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From The Editor's Desk

by Valorie King (vjking@erols.com)

This issue of MonTAGe is devoted to one of my favorite topics -- the human brain -- and how we use it to perceive, think about, and attend to life's experiences. Hopefully, this issue will leave you with some "clues" towards solving the puzzle of your gifted children.

--- Life At Casa King ---

Solving the riddle of "thinking styles" made teaching my children at home SO MUCH EASIER. I am primarily a holistic or gestalt thinker. I really have to think about what I'm doing if it's necessary that I break a topic or concept into sequential steps. My eldest son is primarily a linear sequential thinker. In the early days of our home schooling a frequent complaint was, "I don't understand what you're saying." We both ended up frustrated and angry at the other. I tended to favor my daughter who seemed to understand everything I said.

After learning about thinking styles and perceptual styles I was able to see that the problem was not my eldest son's abilities or motivation. Changing my presentation style helped as did relying more upon the textbooks which were written in a linear fashion. For my daughter, I began reorganizing the textbook information and continued to present new information in ways that made sense to me. Adapting my style to theirs has made life easier and much more pleasant.

My youngest son presented me with an entirely different problem. Attention style. From a very young age our description of his play has been "like a whirling dervish." He can pay attention for extended periods of time -- when he wants to. But, his usual style is to go from toy to toy, activity to activity, room to room -- seemingly without paying much attention to anything. Yet, we've learned how to open up the box and look inside. If we'll listen, he tells us these wonderful creative stories, usually about robots. Following along with the story I can see how each toy, each room, each activity has played a part in the creation of his imaginary world and the robots who live there. He is a challenge to teach since his "style of attending" is to move quickly from activity to activity. For us, a phonics lesson may take place over the course of an entire day -- two minutes at a time. In between phonics sessions we'll do lots of other learning as well. Fortunately, I like combining all the school subjects under one theme. It works for him. It works for me. We play our way through the school day.

Casual friends, some of whom have children with the diagnosis of attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, have commented that they think my younger son should be evaluated for ADD/ADHD. Those who have been around our family for awhile know the answer -- he has been evaluated. The verdict was -- you guessed it -- he's normal for him. An outlier on the curves, to be sure, but definately not ADD or ADHD. It's hard when you've got family, friends, and especially teachers who are insisting that "this child" must have an attention disorder because he "never pays attention to anything." We've learned ... been educated by a caring physician ... a rapidly changing or moving attention style is not the same as ADD or ADHD. It is a characteristic that many intellectually gifted children share. Perhaps not to the extent that our son's attention changes but changing more frequently than their age-mates.

--- Synopsis ---

[For those of you who are strongly linear thinkers, here's my attempt to put this issue of MonTAGe into a linear sequential synopsis. You'll have to let me know if I've succeeded.]

There is a biological basis for intellectual giftedness.

There are neurological reasons why children think and act the way they do. These reasons are, at their lowest levels, the result of chemical processes in the brain and are dependent upon both previous development and current neurochemical processes. For example, perception depends upon the physical structures and upon the neuropathways and neuro- chemical processes that carry the nerve impulses from perceptual channel (e.g. the eye) to the region of the brain responsible for processing that impulse.

Human beings develop and grow in a fairly predictable way that is controlled by our heredity.

Life experience modifies how quickly we grow and develop especially when it comes to brain functions (perceiving, thinking, memory, etc.).

Intellectually gifted children tend to progress through the normal childhood developmental stages ahead of their age-mates. Adverse life experiences, however, can reduce or even retard their rate of development.

Intellectually gifted children who are given a rich environment will grow and develop at a faster pace than children who are not given the same environmental advantages. Thus, these children progress through the normal developmental stages of children slightly or even markedly ahead of their age-mates, even those who are similarly gifted intellectually.

--- The Sand Metaphor ---

  1. You are given an intellectual endowment by the creator to start with. It's like a bag filled with sand.
  2. Things that happen to you during your life can either punch holes in the bag, and let the sand dribble out, or plug the holes and prevent additional sand from being lost.
  3. The sand represents your potential, your intellectual capacity.
  4. The bag is magical, you can use the sand as much as you want and it won't be exhausted. Sometimes it seems that the more you use the sand the more sand you have available.
  5. What you do with your intellectual giftedness is like taking your sand and making sandcastles, sand-paintings, sandpaper, etc. You can scatter it on the beach or concentrate it in one place or use it to create any number of wonderful or useful things.
  6. No one really knows how much sand you have in your bag -- even though we try to measure the bag's capacity. It's magic.
  7. Life experiences either give you holes in your bag or plug holes or make you more resistant to getting holes in your bag or teach you how to prevent people from putting holes in your bag.
  8. Some people value sand-paintings more than sand-paper. They can't see that it is the sand that has the potential and thus carries the value.
  9. Some people believe that it is the quality of your sand-painting and the quality of your sandpaper that makes you gifted. Usually they are unaware that their judgements are like standing on shifting sand -- shifting with cultural biases.
  10. Some people believe that you have to keep your sand in the sandbox or it loses its value. Using the sand outside the confines of the sandbox is frowned upon so heavily that many individuals just drop their bags and walk away, discouraged.
  11. Finally, some people believe that holes made in your bag before a certain "magic" age don't count against you. They're wrong. Some of the biggest holes are made when we are very young and don't know that we can move our bag out of the way or even hide it from those who carry sharp pointy objects.
  12. -- Valorie --

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Copyright 1997 by Valorie King, All Rights Reserved
Last updated July 28, 1997 counter

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