to be willing to drive to lots of places.

Anonymous said...

As parents of a twice-exceptional highly (+?) gifted boys, we had a difficult time making a school choice for our 6 year old. The "overexcitabilities" make it hard to be in a classroom. We live in a rural district (on a farm) and the school system is not well-rated. As with the other comment, no mutli-age clasrooms, no clustering, etc. I think the gifted program doesn't start until the 4th grade....But, we made the decision to proceed with public school because our son is an extreme extrovert. We figured we would always be addressing his "true" intellectual requirements outside the class anyway and we really wanted our son to have the experience of making friends, being part of a social dynamic, etc.

So far, it hasn't been perfect, but it still seems like the right choice. With 3 generations of male suicide in DH's family, and my own PG mother who was terribly depressed, I perhaps stress over each bump in the school experience more than some - but I soon get over those when we are on one of our constant trips with our sons (we travel internationally with them, they come to engineering conferences with us, we go to science centers, museums, concerts, etc. as much as possible) and I see their love for life and learning in the "real world" as opposed to school. I don't want "school" or even "acedemics" to be the focus of my kid's lives, I just want it to "do no harm." Perhaps a tall order these days.

I feel very sorry for Brandenn and his family. It sure sounds like they were trying very hard to do their very best for him, and it must be crushing.


Will said...

This is a sad story, but please be careful with your generalizations about homeschooling. Your comment that "Brandenn's parents led a fairly monastic farm existence" is more relevant than homeschooling. One of the reasons many homeschool is for the increased social advantages. You have much more time for activities with other children of all ages. I have never understood how putting 35 5th graders together in a classroom and having them learn that 6th graders will look down on them and that they should not associate with 4th graders, can be considered good socialization.

Laura Vanderkam said...

Hi Will- I thought I was careful not to generalize, pointing out that it works for many children. But in some cases, extroverted children need more social activities than being an only child who's learning at home can provide them. This isn't incompatible with homeschooling -- but requires the family to do stuff like Scouts, sports leagues, Sunday school, etc.

jason smith said...

I think part of the problem is that many children like Brandden are pushed by their parents to believe they are far more exceptional than they actually are (or anyone is for that matter). Unfortunately as pointed out in the article, this belief is reinforced by the outlandish claims of some in the gifted education community.

My experience both going to school with and teaching, and working with individuals who as children were identified as profoundly gifted is that there is a tendancy for them to fall apart when they reach a level where material becomes difficult for them. One look at Brendann's attempt at college level work, and not at a challenging college, suggests he had a similar crisis in confidence.

I believe the poor response to challenges can be traced to the belief, reinforced by parents and gifted educators, that their ability was bestowed upon them as almost a supernatural 'gift', as opposed to an aptitude that requires hard work and motivation to develop.
Reading the article it was clear that Brendann received this type of feedback both from his parents and gifted child specialists.

Most importantly there are far fewer profoundly gifted children, than claimed by the gifted child industry. Silverman has repeatedly claimed that we are in the midst of a virtual " epidemic of genius's" Whether as some have implied her claim is self serving or not, what is clear is that this 'epidemic' is wiped out pretty quickly when children are tested with a properly normed and broad ability based IQ test such as the SB5

Rather than the new tests being biased against identifying the profoundly gifted (relative to the SB 4 LM test), as is often claimed in the gifted advocate community, the reality is that on a broader based measure of abilities most of the profoundly gifted fall in the 2-3 SD range. For direct proof of this assertion see table 7 of the excellent article by Ruff on the SB5 versus previous SB tests for assessing high ability

One of the reasons given in the article for Brendden's not going to a school with a gifted program was the claims Silverman claims that his intelligence relative to the just 'gifted' was similar to the difference between a child with an IQ of 130 versus an IQ of 70. As the article shows for the large majority who have been labeled profoundly gifted, and most likely Brendden that is not the case and has the potential of artificially enhancing the sense of isolation due to being labeled as different that these children feel

Anonymous said...

