Some would say my daughter was always a little different. I didn't see it. To me she was perfect, my only child and only example of what a child should be. From early on - a toddler, she was highly social, happy, excited about life and loved learning; facts, facts, facts, books, books, and more books - she loved to learn and share what she was learning with anyone who would listen. In 3rd grade she was tested, identified as gifted, and put into the GATE program at school. I didn't know what that word gifted meant back then, I only knew she tested higher than other children her same age, but there was no mention about the unique social/emotional makeup of gifted kids, no mention of any special needs I may need to be aware of. Her teacher that year in 3rd grade was awesome, she was positive and supportive, and in her classroom school and learning was fun and exciting. My daughter's content and happy life continued on... until 4th grade.
I don't have the space or even words to include all of the details here, but in 4th grade my daughter had a new teacher, this teacher didn't make learning fun or exciting, she also didn't value individuality or creativity or outward expression of feelings - all of these things exactly who my daughter was. When my daughter came home one day in 4th grade she said, "If I could describe my class - I would say that it was the color gray." At that same time she became the target of severe emotional bullying at the hands of some of her classmates. She tried to ask for help at school, but she couldn't articulate exactly how severe the abuse was. At home she would tell me the kids were mean to her, but from what I learned later, that barely scraped the surface of what was really happening to her. Without enough information at that time about the bullying, or my daughter's own highly sensitive makeup and other unique needs, I didn't understand the severity of the situation. Soon she was coming home depressed, crying, afraid to go to school, soon there after she started having panic attacks and couldn't attend public school anymore. At age 9, my always happy and social little girl who loved life and learning - had a complete emotional breakdown.
After that, we started to homeschool, but due to the severe anxiety and depression of the breakdown, she couldn't tolerate any kind of schoolwork. She was in constant debilitating fear, and was experiencing daily panic attacks, her whole world and every thing she had even known and believed in, had collapsed. Back then in the beginning, she couldn't even leave the house or be around anyone outside our immediate family, but there was one thing she could do - she could draw. She started to draw obsessively, and soon taught herself how to use the digital art program on our computer. She started to create unique creature characters, and develop detailed personalities, character traits and stories reflecting the positive and moral traits she had always believed in, but did not see in her friends that last year in school.
"Art opens the closets, airs out the cellars & attics, it brings healing" ~ Julie Cameron ~
There is much more to my daughter's story and how she has used art and her love of character design to work through much of her emotional pain, but the reason I write these words here is to share one example of what can happen when you have a gifted, highly sensitive, and highly creative child, who is raised with inadequate understanding and emotional support. Without the knowledge of my daughters unique makeup, her gifted and creative traits and special emotional needs, I was left with out reasons, without information, without resources, to adequately support my special daughter - which led to her having to experience more emotional pain than any 9 year old ever should. I just couldn't help but wonder, "If I had only known?" Maybe I would have known what to do when things started to go so wrong. If I had known how to support her unique needs - her gifted sensitivities, creativity and more, if I had known how to advocate for my own child's needs at school, maybe the whole thing would have never even happened.
I am happy to say that it has been 6 years now, and after educating myself on this new gifted world and my daughters unique makeup and needs, starting our own Gifted Children Meetups & Parent Support group where we found others who understood, and prioritizing getting my daughter every bit of support she needed to heal and recover, she is now doing awesome - and happily pursuing her own creative dreams. If you are interested in reading more about her story, seeing how she expresses her creativity, the bullying & gifted organizations we now support, and how she wants to help and share what she has learned with other unique kids like herself - you can see more on her website at Cartoon Dreamer.
As a parent raising a gifted, highly sensitive & highly creative child, sharing what I have learned along this journey, has turned into a life work and passion for me. Raising our very unique daughter has brought so much joy, but so, so, many lessons learned. My hope is that by sharing what we have learned - providing educational and inspirational resources in support of proactively parenting our unique children - that other parents will be more fully equipped to identify and support their own children's unique needs, and provide everything they need to grow into happy, secure & self-regulating individuals - ready to go out in to the world to pursue their own passions & dreams.
Hugs & Happy Parenting!
