My children never went to school. Homeschooled from the time my oldest was school age and so we did not have labels like 2e in our home. Labels don’t typically matter when you are facilitating your children’s learning in a 1:1 environment. They can be helpful for understanding challenging behavior and to help understand how your child learns. Yet, labeling for the sake of labeling serves no purpose in the homeschool world.
I resisted labeling my daughter with “OCD” even though it was obvious that was what she was suffering from at age 8 with a sudden and sever onset. Later, I learned, that labeling it helped her to overcome it and helped us, her parents to get the help she needed for it. That was 8 years ago. She is not “free of the illness” yet she manages it well now. Yet, it still challenges her in many ways as she lives her life as a 16 year old.
My oldest son was easily identified as “gifted” when he was reading at age 4 and was “ahead of his peers academically”, something we observed because he went to a “parents morning out” church program for part time day care as a preschooler. Yet, my daughter learned to read later but by age 7 was reading as well as her brother was at the same age. I began to believe that all children are gifted, gifted in their own ways.
I still believe this is possible. All children are “gifted”.
I now also see how academic giftedness can manifest as a behavior challenge.
My older two have challenging personalities in that they are strong willed and exert a confidence that I never knew as a child. For the most part, we were able to function and they were able to develop friendships and thrive.
My daughter had severe challenges at age 8 with the sudden onset of severe OCD. Yet, she has friends who were there and who she was able to come back to when she got past the worst of the OCD. She returned to attending Girl Scouts and her friends were there for her and supportive.
My youngest child has had social challenges from as long as I can remember.
I wrote about this in my last post, Understanding Extreme Gifted Boy Behavior: reflections on a blog post.
Today I am going to delve deeper into this topic of twice exceptional and what this might look like.
I described an example of this in my last post, as I described my 5 year old son not being allowed to participate in Chess Club because he was not 7 years old. The beauty of homeschooling is you can allow your children to learn anything at any age. It doesn’t matter what first graders are learning in public school and if this is congruent with what your “”first grade” child is learning at home. I have friends who have followed a more traditional homeschool path with the explanation, “in the event that they need to return to school, then they would be able to fit in/ succeed”. I thought about this when my friends spoke of it years ago when my oldest child was elementary age. I asked myself, What if?
What if I die?
What if my husband dies and I have to work full time?
What if we both die?
It concerned me and yet I came to believe that if something that terrible happened, like the later, both my husband and I die, that my children needed to be together and that they would be ok, even if they had to go to school. I knew in other less drastic circumstances, that we could continue a homeschooling path even with one parent. It might not be easy, but what about parenting is easy?
As my children got older, I knew they could continue learning in this unschooling style because it is a way of life. It is more than an academic choice. We live and we learn. It doesn’t matter what else is happening in life, we continue to learn in this same fashion.
Hmmm…. I digress.
Defined as uneven development that is out of sync with their peers and applied to academics refers to being at different “grade levels” for different academic subjects.
I embraced asynchronous learning early on, allowing my children to fully delve into a subject of interest and not worry so much if they were up to speed in other areas. When my oldest was little, I did purchase and check out of the library the series of books entitled, “What your first grader needs to know”. They have one for each grade. I read through them as a way of helping me realize my child was not “behind”. I used some material in the books at times to add to his learning. Overtime, I unschooled myself and stopped picking up the books. I stopped worrying.
Sure, I worry, even now I wonder if I am best servicing my children with our unschooling life. I am a mom, I worry! Yet, I have embraced unschooling as I see my now 20 year old son thrive in the “real world” and even my 16 year old daughter who is already working at a job that she loves and is getting paid to pursue her passion.
And when I thought I had it all figured out, along came my third child.
Somehow he learned the alphabet and counting but I have no specific memories of when this happened. Sure, I did similar things that I had done with his older siblings like reading to him and living in a home surrounded by books and magazines and supplies and people who read and write and learn every day. I know he also learned being the youngest and surrounded by people much older than him. Seven years between him and his sister and eleven years younger than his brother. And his parents, much much older!
The basics were easy. He grew up surrounded by learning and going on field trips with his siblings and being dragged along to their activities, film club, ballet, Girl Scouts, both scouts, Science Olympiad, Lego Robotics, co-op classes….
He has much less interest in reading than his siblings. He enjoyed being read to, well, once he was about 4 or 5. before that he would not sit still long enough for anything of length. He enjoyed eating books as a teething baby. Books were everywhere. We read to him and allowed him to move around as we read and stopped when he moved onto something else. He was our one child who grasped phonics. My husband did most of this with him. He learned to sound things out. Still he wasn’t reading at age 5 and by 6 he could read but did not desire to read much. As I think about all of this, I am not sure at what age he did what. I can tell you many specifics with his older siblings, but with him, its all a blur. I know his interest in reading came much later than his siblings and only in the past 6 months or so has he really appeared to spontaneously choose reading as an activity.
