M5A2: Reflection on the Exceptionality Continuum
July 23, 2017
Reflection on The Exceptionality Continuum
In order for a society to be able to honestly talk about something, such society must be comfortable with doing so. I posit that we are still trying to please each other more than truly help each other and so we cannot help each other until we agree to be decently comfortable speaking about uncomfortable subjects. Exceptionality children/teens are one such uncomfortable subject. We seem to be at a standstill due to our discomfort about the truth and our shying away from discomfort … at all costs. This time, children and a better society are the price for discomfort. So, please sit back, prepare for a bit of discomfort, and roll up a sleeve.
I propose that twice-exceptional children/teens indicate--by the nature of what they are, both gifted and talented and showing signs of disability--that focus in our schools must be invested fairly between supporting and insulating the gifted and talented [GT] as well as those on the disability end of the exceptionalities continuum.
The twice-exceptional human beings make it a must because we can’t separate both poles when it comes to furthering them. “In addition to not meeting their potential, these students often become bored in school and sometimes develop emotional or behavioral problems. GT children might also miss out on developing study skills, because they have not been challenged […] GT can exist with different disabilities, such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, deafness, or autism spectrum disorders (Argosy, 2017).” This begs us to see all children/teens with a fair, an equal eye, in the name of providing the very best that we can muster in order to further everyone, wherever s/he might be on the continuum.
Current focus in American schools tends to be on evaluating and providing interventions for students on the disability end of the exceptionalities continuum, rather than on those considered gifted and talented. “The main focus of federal legislation has been on advancing the learning of average and below-average learners, rather than on those performing in the gifted range (Argosy, 2017).” “There is no standard definition of GT. Most definitions are in line with the federal definition, which includes high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields (Hardman, Drew, & Egan, 2010, p. 418).”
Further regarding giving proper attention to GTs: “It invites little attention. In many states, it is not a vital consideration for funding, supporting, or encouraging. As a nation, we are not committed to these individuals who represent this unique slice of the ability/talent spectrum. Beliefs prevail that these children, youth, and young adults will thrive without any specialized services or supports in developing their intellect, creativity, abilities, gifts, and talents. In contrast, others believe that nurturing these abilities, gifts, and talents is absolutely essential and vital to our collective well-being and our progress as a nation. (Hardman, 2013, p. 403).” I would say that at this juncture in time, there would be no strong argument that I can make for focusing time and resources solely on children with disabilities, rather than on those considered gifted and talented. We must venture with fast aim to do both.
This is because at this point in time, the pendulum has swung all the way from the severity of extremes of the likes of the famous “Professor Lewis Terman, the nation's most famous psychologist and the man who had planted the term "IQ" in America's vocabulary (Leslie, 2000)” to swinging swiftly in the opposite direction to George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” ripple effect that uplifts the disabled end of the spectrum, which is still echoing loudly throughout the chambers, the halls and desks of our schools’ current Common Core.
Our society seems to shift its vision only every so often and this time, the pendulum must swing back more slowly to strike an even tone, teetering right in the middle, which is ironic, because both ends are still not stretched to maximal maximums as far as truly working for our children/teens at either end of the continuum currently. There is much work that lay ahead of us in this regard. “Energy and capacity must be uncovered, developed, and utilized. This is true of children, youth, and young adults who are gifted and talented or who have the potential for becoming such. In the absence of appropriate development and nurturing, this renewable resource in each generation of young people will be lost, underdeveloped, or not developed at all (Hardman, 2013, p. 403).”
There have been extremes in vantage points throughout history with regards to how we see those exceptionalities that are disabled and how we see the gifted and talented. Each is deserving of much merit, much credit, and understandably so. We should welcome now the loyal ghost of Professor Terman’s guidance of the gifted and talented—minus his belief in eugenics that would only keep the high IQ lot around for birthing. A novel outside the domain of this paper should address such, but for now, in essence, this can sum it up:
“The Stanford-Binet made Terman a leader in a fervent movement to take testing far beyond the schoolhouse and Army base. Proponents considered intelligence the most valuable human quality and wanted to test every child and adult to determine their place in society. The "intelligence-testers" -- a group that included many eugenicists -- saw this as the tool for engineering a fairer, safer, fitter and more efficient nation, a "meritocracy" run by those most qualified to lead. In their vision of a vibrant new America, IQ scores would dictate not only what kind of education a person received but what work he or she could get. The most important and rewarding jobs in business, the professions, academia and government would go to the brightest citizens. People with very low scores -- under about 75 -- would be institutionalized and discouraged or prevented from having children (Leslie, 2000).”
