Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where There's Smoke. . .

At several recent meetings of GT organizations, it's been asked, “Why don’t more people join? Why don’t they participate? Or pay?”

From my own experience I think the answer might be that if things are going well, other demands easily clamor more loudly for time and money (and with gifted children this may especially feel like the case; we are all stretched thin in many ways). Further, the value of investment in GT organizations may not have been strongly made. However, that is what it is—an investment:  in resources, in legislation, in infrastructure and continuity, in a community.

Having a fire detector, a fire extinguisher, or a local fire station might not seem important until someone has a fire. Likewise, when a GT crisis comes—personal, legislative, for one’s family, for one’s neighbor, for the school or for the state—if nobody has remembered to make that investment then sadly the resources may be unavailable to resolve the situation in as quick and positive a manner as expected or hoped. Or to resolve them at all. We hear "gifted kids can make it on their own". But would we want to face a major fire alone? Of course not. And especially not when we know we can prevent catastrophe, or that we might instead have support should there be difficulty.

Therefore, I would like to reframe the idea of investment in GT organizations:  If you know (or suspect) a child you care about is gifted, then “there’s smoke”, therefore investing in “fire safety” is proactive and responsible. Here are some things to consider:

Yes, a fire could happen to you.
My hope is that every child has a perfect childhood and that the adults in their lives find meeting parenting and educational needs to be a “piece of cake”. But meeting individual needs is terribly challenging regardless. And because gifted children are asynchronous with development and needs that often don’t match age or grade peer expectations or timing, that “cake” recipe is practically impossible to pull off. Family, educators and others can be caught off-guard, especially when twice-exceptionalities and overexcitabilities are thrown into the mix. The GT community is a wise investment.

Fire insurance cannot be purchased after the fire.
It’s nice to have a support network anyway, but if (when?) there’s a GT crisis in one’s life and one is kicking around the ashes of a schoolyear or parenting issue gone suddenly awry, it is of immense value to already have some resources in place. These children need unique support. So do the adults who love them and who work to meet their needs.

There’s a lot to learn about fire safety. Many—although certainly not all—GT crises can be avoided or scaled back by an investment in knowledge beforehand, such as that gained by reading, by attending GT seminars and conferences, by asking questions of those with experience and, of course, through anything that develops good relationships and communication. Learn as much as you can about these things—even if you don’t apply them firsthand, perhaps you can help someone else!

Fire is a “public safety” issue. Most GT organizations are non-profits, run by volunteers. None are making big money. Some school, local and state organizations disappear due to lack of funding and volunteers. Legislation and school funding also disappear. The only way to keep availability—not just for today but for future generations—is the ongoing support and involvement of the GT community. And then by teaching others without immediate need about the importance on ongoing vigilance. Gifted education has a huge longrange "trickle down" benefit for everyone in many ways.

One person or even a small group cannot make an effective fire brigade. Legislation efforts cannot be effectively organized spur-of-the-moment, yet sometimes immediate action is needed for best results. Other advocacy groups have long found power in sustained and organized numbers. Resources need to be kept supplied in order to be available when they are needed.

You don’t have to be a fire safety expert to make a difference. “Gifted” education conferences and resources are not for educators only. While some circumstances or "conflagrations" are best left to the experts, generally gifted education and parenting present situations where everyone benefits—especially the students—by having a more informed and responsible public working in collaboration with educators, counselors, legislators, students, etc. If there is a problem, we all need to work together to solve it and the more prepared everyone is, the better.

Model fire prevention early. If you become involved in GT advocacy and legislation, and teach students positive and appropriate self-advocacy, you share a powerful life skill. The state affiliate’s Legislative Day is a good example of effective use of resources.

Fire safety is excellent resource management. The things you learn, the time you give and even the money you spend will all come back to you in resources preserved (good parenting, good education information, limiting potential frustration), in the short term and big picture (not just your GT student now, but also hopefully many GT students being able to becoming fulfilled adults and contributing to the world).

Start somewhere. This “preparedness announcement” isn’t intended to be guilt trip, rather a change of perspective: GT education and involvement as an investment. No, you can’t build a fire station by yourself. But you can check the batteries in the fire detectors in your home, join the Neighborhood Watch, and perhaps check out that CPR class (see if some friends will join you!). There’s a wonderful and caring community of other volunteer and expert firefighters who would be delighted to have your support!

Remember, only YOU can prevent—or at least ease—GT fires. . . .

The US Forest Service has a catchy phrase there.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this timely post ---> for me. Although I am the one usually giving the advice to gifted parents, I have suddenly been thrown a curve ball by our school district at the beginning of my son's senior year.
    I could not agree with you more that prevention is a key element in gifted advocacy. I thought I was prepared after 15 years, but find myself somewhat overwhelmed. Fortunately, I do know where to turn; although I never imagined I would have to fight one last battle at this late date.
    So, I would encourge your readers to heed your advice. In the end, you are your child's best advocate.