Story time before bed has been a ritual with my kids for their entire life. This was no different for my youngest. We read to him and overtime, he read parts of pages or words, he enjoyed rhyming and Dr. Sues was something he liked reading. We did much more reading to him over his first 8 years then him reading. He was able to read well by age 7 or 8… third child, I am guessing at ages.
Yet, he did not actively choose to read much on his own.
He was four years old (that one I remember) when his sister began reading Harry Potter to him. We then proceeded to read to him each of the Harry Potter books, covering all 7 of them over the next two years. After reading a book, we enjoyed watching the movie. He was hooked. We finished the books and the movies and he moved on from his Harry Potter obsession. He would thoroughly enjoy an interest and then move on. This was also different than his siblings. He would go so far when he moved on to say,
I don’t like Harry Potter anymore” and some interests went from love to hate. This was a challenge socially in making connections with other kids.
Around age 8, he decided to read the books again. We began reading them to him and he quickly decided he wanted to read some too and somewhere early in that first book, he moved to wanting to read the entire book himself. And again as he read each book, we then watched the move after he finished. He has been reading book 7 for many months now and will take this book with him when we have to take his sibling somewhere or any road trip for even 30 minutes and will delve into the book and read. He turned 9 in January and now I have a kid who initiates reading on his own. He has a goal- to finish all 7 Harry Potter books, having now read them on his own. It was his idea. Not ours.
We have used no curriculum, no spelling words, no workbooks nor lessons in reading or writing. We do have workbooks in our home. We have engaged in things like “Which Way USA” puzzle books along with some other puzzle books and workbooks as well as online resources like Khan Academy , mostly for math, yet using each of these resources randomly with no consistent plan nor path.
Our home is filled with books, workbooks, notebooks, pens, markers, pencils, all kinds of paper, folders, “school supplies”. He sees his mother writing regularly in a journal and on my blog and his father sharing pamphlets he has written for workshops and his mother editing them. His older brother has been attending community college for 4 years (from the time my youngest son was 5 years old). We all research on the internet, visit the library and read books, magazines and a variety of printed items in our day to day life. My youngest son has grown up in this environment. As have my older two children, but my younger two have had the advantage of seeing older siblings learning and reading. Example is the best teacher.
I recently responded to a Facebook post about 2e and gifted kids and I brought up this issue of challenging behavior in gifted kids. I had a mom respond who I believe has a gifted by very young child ask the question, “I don’t see how behavior issues manifest in gifted kids?”
I responded first with all kids are different and the challenge often arises with the second diagnosis on top of being “gifted”. My son has grown up living in an adult world and thus his vocabulary has always been above his age level. He has been treated with respect and spoken to at his level in his home yet when he goes out into the world, other people often want talk to him like a typical “5 year old” or now, “9 year old”. There is nothing typical about my son.
He has social anxiety and so strangers talking to him has been overwhelming. And being in a room with more than a few people, has been overwhelming to him. Take a room full of people, even a group of homeschool families, and then have someone speak to him like they might another child of his age and pow! That is a recipe for explosive behavior!
He is highly excitable, meaning, external stimuli can overexcite or overwhelm him. Sounds, smells, sights, people getting into his personal space bubble all have the potential for causing him stress.
Being gifted often means having a more sophisticated understanding of material and language than your age related peers and so being in an environment with age related peers can feel condescending and demeaning. Think of the last time someone spoke to you about a subject you are an expert on, or at least any area you are experienced at and know quite well and someone has spoken to you like you are a newbie. How did you feel?
Kids feel this all the time. Children in general know and understand more than we often give them credit for and with a “gifted child” this effect is magnified.
An example of this…
When my oldest son was 4 years old we attended a local farmers market on Saturdays. The people were friendly and one woman picked up a zucchini and asked my petite son, Do you know what color this is? My 4 year old son handled people well and answered green and yet I imagined he was thinking, “what is wrong with you lady, don’t you know your colors”. I thought to myself at the time, “lady, the kid can spell zucchini!” For my oldest son, he handled these encounters well and moved on. He does not have social anxiety. He is an introvert but always has been social and enjoys talking to people which serves him well now at age 20, he is working in retail sales. Yet, when he was younger, I could tell that he didn’t have respect for people that talked down to him and especially when people did not respect him. I could tell, but I don’t think most people realized it. He learned how to handle it.
In contrast, my youngest child as a toddler…
When shopping in the grocery store when he was a toddler, a woman once reached across him siting in the grocery cart to access the freezer door and Jason screamed at the top of his lungs. She had entered his personal space bubble and for someone with sensory processing issues and social anxiety, this is a recipe for disaster,
He would frequently declare out loud, ‘I hate people.” It was cute when he was 2 and 3 but by age 6 he had not grown out of it like i had thought he would. It got worse at the age when my oldest son became interested in same age peers.
