“It's difficult when you go to a mommy group and people think ‘wow, raising a gifted kid is so easy. You're so lucky. They don't struggle in school.’ And, you're thinking... ‘if you could just spend a day in my world, you know, a day in my shoes, it's challenging.’” ~ Dr. Brandi Maynard
(Transcript available below)
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Heide Higgins: Hi there. I'm Heidi Higgins and you are listening to K12 on learning. My husband called me one day and invited me to hear about some exciting things that were happening in my state, regarding education. He was a state legislator. I loved to attend events with him. I got all dressed up and we arrived early to get a good seat. I remember the speaker talking about online education and schooling children from home. Well, I thought I just sent the last of my six kids to first grade, this was not for me, but as the presentation continued, my heart changed, as I heard a description that fit one of my daughters. This daughter did extremely well in school, but she was bored to tears. The school put her in the district gifted program, but that seemed to only matters worse as she was the only one in her grade invited to go. Suddenly she was ostracized, she felt that she missed out, but hated being in class when she returned. It was a difficult time to know what to do and how to help. Here I was in this meeting and learning that there were options for me and this precious daughter, I felt this was the answer. That was 2002.
Shortly thereafter I enrolled three of my daughters in what was then one of the first of it kind, an online school. This moment changed our lives. This daughter began to thrive, as did her siblings. The change happened, in large part, because of a caring teacher who understood what was happening to our daughter and took our little family under her wing and helped us through the challenges that we faced. Dr. Brandi Maynard will always be the teacher in our home. Her care and understanding of gifted needs changed the entire dynamic of education here. Today, you get to meet her and learn more about how parents can encourage, cheerlead and help their gifted student to reach higher than the top of the class. Dr. Brandy Maynard, welcome.
Dr. Brandi Maynard: Hi Heidi. Thank you so much for having me. It's so fun to be back knowing that I spent some time in my early online career, working with you and your family, which was such a blessing. I have my own educational consulting company. It's at giftedresources.com. I've been dedicating my entire career to gifted education. I started in 1997, knew I always wanted to teach when I was seven years old. I taught in a one room schoolhouse in old museum up near my house. I knew I wanted to be an educator. I went to school in order to do that, first one from my family to go to college and then went on to get my Master's degree after my first introduction to gifted kids. That was my first job. Had the opportunity to student teach and then went on to get my PhD, because I knew I wanted to make a bigger influence and the way that I could do that would be working with teachers and parents. My career has been just a wide variety of experiences that I've had along the way, both brick and mortar and online, working in corporate helping to train teachers, working as director of gifted in a small private school, and now educational consulting, where I work with both parents and students. Speaking of parents, I'm parent of a gifted child, myself. I've been there. I understand where gifted parents are coming from. Then my teaching background since 1997. Thank you so much for having me.
Heide Higgins: Thank you for sharing that with us, Brandy. Your experience is why you're here today, because many parents want to know if their child is gifted. How do we determine that?
Dr. Brandi Maynard: Let's first step back to that official definition of what giftedness means. Kids can be gifted in different ways so. They can have general academic ability. These are your kids that are gifted well rounded, textbook, gifted kids. They may be reading young, they may be gifted in math and science, in kind of all areas you see that giftedness. What I've found in my experience in working with thousands, is that often to times that oldest child, you may have experienced this too, looks like a textbook gifted child. Then the younger children are doing everything that they can to not be like their sibling. Because if they're a couple years younger, they know that they're never going to reach that bar because that sibling is always out of their reach. What my research has found is that that second one might look completely different and may be at that same level of giftedness or even higher. Usually with siblings, it's within five to 10 points of one another, it's similar to their parents as well, as far as IQ goes. We've got that general academic ability.
Next is a specific academic ability. You may be gifted in the area of math or science or reading or writing. One specific area. If you're twice-exceptional, you may be gifted in math, but have a learning disability and perhaps have dyslexia or dysgraphia, ADHD. Those are known as neuro diverse or 2E kids. That's the big rage that's happening now that parents are just trying to think, "How do I manage and meet the needs of those kids?" Then you've got the creatively gifted ones. These are the ones that they're taking their rocket ships to the moon. You give them a box and they can do 1,007 different things with it. They're constantly thinking on that creative wavelength and taking to the next level, creatively.