Jason! Wow that was a very well thought out response. (IMHO). About that "falling apart" issue -if you read about Dabrowksi's theories, you will see he makes note of several life "stages" in which people are likely to either "disintegrate" or progress. I theorize that in the very gifted, the Dabrowski overexcitabilities apply in many aspects of their lives and thus, the balance is tough and it is easier for them (as oppossed to the more typical population) to disintegrate.

I liken this problem to having an engine on a boat that is way too large for it's physical size. If you speed it up and use it to capacity, you wipe out the boat.

In my direct experience, being gifted means being asynchronus. Thanks for the very intersting thread!
Jackie (again - sorry)

jason smith said...

Hi Jackie

Thanx for reading it. I have a nephew and a niece who are somewhere between gifted and profoundly gifted and I have been reading the academic and popular literature for their parents. Unfortunately my conclusion is that much of the popular writing, including advocacy groups and programs, on the gifted is distorted to emphasize their exceptionality as much or more than the mainstream education movement distorts the facts to justify the cookie cutter educational model.

This distortion would not be bad (all advocacy groups do it) except for the dangers, as shown in the New Yorker article, of convincing parents and even worse their children that they have almost preternatural abilities.

The risk of course, as pointed out I think first by Socrates, is that gods cannot exist amongst mere mortals - with which he meant those who think they are. Teaching a little humility maybe was not such a bad thing.

I apologize for overemphasizing the potential negative outcome with the highly gifted. On the plus side most gifted children, including the exceptionally gifted (as I mentioned before profoundly is highly overused) do well. There are a series of excellent articles documenting the progress of children identified as gifted in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth on the following website

However these children did have the advantage of going into the summer programs of the sponsoring institutions (also profiled in New Yorker magazine last year) and a significant number were accelerated or had some other supplementation to the standard curriculum. Several of the articles talk about the outcome benefits of acceleration versus other approaches for gifted education.

Several articles on the site show that there is as claimed on average a noticeable higher degree of academic and professional achievement between the highest gifted group (3-4SD) and the gifted groups (~2SD ) studied. However the difference is not anywhere near as great as claimed by many advocates of the highly gifted.

Furthermore there are far more achievers at the highest level in their age groups who were NOT slected for the program. This is similar to the Terman study where the top achievers in the cohort of California school children were from amongst those not selected (including two Nobel Prize winners - Alvarez and Shockley).

While often the success of the just gifted is poo pooed by highly/profoundly gifted advocates as evidence of discrimination against the profoundly gifted, the reality is at the highest levels of achievement a tremendous amount of dedication and effort is required no matter what your IQ is

A risk of isolating children from their peers, no matter how advanced, and telling them it is because they are too 'gifted' , is that it will lead to their misapprehension that their 'gift' is all they need to succeed in life (and not just professionally).

However one point to add to the articles on the site is that although many of the identified children had exceptional professional achievement, especially in academics, and there was on average higher achievement in the most gifted group, there are many times more academics of similar or greater accomplishments in the same age group who were not identified. Being highly gifted is an advantage, but not nearly so much that it allows achievement without the right personal qualities (there are several papers on the SMPY site that look at these factors).



Anonymous said...

I haven't read the article in question, but I was shocked and saddened to learn of this boy's suicide last year. I didn't know him, but I could have. My kids are members of the same PG community and it is only geography that got in the way of my family (and my teen in particular) getting to know his.

It is pointless and harmful to cast blame after such a tragedy. My own stepbrother committed suicide at 18. He wasn't PG, only a "normal" troubled teen. Teen angst is not a malady reserved for the intellectual elite. Teen suicide occurs across all races and all socio-economic groups. Adolescence is a time of profound change for all of us. Many butterflies and moths do not survive metamorphis, and it makes sense to me that this time of human transition should be quite challenging for people.

In a perfect world, kids who are feeling blue would get help before taking that final and irrevocable step. Maybe if Branden attended school he would have made a friend or two and he'd still be with us, but it is also very likely that he might have felt even more alone in a sea of more average students. In that case, perhaps he would have acted on his negative impulses even sooner.

