Gifted children (and adults) are often not understood by most people. It’s very similar to an invisible disability in a way, especially when the gifted one keeps it a secret as long as possible. There is a connection between invisible disabilities and giftedness.
When I started writing about being gifted and learning disabled back in my undergrad years, I felt alone. I didn’t purposefully ostracize, but some of the people who would approach me after a presentation I just didn’t feel they were really on target. I felt they were beach goers compared to the submerged SCUBA diver. They would see the surface and say they knew the ocean despite never diving under and experiencing the coral reefs or any of the underwater life.
Since my collegiate days, I married and had children. My children all have had learning challenges and it’s in large part why we home school now, but the bigger challenge comes from a similar issue we wrestle with even more often than having highly sensitive girls who don’t often fall within 2 standard deviations of the norm. I have kids with invisible health issues. I started advocating for my oldest while she was anaphylactic to egg, pork, chicken, turkey, strawberries, tree nuts and fish. This was me going to the beach. Since then we have added Eosinophilic esophagitis x 2, and dysautonomia. What they all have in common is that they are invisible and I’ve become an underwater explorer along the way. Unfortunately I’m not wearing SCUBA gear and have had issues being in WAY over my head.
Invisible disabilities can be difficult socially. Some people seem to get it, while others just don’t. I used to think that if people cared more they would understand and help to make a bumpy ride a bit smoother, but I have learned it’s not always the case. Friends and even family can be clueless and even say things that leave you speechless. Just recently my youngest was having feet pains (EoE related symptom). I ran up stairs to retrieve her script so she could practice her lines (she’s in The Velveteen Rabbit play coming up). Somebody I’ll keep anonymous for now grumbled about us enabling her in a negative way.
This lack of understanding is a huge problem. It belittles the needs of people. This is why we all need to advocate. We need to advocate for our children and for others. When somebody says “maybe the allergic kids could just hang out in a separate room and we could throw Dum Dums and Smarties to them.” It’s not acceptable to even joke about it. We fought hard for civil rights, and now, finally, excluding someone based on the color of their skin is no longer welcome in our society. It was a lack of understanding between people that spurred racism and it’s the same with invisible disabilities or giftedness.
It may be scary to be the first person to stand up for the family being excluded, but we are all the better for the change. We have seen it in the past and we can continue to include better in the future. As the school year rolls along, consider non-food rewards and treats for the classes with children who have food allergies. You don’t have to be an underwater explorer to do the right thing. Enjoy the beach, and enjoy everyone as who they are.