Julie L Gibson-Vasquez The Proactive Parenting Coach
"Anna Is Gifted " Written By & For Gifted Children & Their Parents About The Social Emotional Side Of Giftedness
BOOK FOR GIFTED CHILDREN
Fully-Illustrated eBook A Great Book For Starting A Conversation With Your Child About Giftedness Or Emotional & Sensory Sensitivities
PROACTIVE PARENTING IS - Identifying your child's unique needs before a problem even exists. Also being a detective and identifying the unmet need behind a negative behavior and meeting that need or teaching your child how to more positively communicate or meet the need themselves. When you are raising a very unique child, whether they be gifted, highly sensitive, highly creative, or something else... proactive parenting and identifying your child's special needs - becomes even more important. A proactive parenting coach can help you to do just those things, and will work with you and your family to work towards improved relationships and a happier personal and family life.
BELOW ARE QUOTES & STORIES THAT HAVE SPOKEN TO ME PERSONALLY ALONG THIS JOURNEY
"Imagination is more important than knowledge" ~ Albert Einstein ~
"Don't tell your kids to stop daydreaming, don't put them down for their love of things that are not real, don't tell them that their doodling or the cartoon they love is childish and a waste of time, don't tell them that they will never amount to anything if they don't grow up, for every great thing that has ever been made started in someone's ~ IMAGINATION ~ nothing has ever come to fruition without it, your child's imagination is a gift, cherish it, value it."
A STORY ABOUT THOMAS EDISON (Although some have said the story below is fictional, I just can't help but be inspired by it's touching message, and how true it rings for so many parents of unique children.)
"One day Thomas Edison came home and gave a paper to his mother. He told her, “My teacher gave this paper to me and told me to only give it to my mother.”
His mother’s eyes were tearful as she read the letter out loud to her child: Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.
After many, many years, after Edison’s mother died and he was now one of the greatest inventors of the century, one day he was looking through old family things. Suddenly he saw a folded paper in the corner of a drawer in a desk. He took it and opened it up. On the paper was written: Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school any more.
Edison cried for hours and then he wrote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”
Just think how important it is for parents to believe in their children.
THE UNIQUELY-UNIQUE NEEDS OF GIFTED, HIGHLY SENSITIVE & HIGHLY CREATIVE CHILDREN Gifted, highly sensitive, and highly creative kids are different than regular kids and can have special social, emotional and educational needs. Children with a combination of the 3 - may have even additional needs to these. The fact that creatively gifted and highly sensitive children have very special needs, is still minimally discussed, even among education & medical professionals. Parent education and adequate and relative resources in support of our kids unique educational and emotional needs are still few and far between. Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together to develop a homeschooling curriculum, advocate for your child's needs at school, or develop a goal focused but creatively supportive daily routine may seem to be an overwhelming task. These children often do not fit into the regular school classroom or routine. For most of us trying to parent and educate one of these children, it has been a trial and error process - finding what works by finding what doesn't work first. It has taken many of us years to find that "magical combination" or balance between school and allowing our children enough space and time to confidently embrace who they truly are, identify and develop their own unique creative gifts, and allow the natural creative process to happen. If you feel concerned about your child, scared or overwhelmed, you are not alone. Many of us have come from backgrounds that did not support individuality, creativity, or even the idea of respect and acceptance of who a child truly is. Others may see our children's creative or "out of the box" thinking as rebellion. Questioning ideas or divergent thinking, is not in itself rebellion, but is at the base of all new discoveries. It is an evolution for many of us, in getting to the point where we can give our children the support they need to value themselves and their unique creative gifts. Even small strides in our knowledge of, and effort towards, adequately supporting our children, can make a huge difference in how they perceive themselves and in their gaining the confidence needed to pursue their creative dreams.
You may have a gifted, highly sensitive or creative child if you see these things:
Depression, anxiety, or existential angst
Heightened emotional sensitivity and intensity
Problems with authority, rules, and social conventions
Boredom, underachievement, or lack of motivation
Acting out at school or at home
Perfectionism and harsh internal critic
A sense of differentness and isolation
Social and peer-related difficulties
Identity development conflicts
Frustration due to uneven cognitive, emotional, and physical development
An American novelist and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize captured what it means to be a highly sensitive and highly creative person:
"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create-- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating." ~ Pearl S. Buck ~