The lesson I take from this is that my children need to know that they will feel sad at times, maybe even depressed, but that it is only temporary. In the midst of a depressive episode, it is difficult to imagine what happiness feels like. Talking to my kids about depression and suicide might just save them from a similar fate.

Anonymous said...

I have got to applaud Jason for being so well-read on the subjetc and for knowing wome profoundly gifted (or not) children...his niece and nephew. However, I think that many of his excellent points are shadowed by his belief that most parents of the highly gifted feel that their children's gifts are somewhat "supernatural". Those parents of the highly gifted that I know do NOT feel that. What they do know is that the experiences of their children do begin to isolate them from an early age and that it is a struggle to have these children "be themselves" and "fit in with their peers" at the same time.
Most of "us" (yes, I am one of those parents)started out having our child mix with age peers and saw that even a highly extroverted happy HG child ran into major difficulties because the AGE PEERS recognized the differences early and the asynchrony made social life quite challenging.Most of us would be quite happy to have our children in school and many of us have made numerous attempts to work WITH schools to have very basic needs met. However, in our society at this point in time, even a moderately gifted kid may not get differentiation at all, and a HG kid is almost hung out to dry.My social child turned into a much more wary child when he was told that "going ahead" with reading or math at a level natural to him would be "unfair to his classmates".These comments would not be accepted if said to a child on the other side of the academic scale.
My son is exposed to his age peers through boy Scouts and sports, although the mismatch is obvious.Hi interests are of a much older nature...some day he will find better peers, but not in great numbers.And we parents of the HG talk to each other because our neightbors do not understand the struggles that you mentioned : to prioritize hard work and struggle as a worthy part of life when some things come quite easily.

This has been a good strand, but I would like to remind readers that one may not extrapolate a whole life (Brandenn's) from one article, so distilling it down to "he got to college and he fell apart" or that "he was artificially isolated" is a disservice to an individual's life and contributions (gifted or not).I did not know him nor do I presume to know his whole story. But "artificial isolation" is not something that most of us aspire to...the isolation unfortunately comes with the territory and it is a parent's job to diminish that isolation and separation in any way possible. To deny its existence is naive, however (my son was 6 when he went to a summer camp program for the gifted...we did not tell him that word, though.When I asked if he had found many kids like him, he said that most did not want to learn like him...most were kids who were forced there by their parents.He made two close friends...who were without a doubt,HG.The radar was incredible.).

Good luck with your work and observations,Jason.We need discerning people like you in education...but try to lose some of the cynicism.I was like that too (as a pediatrician)before I had to live this life myself!

Anonymous said...

I am a parent of an extrovert, teice exceptional 13 year old in 10th grade at a local IB program. Many psychologists have seen him beause of the "lack of output/achievement" and his IQ has ranged from 150 to 170. Brandenn's story touches a very sensitive chord as I can see many parallelisms with my son. He, however is generally happy and content inspite all the challenges he has to face. In the school system, the biggest challenge is finding teachers who are willing not to misunderstand. In his case, it has made a lot of difference having even one advocate in the school system.

Jason Smith said...

Dear anonymous

Agree with the point that there is no way we can really identify what lead to the Brendden tragedy. However I believe the article does point out valid trends in gifted education advocacy towards the overuse of the PG category, the quasi deification of the children in it, and the exageration of the risks these children actually face.

The SMPY site articles are worth the time to wade through for people really interested in what a more 'typical' outcome is for HG and PG children Unfortunately it is weighted towards better school systems - just on the basis of what schools are most likely to make families aware of the program - but given that the large majority of HG and PG come from high income families it is most likely a reasonable group to generalize from.

Despite the concerns raised in the New Yorker article, the prognosis is actually quite good for the majority of children tracked. At a much higher level than the population average they ended up as academics or professionals in highly skilled well paying jobs. An outcome very similar to the Terman and similar early studies.