For we cannot in our evolution as a society go about maintaining the mentality of killing entire sects of people or only wanting the highly intelligent to reproduce. This is preposterous as an answer of any kind; moreover, it rather rightly begs the question of the insanity levels of those who proposed such inhumane options before our time. We have woken to the fact and must strive now to better children/teens anywhere on the exceptionality continuum and not assume that anyone is average, in fact. Better testing, different testing might open a window in order to be able to facilitate this.
There is a strong argument that can be made for focusing on those considered gifted and talented due to gravity’s turn at the pendulum swinging back in order to level itself naturally. “a) giftedness is a sub-culture, b) people with special gifts also identify with and operate in multiple cultural contexts, and c) in order to be effective in working with gifted clients, one must accurately understand the interaction of the client's multiple cultural identities (Levy & Plucker, 2003).”
Every culture needs art, music, talented people in academia, the arts, and sports. Who will we study in our higher learning institutions if there is no Virginia Woolf, no Vincent Van Gogh? Who will we study in music if there were no Billie Holiday, no Tom Waits, no Mozart and no Amadeus? Who will be the mavericks, the MLKs, the Eleanor Roosevelts, the Charles Dickens, Dr. Seuss, or Tiger Woods, if we do not support the growth and fruition of excellence as well as the bettering and fulfillment of our disabled?
The only thing that would be truly equal is the travesty that would be if we do not find practical methods, systems, and different ways of “testing” that yearn in powerful chorus the singular aim to achieve fervent growth of both and of all in between both ends. We definitely need to get hip to be louder about furthering those with talent and abilities; we need an inspired society. These things press a nerve in all of us to talk about even out at a dinner party, but we must strive to make it less awkward. A culture must have many components and it is high time that our schools grow comfortable with GTs and the furthering of them, the proper testing of them.
The critical mass changes the direction of a ship; regarding change and swift evolution, the status quo is always only responsible for sinking the ship in its sagging tired middle. What if no one had supported MLK to speak? What if no one had supported and provided opportunity for Tiger Woods to pick up a golf club daily? What if no one had allowed Virginia Woolf to write books with wells of ink, quill feather pens, and writing tables because she was a woman in that day and age? What if Billy Joel hadn’t been handed a microphone and some piano lessons?
It is difficult to talk about this sometimes in our society; it is. Perhaps without a society that is comfortable being honest, we cannot make the strides that we all know in our gut of guts needs to be activated and in full swing. We all yearn to “be one” or “be equal”, but the fact is: we are not; we’re just not equal. We deserve to live in a society that aims to treat all as equal for opportunity’s sake, but it is certainly true that we are not equal. We all begin at different levels of intellectual, spiritual, and physical abilities. So, we should rather aim at implementing in our schools some tests and activities that aim at truly behooving the entire continuum of children/teens with exceptionalities, hoping that each in their unique parts to play on this Earth, are best equipped to be able to do their very own parts in this human machine.
The term exceptionalities includes a continuum from those with low-incidence disabilities to gifted and talented. All of these children have in common being not of “the norm”; they are well above or below average. This is important because our IQ tests should be bettered. Pens and parchment should not be the only way to test children/teens/human beings of any age due to the question of leaving those anywhere in the range of exceptionality out of such. The GTs are apt to be bored and the disabled are left too far behind in society with current IQ tests. How about if we incorporate group sessions, some kind of communicative games that would be employed to “test” people?
This, in addition to basic IQ tests and perhaps tests of their very own variety, targeted at GTs and tests targeted to reach the disabled end of the spectrum. After all, to find true intelligence, shall we “grade” how a piece of music affects a human’s capacity of soul as well? I think so. Emotional intelligence is needed in our society and it has stayed outside the realm of schools entirely; it is found in magazine quizzes next to the crossword puzzles or in dusty self-help books in used book stores.
