Friday, January 28, 2011

Twice Exceptional

I never comprehended the depth of the phrase "Parenting is Hard."

It is hard. Exceptionally hard.

Especially exceptionally hard when you have exceptional children. And boy howdy are mine exceptional. Between two of them--just two--we have ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, anxiety, depression, and ... we are taking one of them in for an autism assessment today. He is not autistic in the Rainman sense, but his social awareness is perpetually low. We're talking about the "Aspergers" end of the Autism spectrum.

Don't you wish you had exceptional children, too? Maybe you do.

My children, though, are "twice exceptional," which is a buzzword, or buzz-phrase, to mean they are dealing with the issues above and are also intellectually "gifted." I think many gifted children are dealing with other issues because of the nature of higher perception. The world is more complex through the eyes of a higher-intensity, higher-sensitivity child. It is more dangerous, more frightening, and definitely more lonely.

I have steered away from discussing "giftedness" on this blog. This was deliberate because people become uncomfortable with this idea. "Are you saying you're smarter than me? Better than me? You better not be saying your kids are better than my kids..." No. I'm not comparing my children or myself to anybody else. I'm just looking at the whole picture of what makes these kids tick.

I went to a conference for parents of gifted children yesterday and this is what I learned: they are average... but with gifts. They may develop asynchronously, meaning their intellectual and analytical capacity may be that of a 12-year-old while their emotional capacity may be that of a five-year-old while they are living in a seven-year-old's body. They are complicated and intense. So, so intense. So wearyingly intense and so difficult to parent effectively.

Parenting these kids makes me feel as smart as the concrete foundation on my house. I always feel that I'm not doing enough (I'm not!) and there is always so much more to do. It's hard. It's tiring. And now we're throwing the possibility of autism into the mix. I hate labels, but I want to understand my kids better. If that means we have to slap a label of "autistic" on one of them to comprehend how his mind works, fine.

And you know what else it means? If this is what Asperger's looks like, I wouldn't trade it away. This child of mine is full of sunshine and joy and tells me, "Mom, I love you" about two dozen times a day. He is a delight and I love him exactly as he is, even when he's driving me around the bend. If this is what autism looks like, other parents would be lucky to have a child like mine.


  1. In a sense, concrete foundations are pretty smart. Imagine if you had a banana foundation.

  2. Or a marshmallow foundation

  3. Parenting is hard. Understatement.

  4. Parenting a child that is "gifted" is so SO hard, especially when you have other children. I have 6. My 3rd child is my 'gifted' one. Also I believe there is something with my 2nd child also. My 4th has a speech delay but only because he didnt have his tongue clipped early enough(pediatrition didnt send him till after he was a year).
    When issues(daily) are going on with him it makes life so stressful. I wish I could handle it better. I completely understand everything you have said here. I fear I fail misribll in being what my 'gifted' son needs.

    Parenting a family with a gifted child/ren hard? Yeah thats a major understatement!

  5. I remember the first time I met your kids. I knew very early on that they were exceptional, and I mean that in a positive way. You and Josh are both bright and interesting, and now you get to be parents to the same sort. :)