Based on self report the HG and PG children surveyed as adults felt being either grade advanced or given access to enrichment courses was a very positive experience. However the 'adult outcome' diffences of children who did not have these advantages was not large. But if all these programs provide is a peer group that makes these children feel socially more accepted then it is worthwhiie. Everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy their childhood.

Getting down to business said...

This is the first I've heard of Brandenn having expressed feelings of loneliness, boredom, or depression - might I ask the source of this information? From the articles I read around the time of the suicide and from comments online by those who were conversing with him via email and phone, Brandenn had seemed very happy with *no* clue to his being depressed to his parents or friends. My family had met Brandenn briefly and he seemed a very well-adjusted person to us at the time, and I'm not one to usually be fooled. My brother had a close friend of 5 years whom I went on one date with and told my brother (then in medical school) that I felt his friend was depressed and suicidal. My brother insisted I had no clue of what I was talking about, and three weeks later, this guy stole cyanide from his lab (he was a graduate student at the university at the time) and killed himself. I grant my contact with Brandenn was VERY short and I think at least a year before the suicide and a lot can change in a year, but this suicide really took me by surprise and I wonder how much people are jumping to conclusions about what he was thinking/feeling versus how much he truly was. For all I know, his mother's comment about the kid wanting to save others through the donation of his organs could have been what the kid was truly thinking (I seriously doubt that's what the kid was thinking, but I also wouldn't jump to conclusions about his being bored or lonely without some sort of hard evidence, much though I think those are far more common elements surrounding suicide than wanting to save the lives of others through organ donation).

"He was probably a perfectionist and quite sensitive, like many highly gifted kids."

Those characteristics wouldn't surprise me, especially as from articles where the mother was interviewed, I believe she described her son as quite sensitive, though I think in a compassionate manner rather than a "can't take criticism or imperfection" manner. But again, I hate for people to put labels on people who can't even speak up on their own behalf to counter the guess, much though I also understand how easy this is to do.

"Unfortunately, we live in a world where gifted children have trouble fitting in. They're different."

I don't think a blanket statement like that is correct. Had you used "some" or perhaps even "most", I might be comfortable with it, but I think such a blanket statement could make some gifted people feel they might not be truly gifted if they *are* easily fitting in.

"And unfortunately, some people who feel different may find it's not worth staying on this planet."

There I agree, and the lesson to be learned is to help people understand that being different in and of itself is not bad, and indeed, can be good. People who are very tall are also "different" and yet you don't see NBA basketball players feeling suicidal over their height not allowing them to mingle as easily with the short or average height people.

Many here comment on how important it is for high IQ people to have high IQ peers. I think it's helpful for that to be the case, but you know what I think is actually MORE helpful to them? Being able to appreciate and enjoy the company of those who are different intellectually from themselves (as well as those who are different racially, ethnically, sexually, chronologically, etc.). :O Seeing that there is so much more to people than how fast they acquire information, create new ideas, and/or impress others with their mental prowess....that all those things can be very handy, but there is still just so much more.

And another thing I personally feel would help is educating people on how incredibly inconsiderate to others committing suicide is, much as I get grief every time I note this. I honestly believe most people don't understand the hurt they create by committing suicide and if they thought about how deep the wounds are for immediate family, close friends, etc., they might not make the same decision. After that one date committed suicide, I made it my mission to make clear to every person I have heard express suicidal thoughts that if they went through with it, it wouldn't just be a shame, it would be selfish and inconsiderate to those who love them (even if they are saving the lives of others through organ donation, something I again suspect very few suicide cases have as part of the equation). And not one person who's been suicidal with me since I've taken this approach has actually gone through with it, which isn't to say it will always work, but I feel it's helpful and contrary to what many think would be the case, hasn't put anyone over the edge yet in my experience to date. Indeed, some guy placed a notice in the college newspaper expressing his desire to kill himself and leaving a PO Box to respond and I wrote him the riot act on how it wouldn't only be illogical in his case (as he wasn't terminally ill or even chronically depressed, the two cases where I can somewhat understand suicide), but selfish and inconsiderate, and 20 years later, that guy called my dad's house looking to speak with me...I had no idea who he was, but signed my name, and he held onto the letter all those years and wanted to thank me for saving his life. He also wanted me to know that he was a counselor for a suicide hotline for years before becoming a computer programmer, and so he felt, I indirected saved many lives. And ironically, it turned out this guy's first name is the same as our son's, and even though we attended a university with 20,000-30,000 students, this guy actually had me in a class! Life is weird, and we need to learn to treasure the good and deal with the bad.