You've got the artistically gifted kids. These are the kids that you put a canvas in front of them, and they create something amazing or even in the area of music. Then you've got those kids who are gifted in the area of leadership. These are the kids that are gathering people together. They are maybe creating social movements. I've got a little girl, she's 16, I'm working with now that is leading a social media channel on water conservation and helping animals on the earth. Now they have the tools, these kids, to actually do things that grownups would be able to do. They can look like grownups as well. They can get into niche forums and be connecting with people, at an adult level, and having those conversations when they're 12, 13 and 14, because the tools are available to them now, where they couldn't be before.
One of the interesting things, Heidi, is that with gifted kids, obviously they're outside of the norm. You've got your bell curve with special ed one side of the bell curve with gifted you've got the other side of the bell curve. It's outside of the norm. If you're in a classroom situation, it's the kids, not necessarily the top group, but the kids that are beyond the group. Great sense of humor. They think differently. Complex problems. The interesting thing in families though, is sometimes they don't get identified. You may bring to a family member ... I've done this before. I think your child is gifted, but everybody in the family is gifted and this child is not different than anybody else in the family. They see everyone on that gifted range and think, "My child's not any different than anybody else." But if they were part of the general population, they would realize that they were in that 10% on the far side of the bell curve.
And then you've got Dabrowski. Dabrowski says that gifted kids can have over excitability. These are heightened sensitivity. Some of the things that parents might see when they're baby are kids who don't sleep much. This is the psychomotor, over-excitability. These are the kids that are always awake. They're alert. They're crawling. They're constantly using their body to explore their area. They're always on the go. Oftentimes, gifted kids can be misdiagnosed with ADHD because giftedness and ADHD look very much alike. If you don't have experience with giftedness as a doctor, as a school psych, a psychologist, you don't understand that this is just one of those over excitability. These kids might be getting medicated when really they don't need to be medicated. My recommendation to parents is to always go out and see if you can get a second opinion from somebody who does have background in gifted and talented and understands that psychomotor over excitability.
There's a sensual over excitability that Dabrowski talks about. These are the kids, when they're babies, they will cry hysterically because they have to sit inside of a wet diaper. Anything that has to do with their senses; sight, hearing noises are too loud, visually they can see a sunset and just be moved to tears because it's the most beautiful thing they've ever seen. They can't be in a room where there's a specific odor because it's too much on their system. Anything that has to do with the sensitivities. Parents will often tell me they want the tags cut out of their clothing because it bothers the back of them, that sensitivity, their socks get bunched up. It's just that the sense of touch. That's another one with giftedness that you'll oftentimes see, that heightened sensitivity.
Imaginational over excitability. These are the kids that may have had an imaginary friend growing up, lived in their own private little world that maybe they didn't let others into, maybe they did. That's that heightened imagination that goes along with the creativity. One that's really common is the emotional over sensitivity. These are the kids that will cry at the drop of the hat because there's so much going on in their world. They have this high level of empathy. These kids, look out for them right now. I mean, they're really struggling with the war, with COVID, with everything that's going on. Their world is breaking down around them. We need to wrap our arms around them and support them because those sensitivities are so, so high. They don't know what to do with them. How can parents come in and help them to process all of that?
And then the intellectual over excitability. These are the why questions. The kids that are constantly asking why, constantly curious, constantly wondering, and at seven have their dissertation topic figured out, because they are just so curious, usually about so many different things and things that other kids aren't curious about. That leads to the problem of not being able to find intellectual peers.
Heide Higgins: Wow. That's quite a list. I've got to tell you, I remember being lost as a parent. I knew something was going on with my child, but I didn't know what. Can you tell us a little bit more about once we recognize some of these challenges, where do we turn to for help, who can identify them with some of these gifts?
