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Possible Stigma of the Gifted Label

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Many years ago when I took the Stanford Test, my scores came back and gave my parents a huge shock - from my memory, the numbers across the top of the page were mostly 98, 97, 99, or like that, with a dip towards a little bit lower in perhaps the 3d column from the right.

Across my entire life I have always felt that I was somehow "different", in ways I cannot describe with words - but the truth of what those numbers meant was and remains some kind of a deep dark secret which my parents refuse[d] to tell me - they skipped me thru the 5th grade, which meant that a young boy who already felt terribly isolated and achingly lonely, became an adult who is even more so; in my life now I am among other things a symphony oboist in not one but TWO! orchestras, I am also a self taught jazz guitarist [ thank you Barney Kessel].

I have by a bit of good fortune acquired both a tenor and alto sax (they were both GIFTS) and I'm learning how to play them - I am also a pianist - I have perfect pitch - I have been tested in my vocabulary at 3& of the population - I am wondering whether you might be able to tell me what those numbers really mean - what IS this deep dark secret about my life, of which my parents have for all intents LIED TO ME since I was a gradeschooler? can you help ? who [ what ?] am I, really ?

By the time I was about 13 I had memorized a lot of the contents of the Mendeleev Periodic table, I had a chemistry set and was amazed by the nature of matter and how all of Creation was inter-related and linked by chemistry.

A: You did not mention how many years back, so it is possible that it was at a time when being gifted was a label that may be associated with a host of mental concerns which may have scared off parents, hence the “hidden secret”.

In reality, children tend to tease one another and any label put on a young child is an invitation for teasing and scorn by others. Your parents may have been aware of this and possibly advised by someone significant to leave things as they are. Also, the social stigma of the gifted label seems to increase in higher grades, so perhaps it was best to keep it away from you.

Having said that, and as you have experienced in your growing years, avoiding the gifted label for the sake of avoiding the stigma attached to it may lead to years of being left behind. For the sake of helping you fit in the system, what was not realised is that you were indeed different and could not understand the reason behind it. This only made things worse and you grew older and further confused. Perhaps your parents were not aware enough of the importance to be recognised as gifted. Indeed, it is often the giftedness itself that sets a child apart from most other same age peers, not the label. With or without the label, what you needed to know then was that many bright and gifted children connect more easily with other adults and children that share their intellectual capabilities and sometimes unusual interests and passions. It is also to realise that there is nothing wrong with it - just that not everyone would be like that and that you would need to be with like-minded peers or adults.

You are without any doubt highly gifted. You need to accept that you are a little different from most people but there are others like you. Rather than being confused, try to use you gifts to help others and contribute to the world. It would be good for you to join a gifted association and relate and share your experiences - you may just find others in a similar situation.

These articles may be of help to understand your inner self better:

All the best!


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