Anonymous said...

Jason - From my reading of Terman, I think some care needs to be taken in analyzing his results. "This is similar to the Terman study where the top achievers in the cohort of California school children were from amongst those not selected (including two Nobel Prize winners." Terman's kids were selected primarily by teacher nomination. Some of the most unusual thinkers (those that may go on to become Nobel Prize winners) may not be the ones that the teachers think of as the brightest. That doesn't mean that they weren't extremely gifted - just not identified.

Also, we found that the struggles of trying to fit a PG/LD child into the public school system was extremely difficult - and we ended up removing a very depressed child from school for being teased for being so different - so we homeschool without any other local options. The road parents of PG kids have to travel is very rocky - and there isn't a map. It's all make it up as you go.

Laura Vanderkam said...

Getting down to business:

The Konigsberg New Yorker article quotes from some of Brandenn's emails sent shortly before his death. He emailed his friend K., after she sent him a scarf she'd knitted, "Your timing couldn't have been better, for the past week or so I've been depressed beyond all reason, so this was just what I needed, thank you very much." She wrote back to ask about him being depressed, and he responded, "I'm glad there's someone who cares. I don't know why I'm so depressed, before it was just every now and then, and you know, it was just "bummed out" depressed. But now it's constant and it's just "What's the point of living anymore?" I don't know, maybe I just don't spend enough time around good friends like you. But like I can. Not out there in the middle of nowhere..."

jason smith said...

Both Alvarez and Shockley were tested and did not make 'the cut', a fact that some feel led to Shockley's adult obsession over IQ and race.

Independent of the actual value of their IQs, my main point in bringing this example up is that it shows you do not have to be PG or even EG to achieve great things. Furthermore I doubt an even truly PG child would have found Alverez and Shockley as unsuitably dull classmates. At levels of gifted and above the abilities of children are very uneven. Gifted children often have more ability than even a profoundly gifted child in several areas. Therefore the strong belief here that a PG child cannot fit in with a class of G children is with few exceptions highly unlikely.

Regarding the EG/PG issue the frequency of an IQ of 160 or above in the new SB5 is 1 in 40,000,000 or approximately 100 children per grade level in the US. For PG (180) it is 1 in 3,000,000, or about 1 child per grade level in the US.

For comparison, the SB LM test gave a score of 160 or higher classification at frequency of ~ 1 in 1000 ( a 40 x greater frequency than SB5). The overestimate factor gets much higher with increasing IQ. (see the Riverside publishing technical bulletin I cited for more info on this - if it does not work just go to the site and look under SB5 on the products list). Other SB tests before SB5 were similar in overestimating the EG/PG range.

Therefore any child classified by SB LM (or any SB previous to 5) in EG or above has at best a 1/40 chance of actually being at that level. From this fact alone I believe the advocacy time and effort of the majority of parents who believe their child is EG or PG would be far better served focusing on developing good alternatives for education of gifted and above children than obsessing over sub stratifying the already quite small gifted population -a strategy doomed to failure because if it is hard to get funds for gifted (2%) education programs the chances of getting special schools for the 100 EG and 1 PG child out there per grade is nil.



As a side note the test Terman administered (and in fact ALL the SB tests until 5) were highly weighted towards verbal and cultural knowledge (a big disadvantage for Alverez who was from a spanish speaking family) and were certain to miss children with high mathematical ability or from non professional families where they were not exposed to as large a vocabulary. Shockley had his IQ tested as an adult by Jensen who measured it at around 150, certainly exceptionally high but not at the PG level.