Looking back, I wish i had gotten him into Occupational Therapy much sooner. He was 6 by the time we did. Yes, his Occupational Therapist mom took 6 years to figure out that her son needed pediatric Occupational Therapy. I had to ask the pediatrician for the referral. The professions he went to had not directed us that way. All they saw was a kid with “behavior issues”.
The combination of sensory processing disorder, PTSD, social anxiety and OCD along with being gifted is a challenging combination. Someone they are all connected and interrelated. Yet, before getting help, as in him attending weekly OT sessions to address sensory issues as well as address coping strategies, self regulation, social anxiety, he probably could have been given many more labels, most like Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
My youngest child was born 7 years after his sister and 11 years after his brother. I always figures part of his social challenges were because he grew up in a grown up world surrounded by older kids. Maybe this is part of it, yet, now I see how his “giftedness”, his most likely high IQ, along with his other issues create a challenge. I remember having a discussion with his OCD therapist about our homeschooling choices and how I did not feel it was necessary for my son to get along with a group of 7 year old boys. Boys of that age can be annoying and my son did not usually get along with his same age peers, especially other boys. One of his first really good friends was a girl 2 years older than him. And later he became friends with 2 brothers who he participated in TKD with who are 3 and 5 years older than he is. My therapist felt that he would learn social skills being in a class type setting with same age peers. I argued that there is no need to learn to be in a room full of people born the same year as you, that is not real life and certainly does not happen as an adult.We agreed to disagree.
Now, 2 years later, along with continued OT and therapy for the OCD and medication. (For another post, when OCD gets bad- sometimes medication is needed to preserver your child;s self esteem and help him overcome a powerful mental illness. And believe me, medication was my LAST choice for my children. And only after changing diet, and using many supplements and other alternative modalities, which we still follow and use. Yet, medication was needed as well.
…and now 2 years later..
He is functioning better. He has a best friend who he met online and will be meeting in person for the first time later today. He achieved purple belt status in one year of TKD. He went to a TDK local tournament at age 7 and earned 2 gold metals, despite almost not being able to participate at all in the tournament due to the crowed school gymnasium. He is handled group situations with many people. He still gets overwhelmed and yet he can communicate better to me what he is feeling and we have strategies with how to handle it. We went on a homeschool hike several months ago with people he had never met before and by the end of the hike, with some guidance and my asking him, he went off and played tag with a group of kids about his age, mostly girls. I found myself standing in the park and having to look around to find him. This had NEVER happened in his prior 9 years of life! He was always glued to my side!
We are at an unschooling gathering this week. We attended one 2 years ago and my son did not make any friends. His OCD was flaring at the time and he spent many hours of the conference stuck in the bathroom. It was a stressful experience. He has made a lot of progress in 2 years. He is eager and excited and anxious this time. He is going to meet his best friend of 1 1/2 years for the first time in person and he wants to make new friends here but is overwhelmed at the thought of meeting new people, talking to new people.
We attended an informal meet up in someone room last night, arriving earlier than most which worked out good for both of my younger kids. IT began to get crowded, we were waiting for the gluten free pizza to arrive. My daughter wanted to meet people but she too is overwhelmed in groups when she knows no one and is not able to initiate conversation with strangers. They got to make a sign for our door the activity was claiming for both of them, each making their own cause the sign my 9 year old made was not the kind of sign my 16 year old wanted to make. I found a spot in the corner for my son to make his and found him food. It is always good when we are around other gluten free people! food helped and me helping him to locate himself to a quiet corner to create a sign, he enjoys crating things and i know that is calming for him. AFter an hour or two, he was going on the Baucom only without me and even ventured in to the adjutant room to enter the next balance by cause he wanted me to wave at him across the balconies! His sister sat in the. same chair at the same table the entire time we were there. I brought her food and she did not get up until we left.. My older son had stayed in our room until we told him food had arrived and then he met us there. I then sent the boys back to the room while my daughter and I waited to find gluten free pizza which we then brought back to our room. I had talked to a few people. My kids had not. Jason, my youngest did have some brief interactions with other kids and parents which as i write it is amazing that he is the one out of all 3 of my kids who interacted the most with other people!
We did it and then enjoyed being in our room by ourselves. There will be many activities this week where my kids will have more opportunities to meet other kids and be in a more specific environment of a shared interest. I will be there to help them make the connections. I already found two other boys about the age of my youngest son who also appeared to be very overwhelmed but the group setting last night- I will seek out to meet those moms this week! One was wearing a t-shirt with the Mae of my son’s favorite You-tuber.. I thought about introducing myself to the moms, yet I saw too how overwhelmed their boys were and opted to wait. We exchanged knowing glances.
I hope I can carve out more time this week to share more of our journey as it happens. Thank you to anyone who read this long meandering post to the end! I sure ventured off topic in many ways and yet it all applies to the challenges of 2e kids. I know i have one, and likely have 2 of them and possibly 3.
Love to hear others experiences and thoughts and comments!