Dr. Brandi Maynard: Generally, it can be a variety. Usually, what happens is they get identified in school. Schools use something perhaps called the CogAT test, cognitive abilities test and they'll test students. The numbers are different. On the CogAT test, it's generally 85 percentile and above. We'll put them in the gifted range and then they'll take a post test. The school decides on what that number is. It could also be an IQ test that a school offers by a school psych. Those numbers can be as low, I've seen, as 125 and then up to 130. 130 is pretty common. Then they might be pulled in for services.
Some schools use maybe S [inaudible 00:11:24] scores or MAP testing scores, maybe multiple measures. It might be a teacher recommendation, a parent recommendation, and a series of test scores. Some use performance based assessment. Everybody's different. Some schools don't have services at all, which is difficult. Some parents may decide that they want to take their child in for their own private testing. They may call somebody with a background in gifted education, or just a psych through their local Kaiser Permanente or something, their local insurance agency pay for that and have that done just to see where their child falls.
Heide Higgins: Once the student is identified, whether it be through a school or some other private means, where does a parent then turn for help and support with their gifted child?
Dr. Brandi Maynard: Yes. Obviously, the first place would be to go to schools. To find out, does your school have a gifted and talented program? Who is the gifted coordinator? What kind of support are the teachers getting? Oftentimes, there's not a lot that's what's happening. And so the parents that I'm talking to are feeling frustrated. They're realizing there's so much money, so much support on the other end of the spectrum, on the special ed side, the teachers are teaching toward the middle, those kids that are in the middle. And then it's those gifted kids that we're not seeing a lot of growth. Oftentimes, these kids aren't learning anything new until January because they're coming into schools and they already know what's being taught. Generally with gifted kids, they get the information in one to two repetitions. With average kids, it's eight to 15.
You have a teacher who's teaching eight to 15. It's taking so much longer and this kid is just sitting there. That's when you get the behavior issues. That's when it looks like ADHD. It's funny because teachers are like, "These aren't my favorite kids," unless they're teacher pleasers. Usually, that's more of a bright category. These are kids that are oftentimes disruptive and causing problems because they're not getting their needs met. I would start with the school and being an advocate for parents, parents advocating for their students, and then finding any type of opportunity for them to get more connections with intellectual peers. I think that's so important.
Heide Higgins: We will include some resources that parents can turn to in our podcast notes today, including giftedresources.com and your YouTube channel, where you have an opportunity to visit with students and families and let them visit with one another, share some of their common challenges and just talk sometimes. Especially to that parent who really needs the support.
Dr. Brandi Maynard: They need to be together. That's what I'm hearing from parents. That's what I'm hearing from them too. Especially during these isolating times. COVID has been hard. When you live rurally or we're dealing with the isolation, families not feeling comfort enough to get together, it's so nice to have that opportunity where you can meet safely and spend time with your friends. It's having that support, for the kids, but then also that wraparound support for the parents, because parents need their people too. It's difficult for them, because it's difficult when you go to a mommy group and people think, "Wow, raising a gifted kid is so easy. You're so lucky. They don't struggle in school." You're thinking if you could just spend a day in my world, a day in my shoes. It's challenging. I think parents lack the confidence because they don't know what they're doing. Because one, they don't have a lot of other parents that they can talk to. There's not a lot that's out there for them, especially like with the schools. It's just finding other people who are like them.
Heidi, when you, and I knew each other. When I left to go out on my own with educational consulting, my husband said, "Brandy, you're going to be working in the schools a couple of days a week. How do you want to spend your time?" I said, "I just want to drink tea with moms and talk about their kids," because I love that. I want to empower women to understand their children and then to transform them so that they can make a difference in their family.
You asked earlier, what are some of the resources that are out there? There are Facebook groups that are out there. But again, you've got a Facebook group with 37,000 different people. If you want to build a relationship, you have to get into something small and something a little bit more intimate than that. Is difficult to find those kinds of friendships when you're dealing with a larger Facebook group. But you could do like a local parent group, Seng, S-E-N-G, is a great place to find local parent groups. National Organization for Gifted Children is also a great place. Hoagies' Gifted, if you want to just find a lot of resources and information that's out there, Hoagies' Gifted is a great.
