Sunday, June 14, 2015

And so it began

First grade was not kind to my son.

My son had always been a quirky kid. He was different. By the age of two he had developed a full-fledged obsession with tools. By three he was watching DIY Network the way other kids watched cartoons. He slept with an electric drill (bit removed, of course, because that's just responsible parenting). At four, when his classmates in four-year-old kindergarten were drawing pictures of their families he was drawing houses, with wires connecting a power source, such as a wind turbine, with an electric device, like a lamp. At five he wanted to do nothing except read about robots.

He also had sensory quirks. He would cover his ears and scream at loud noises. He walked on his tiptoes. He hated sweaters. I'm a speech-language pathologist who has worked with many, many kids with autism over the years, and though he seemed pretty quirky, he didn't seem quite autistic to me.

So, I vigorously defended him against anyone who suggested autism. He was shy, quirky, bright, but not autistic. When his school started to put pressure on me to have him evaluated for special education his pediatrician was furious. "What do they think they'll find out? That he's quirky? There's no DSM-V diagnosis for quirky!"

And yet, by March, his teacher and principal had had enough of his meltdowns and noncompliance in the classroom. I'd had enough of him crying at night because he hated school, or having stomachaches every morning at the thought of having to go there. Maybe I was in denial...maybe he did have a disability.

I signed off on the consent forms angrily. We were looking at autism, OHI for ADHD, and IQ. In my district we don't normally test for IQ, but I had seen too many high school students with normal IQs and low achievement after years of watered-down curriculum and lowered expectations. If the district did put him in special education I wanted proof that my son was bright enough to handle normal work, so I insisted that we look at his IQ.

Imagine my shock when I found out that he was not just bright...he was gifted. His IQ met the threshold for gifted and blew right past it. He wasn't autistic, he didn't have ADHD, his quirks and intensity and obsessions and behaviors were all the result of being gifted.

His teacher didn't know anything about gifted students. But, she was furious. She dug into her position and insisted that he had a disability.

I didn't know anything about gifted students. But, I jumped into the world of giftedness and started learning as fast as I could. And the more I learned, the more grateful I became that I had finally found a world where my son was normal.

I'm still learning. And I want to share what I learn here so other people can learn from it too.

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