Anonymous said...

Suicide is an irrational act. Having been there (and, fortunately for my friends and family, not having acted on it), I can say that the person thinking seriously about suicide is focused only on his/her own pain and is not able to think about what it will do to others. In her own mind, she's doing the world a favor by taking her ill-fitting self out of it.

Our most highly gifted kids know that they don't fit in our society. Our society values conformity and they just don't think like the average kids around them. As for falling apart when they hit a challenge, well, duh! When they've always understood something the first time, not "getting it" the first time is a big shock. Many PG kids tend to assume that if they don't get it at once, they can't get it. They have no experience with anything else. They fall apart - I did - but my friends helped me get it back together and struggle through. Learning to study when you've never needed study skills is a real challenge in itself.

Christine said...

Jason wrote, "there is a tendancy for them to fall apart when they reach a level where material becomes difficult for them."

This is exactly why gifted students need differentiated education that challenges them from early on. They need to be be challenged so that they can begin to learn that working hard is part of the learning process, not a sign that they are about to fail.

Anonymous said...

Jason said: "Given that the large majority of HG and PG kids come from high income families". That is a possible misconception based on the facts that you yourself mention...that the testing is very heavily verbal and cultural!There is no evidence that there is a demographic (whether racial or economic) differential in PG-ness.It is the identification process and the education process that underidentifies the disadvantaged child.If he is bored,is there an advocate in sight?Possibly not. And many of we advocates DO work on gifted issues in you really think I would get anywhere in the schools singling out a PG kid?In my state, there is no definition of giftedness or mandate, so we have to start simple. But do I think that most PG kids will automatically fit in with MG kids?Perhaps, but not necessarily. Worth a try, but it may be as different as putting a student with an IQ of 85 in with a student with an IQ of 45. The learning styles are quite "out there" on some of the PG kids, to be honest, and most teachers are not trained to "get them", whereas many teachers are quite happy with a bright or MG kid.

Jason Smith said...

Hi Anonymous Post 18

I am glad you picked up my implied point regarding this issue.

There are almost certainly (IMO) the same fraction of children from non affluent families who have the potential for G, MG, EG, and PG (and whatever else) performance as from affluent families.

I also believe strongly that if they have the educational opportunity they can easily achieve that performance. The very fact that most EG and PG are misclassifed, yet still often show exceptional educational achievement proves this.

But I guarantee that if the issue remains substratifying of gifted education (the tie to the topic of this thread being thatit was given as the reason Brendenn was home schooled as opposed to going into a program for the 'mere' gifted) as opposed to developing a program that encompasses a reasonable enough fraction of the student population to warrant the investment of tax payer dollars it is doomed to fail.

Even if it is not perfect it for the few true PG (including the majority who are almost certainly missed due to socio economic issues) out there, it will be far better than what many of them have now.


Anonymous said...

Hi all,
I'm new to this blog, the Brandenn article struck a chord with me too.
Regarding the social difficulties of gifted children, I was wondering if there have been any studies correlating autism and giftedness? My sister was highly gifted and her social difficulties were always blamed on that. She was just "too smart" for the other kids, our parents said. Now, many years later, she has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. I hope parents are open to the idea that their highly gifted child could also be disabled and need special help.

Anonymous said...

There was an element in this article that I have yet to see discussed here. I knew from reading the prior buzz that there was talk of angels and psychic isses in the article. I guess what bothered me most was Linda Silverman being the one to purport these ideas. No matter what you believe, I feel like it undermined her credibility. I have worked closely with the Gifted Development Center and have often recommended others do the same. Yet, I now wonder if that was a mistake given these leanings. I would be interested in others impressions on this topic. Thanks.

penny said...

