Italy is known for culture and art (not to mention gelato and cannoli!). I recently had the opportunity to visit and present at an international conference while visiting the beautiful city of Florence. What I learned was staggering.
In Italy, gifted is not a recognized term. Twice exceptional is therefore, well, twice unknown. The educators, psychologists, and even medical doctors recognize struggling students who are bright, but don’t have the language (literally) to identify, much less address, attendant needs. When there is denial and refusal, children with needs suffer. One can only imagine how 2e adults function in the workplace having been misunderstood and mis-defined their entire lives.
I’m not sure what was more shocking; the lack of language to explain gifted and 2e, or the utter surprise on the Italians’ faces, when they learned that although we have resources in the U.S., many teachers are not trained to educate gifted and 2e students.
Are we ahead in the United States? Or by knowing what we know and still failing our gifted and 2e children, are we actually behind?
Here’s what I know:
Every single day, parents reach out to me who are suffering on their child’s behalf. They note that their child feels simultaneously singled out and unseen. They observe the gradual disappearance of their child’s love of learning, and their sense of self.
Every single day, 2e adults describe their exhaustion from masking their authentic selves. They question their existence as they slog through non-meaningful work and suffer from intense burn out. They describe never having a true friend with whom they can let down their guard and be their true self. They share messaging they received as a child that has informed how they live as an adult.
Why do we waste our resources? We have research, experts, courses, advocates – yet our educational system and offices of employment default to neurotypical expectations and assumptions. Such a diverse nation – priding itself on its diversity (at least in the past) – finds itself dumbing down differences and ignoring neurodiversity.
If you are reading this and you are a parent, educator, or employer, the very first step is to approach the neurodiverse people in your life – you know who they are because there is just a little (or a big) something slightly (or largely) out-of-sync for them. Ask them how they are doing and what could make their situation, their environment, their experience better.
Ask. And listen.
Then act on the information you receive.
I find that best practices for neurodiverse people are actually best practices for all people. Let’s break the mold, break out of the box, break free, and focus on what the struggling person in front of us wants – rather than try to make them fit into what currently exists or what is “easy.”
For all stakeholders – parents, educators, and employers, this will alleviate unwanted behaviors and repair relationships. A thoughtful reorientation encourages results you are hoping for in a more efficient fashion. By making the proverbial hole fit the peg rather than changing the peg, you alleviate unnecessary effort and make room for a better fit.
It’s time we take back our brains and actualize potential. Stop making our twice exceptional people feel as though they’re visiting a foreign country. Rather, welcome them with open arms and open minds.
I wouldn’t say that in Italy there is a lack of words to name/identify/acknowledge giftedness and 2e; in fact we use the terms plusdotazione cognitiva and doppia eccezionalità. The real problem in my country is that there are only two post-grad programs for specialists in Gifted and Talented Education, one in Rome and the other in Pavia: the first started 5 years ago, the latter has just begun. At the moment there are no more than a hundred fully trained professionals (counting teachers, academic tutors and psychologists): we have a lot to do before giftedness can be something that our school system considers “normal”… Let’s not talk about society at large, where giftedness is reduced to a handful of stereotypes that, more often than not, harm children. And yet, I’m an educator, so I’m an optimist by default: change is happening, granted, at a slower pace than I would like, but it’s happening.
Thank you Elisa for your response and for sharing your experience. The more shocking thing I was trying to convey in this blog is how the U.S. appears to be so far ahead but even with the knowledge, a handful more programs in gifted education, we still struggle to identify and serve our gifted and 2e learners.