Out School is a new thing that a lot of parents are looking into. In my classes my friendship groups are similar to Out ... Out School is just a plethora of different people. This is gifted kids that are grouped by similar age and they're all gifted. Again, it's that intellectual peer because that's where they feel like they're isolated, when they don't have anyone who gets them and they need to find somebody who gets them. Those are just some resources off the top of my head. I'll give you these resources that you can have for your show notes, Heidi. I have a gifted channel on YouTube. It's a free gifted channel, obviously for parents. It's all sorts of tips, tricks, strategies, a lot of the things that I'm talking about in this video for some parents or podcasts for some. It might be the first time they've ever heard it. Those are the things that I've shared. I've dedicated my life to educating gifted kids. I'm raising a gifted child and I get it. I see you, I hear you, gifted mamas. I understand that it's not easy. I'm just putting out videos so that parents can really understand their kids so that they can begin to make that transformation so they can raise self-reliant, happy kids who then can go out into the world and leave their legacy.
Heide Higgins: What do you do when a child has great gifts and struggles with perfectionism, to where they won't utilize those gifts?
Dr. Brandi Maynard: That is a great one. We've got perfectionism, under achievement. There's so many different social and emotional needs. Actually just reading the book, Understanding the Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Students. There's a great book called What's Bad about Being Too Good? it's a very easy read. It's just a little tiny book. Kids can read that together. But just finding those resources and helping them to work through it. One of my favorite books, The Gifted Kids Survival Guide and The Gifted Teens' Survival Guide. There's some sections inside of there on perfectionism as well. But there's great information. It's everything from what giftedness means, written from a child's point of view, up through the social and emotional needs, what they need to know how to communicate with their teachers, how to get what they need, self advocacy, all of those things.
That's the thing that's difficult, I think, at schools is that teachers don't have time for the social and emotional side of things. They're focusing on the academics. The one thing I'm realizing this year is that they're really focusing on learning loss. Our gifted kids are really getting behind now because all of the focus is on learning loss. Oftentimes we don't even talk about perfectionism, under achievement, anxiety, big feelings, independent study projects, all of those kinds of social, emotional things. We're worried about the academics and giving them the things that they need for the academic side of things.
Parents and kids are not as worried about the academics as much as they are the social and emotional. The social and emotional is what's going to make or break a child. I always hate talking about the dark side of giftedness, but research shows that kids whose needs aren't met or kids who don't get these needs nurtured, there's a higher rate of suicide. There's a higher rate of dropout. All of the darkness, once they get a little bit older, is really challenging for them. Getting them on the right path and finding who they can talk to ...
One of my favorite books for gifted kids is called Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers. It's by Hallstead, H-A-L-L-S-T-E-A-D. Judith Halsted. in the back, what we do in my group, I got the idea from her is called bibliotherapy. bibliotherapy is a method that you can use, as an educator, to actually use books to work through tough issues with kids. She lists, if you're dealing with perfectionism, here are some books. If you're dealing with underachievement, here's some books. Anxiety, here are some books. Gifted girls, here are some books.
Gifted girls tend to dumb themselves down. What my experiences has been, is about fifth grade. They don't want to look different. They don't want to look smart. They don't want to stand out. They go to the other side of the spectrum and they just close off and they're very quiet going into those middle school years. How do you empower them? How do you get the right role models in their lives so that that doesn't happen?
It's just knowing all of those things. Like I said, I've been doing it for 25 years and I just want to step alongside parents and help them as they're walking in this journey because it's not easy.
Heide Higgins: Well, Dr. Brandy Maynard, thank you for joining us today. It's always wonderful to hear your voice. Thanks for sharing some insights into what gifted and talented students face and the challenges that their families have. Thanks again for being here.
Dr. Brandi Maynard: Thank you.
Heide Higgins: Thank you for listening to K12 On Learning, sponsored by Stride. To learn more about online public schools, powered by Stride, K12, our Stride career prep programs that foster lifelong learning or any of our private school or individuals course offerings please go to stridelearning.com or k12.com. Remember to subscribe to this podcast and feel free to leave us a good review. We hope you'll join us next for K12 On Learning.
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