One of my strongest impressions upon reading the article is that Linda Silverman is NOT credible, and has probably done a lot of harm by encouraging parents to think their children are SO different that their needs cannot be met by any social institution. So, home school them, don't expect them to link strongly even with other gifted kids, and it doesn't matter what mickey-mouse high school courses they take, they'll still thrive in college at a young age. (Was anyone else completely underwhelmed by the high school curriculum all the adults around Brandenn seemed so impressed by?) Silverman's continued use of the SB-LM makes her look as if she is willing to find an incredibly high IQ score to whoever wants it badly enough. Along with the previous Silverman debacle (the supposedly miraculous prodigy with the IQ of 298 who ended up in a psychiatric hospital) this article cconvinced me that I would never urge parents to consult the Gifted Develpment Center.

penny said...

One of my strongest impressions upon reading the article is that Linda Silverman is not credible, and has probably done a lot of harm by encouraging parents to think their children are SO different that their needs cannot be met by any social institution. So, home school them, don't expect them to link strongly even with other gifted kids, and it doesn't matter what mickey-mouse high school courses they take, they'll still thrive in college at a young age. (Was anyone else completely underwhelmed by the high school curriculum all the adults around Brandenn seemed so impressed by?) Silverman's continued use of the SB-LM makes her look as if she is willing to find an incredibly high IQ score to whoever wants it badly enough. Along with the previous Silverman debacle (the supposedly miraculous prodigy with the IQ of 298 who ended up in a psychiatric hospital) this article cconvinced me that I would never urge parents to consult the Gifted Develpment Center.

Laura Vanderkam said...

Yes, the angels and indigo children comments in the article were very striking -- in a negative way. I don't think anyone does gifted children a favor by making them think they're not of this world. It's unclear what other world they'll be participating in any time soon (unless, like Brandenn, such kids decide to take matters into their own hands -- with the horrible results that has).

Dawn Becker said...

I have a five year old boy who was in a regular pre-school last year but in June was advised during a conference that he would not flourish in the public kindergarten and that I would have to find another alternative. I was destined to have him socialize within the community and take advantage of the fact that we are directly across from the public school. However, when it came time to testing for kindergarten preparedness, he tested at 2nd grade reading and so they tested his match skills, which were at 3rd grade level. They called us in and said that based on intellect and other factors, they felt it best to skip him to first grade.

So he is in first grade and the work is easy; however, it has not been without problems. They claim he controls the other children and lacks empathy. I am often being scrutinzed because he is obsessed with reading about space, electricity, and over the past year, about military aircraft. The teacher often comments that I should discourage these interests because the other children look at him strange, at times. I do know that my son does control the other children and he is seeing a psychologist to work on behavior modification. Despite the fact that the school claims he lacks empathy, I am contstantly getting calls for play dates. The boys do find him interesting and want to have play dates. I have seen three different psychologists over the course of three years because my son Zachary has dominated other children and although he is a lean kid and height wise fits in with the other first graders, he has been known to get aggressive with them when overstimulated or he becomes frustrated. Each psychologist had similar reports, they claim he carries traits resembling ADHD but does not have the diagnosis and when stimulated properly he engages easily and is better behaved. However, the school just told my current psychologist to persuade us to see a psychiatrist from a list that they provided to us. They do not want us choosing a psychiatrist but want us to see someone from their list as they believe he has Aspergers syndrome. Two of the previous psychologists describe him as being charismatic and an opportunist, not that most kids do not resemeble this characteristic but my sons is much more extreme, in the way that he manipulates the other children, to gain something he desires. I am concerned that because the school does not know how to handle him, they are characterizing him with Aspergers and they have also noted that they would like to see him medicated because he is too active but yet the private school last year loved having him and beside one incident, claim he was a pleasure to have as a student. I am hoping that I can feed off of someone who has been in this situation before and what they did

Mrzmyrmtthws said...