Study upon well-meaning study has been done to try to find what it is exactly that creates the right environs for gifted and talented children/teens to be maximally supported and to grow upon this. “It is clear that significantly greater development occurs when a concerted effort has been made at both school and in the home to provide the talented child with increasingly complex knowledge and skills […] In a previous synthesis of research, it was concluded that an average of 1/3 to ½ an additional year’s achievement growth should be possible within the school program of talent development when the child participates in the growth area on a daily basis […] It is believed that academic gains will continue year after year in the targeted talent area for so long as this daily challenge is provided (Rogers, 2007, pp. 382-383).”
Physical capacity, physical intelligence is an important thing to “note” when grappling with aiming at the totality of the IQ blender as well. We need to transform our way of testing instead of relying on narrow tests of old to rightly somehow encompass the actual way things are—the actual way that people excel and fail. What if some kind of test, in order to establish robust testing as maximally as possible, was to be taken in the middle of a rainstorm, in a desert, underneath a starry calm sky? Are we shown our differences from how we each respond to an evocative opera and to a heated close basketball game? I say that we are.
“A carefully constructed program of talent development based on student interest, highly relevant and motivating tasks, and the use of high-level and sophisticated thinking skills should be instituted in the primary grades. Two beliefs that mitigate against adequate talent development are: (a) the belief that it is the role of gifted and talented programs to serve only those children that parents bring to the school door signed, sealed, and delivered as gifted; and (b) inherent beliefs about the low capabilities of poor and minority children […] Within the American public schools, giftedness is associated largely with traditional school skills and characteristics measured by traditional intelligence and achievement tests—advanced vocabulary, highly developed verbal skills in written and oral expression in Standard English, and early and advanced reading skills (Callahan, 2005, pp. 99-101).”
Something I learned in my research and readings is that twice exceptional children/teens need more of a spotlight just as a forgotten sect of otherwise promising/would-be-GTs if our vision shifts and we cease not giving those with socioeconomic challenges no deserved radar for greatness, for insulating their potential in order to “experience excellence (TAG, 2010)”. I would like to work with twice exceptional children, such as those who are GTs with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) in order to learn how to bridge the gap for them so that they will be able to thrive more fully in our society and in a more socially accepted view.
We have come a long way since locking the disabled up and the cold eugenics of a few such as Terman wishing to clone only our “best” genes. We have miles and miles to go. Let’s get hip to it, comfortable with talking about it, and get on it! Cheers be to a day when a status quo is no longer present and the glorious differences in all of us are not only celebrated, but furthered to stretch and reach to each of our maximal potential. That will mean we have done our best to support and further every human being, of every variety, every color, creed, ability, and … calling.
Argosy University Online. (2017). Psychology of Exceptional Children. Module 5.
Identification of GTs. Twice Exceptional. Retrieved July 20, 2017, from http://www.myeclassonline.com
Callahan, C. M. (2005). Identifying gifted students from underrepresented populations. Theory
into Practice, 44(2), 98–104. (ProQuest Document ID: 218842507)
Hardman, M. L., Drew, C. J., & Egan, M. W. (2010). Human exceptionality: School, community,
and family (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Hardman, M. L. (2013). Human Exceptionality: School, Community, and Family, 11th Edition[VitalSource Bookshelf version]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/books/9781285594972
Leslie, M. (2000, July/August). The vexing legacy of Lewis Terman. Stanford Magazine.
Retrieved from http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2000/julaug/articles/terman.html
Levy, J. J., & Plucker, J. A. (2003). Assessing the psychological presentation of gifted and
talented clients: A multicultural perspective. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 16(3), 229– 247. (ProQuest Document ID: 207994607)
Rogers, K. B. (2007). Lessons learned about educating the gifted and talented: A synthesis of the
research on educational practice. The Gifted Child Quarterly, 51(4), 382–396. (ProQuest Document ID: 212096671)
TAG - The Association for the Gifted. (2010). Standards. Retrieved from http://www.cectag.org/