In response to Dawn Becker,
As an "EG child", I grew up in much the same type situation as your son. Looking back, I can see much of the same traits in my behavior at that age. As far as what he likes to study, I would say to NEVER discourage something that keeps his interest, ESPECIALLY just for the reason of what other kids think. I was into those exact same things when i was that age. In fact, when i was older and attending a gifted program, I took classes in Aerodynamics and Astronomy, as well as many other specialized courses. If anything, use the subjects he likes studying and reading about and use that. Take him to military museums to look at the planes or to air shows. Take him to planetariums or arrange a visit to an observatory. If there are gifted programs, use them, but don't make him feel like it's an obligation, ever. Unfortunately for me, my gifted program was only once, maybe twice, a week. I would go back to my regular school and not do anything because it was too easy. I wouldn't do any home work because I knew I could walk into a test and ace it. Unfortunately, my grades dropped from not doing homework. I was labeled as stupid, even though that same year, I taught one of my teachers an alternate method to solving a complex math problem that she couldn't do. Read "Is It A Cheetah"
This hit's the feelings right on the nose. Eventually they took me out of gifted classes and my grades dropped more because they weren't balanced out by the gifted classes. I wasn't able to go straight into college because of my grades. Life is hard for gifted. You are looked at differently, get used to it. And if you don't meet someone's expectations, you are labeled as stupid. It can be very depressing at times.

There are many types of gifted programs out there, and it's hard to say which is better. With mine, I went once or twice a week and took classes I chose because they interested me. Like I said, my grades suffered because I still had to go back to "normal school" the rest of the week. That is not to say that it will happen to every gifted child. There are also full time programs like the IB or AP programs. The downside to these is that they are just advanced versions of their normal classes. Although not normally seen as a bad thing, I have known many IB students that feel too much pressure in the program from parents, teachers and counselors that they burn out. IB programs aren't neccessarily just for gifted students. In fact, I would almost say that non-gifted students might do better in these classes because they think differently. They are there to study and work hard. Gifted students work better with their interests. If something doesn't interest me, good luck. If something has my attention, I can soak up the information like a sponge. The way this comes into play with gifted students, is this. Everyone learns differently. I am a very visual learner. You need to know how your gifted child/student learns, so when he/she is having problems, use that. Make it interesting for them. It will be very hard to keep their attention and help them learn any other way.
Adapt it to their style of learning, tie it in somehow to a subject they enjoy, something. Make sure you are constantly stretching their abilities. Again, once they lose interest, change it up.

For the behavior issues, as troubling as it may be sometimes, don't look at it as an entirely bad thing. I was always in charge of my little group of friends when i was that age also. Obviously he's not too bad with the other students if they still enjoy playing with him. He most likely is just a natural leader. Again, use that. Put him in charge of things around the house. Little things at first obviously, but it will give him a sense of pride and responsibility. Give him problems to solve. You may be surprised at the way he looks at situations. He may even be able to solve problems you can't. Never discourage him when it comes to learning. That's not saying, "Convice him he know's everything and he's invincible!" That's saying that when he fails at something, push him to look at it again from a different angle, try something new. I know there is alot here and I I don't even remember everything I did and did not write. I hope what I have said helps and if there are any questions or clarification needed, just email me or leave a comment on here. I will check back.


Anonymous said...

I`m a PG person and worried about the way people treat me. Most of them don`t like me and I`ve always been surrounded by the bullies. Now I isolate voluntarily.

They who like me, say sometimes, that I`m not a human being at all. They don`t understand how I can do and discover things the way I do. Have You same kind of experiences.

There is a competition everywhere and when there`s somebody beyond the group, people start to put somebody down and that`s ME!

Anonymous said...

I`m a PG person having difficult problems with other people -being totally different from the others it is too difficult. My superior ability to create patterns doesn`t make the competitors happy. Visualizing new models make people to hate me.

Are there others who share the same problems?

xyz said...

You can't guilt trip someone into not committing suicide. I've heard the "think of all the people you'll hurt" argument so many times, it just makes the feelings even worse. It's just another brick on the burden of guilt and shame that drives a person toward the action in the first place. Suicidal people are not stuck in a haze of 'clouded thinking' - if anything, they see things much clearer without a protectively high self-rating ego to obscure the cruel facts of reality. It takes a certain level of delusion to keep happy - God forbid you see reality for what it is... it's enough to make anyone want to kill themselves...