Young, Gifted, and Black: What I've Learned While Raising a Gifted Child

by Jenifer Daniels of The Friendraiser “You’re just mad that I am smarter than you.” I remarked to my parents. My mother laughs as she r...

 photo jordandaniels-age71.jpg
by Jenifer Daniels of The Friendraiser

“You’re just mad that I am smarter than you.” I remarked to my parents.

My mother laughs as she recounts that day. She laughs because it was true but she also laughs because the same could be said today by my 7 year old daughter.

My daughter Jordan, has an IQ of 134. She began reading at age 3 and received her membership to MENSA this past December. My daughter is smarter than me.

And this is a good problem to have. But it is a problem. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

#1 Limited peer group
Gifted children are in rare form. The National Association of Gifted Children estimates that there are “approximately 3 million academically gifted children in grades K-12 in the U.S - approximately 6% of the student population.” With less than 6% of the population, gifted children often live on the margins. They can be ignored by their teachers because “they get it”, teased by their peers because they are “the teacher’s pet”, or ignored in favor of students who are deemed low performers. Simply put, there aren’t enough of them to go around. Now let’s divide that number to include children of color - it’s almost nonexistent statistically. That’s why the mere mention of giftedness in black children becomes viral.

#2 Gifted children must be identified as such
There are many books and publications that discuss the equity gap in testing for diverse and low income populations. If a student shows gifted prowess but happens to a member of a high risk population, they may be labeled as a trouble-maker, insubordinate, or diagnosed with ADHD. This automatically takes them out of the running for aptitude testing. And achievement tests results are often explained away with “he’s smart, but so talkative”. Gifted children are often not identified as gifted at all. Just think back to your childhood. How many of your report cards showed straight A’s and poor marks in citizenship?

#3 No one knows your struggle
Parents of gifted children often feel alone in the educational landscape. They can find solace in books and research but often feel ashamed to speak to others about their children. You know those conversations where your colleagues of family members inquire about your life? They may ask: “how are the kids?” and many of us are silent. We’re actually ashamed to say: “great, Jordan just got accepted into MENSA.” Why? Because we don’t want to sound like we’re bragging. We want to hear about your children and their gifts without being made to feel like we’ve ‘got it made’.

#4 You have to fight for your child to be educated
I often tell people that I never knew how inadequate the education system was until I put my child in it. We’ve spent more time, sent more emails, and made more phone calls than I care to count. We’ve talked to everyone who will listen and those who haven’t. But we will never stop fighting for our child. Gifted children need you to be their voice.

Reflections...

The last four years of raising Jordan have been a blessing and a challenge. We’ve struggled to keep up with her active mind and have had bouts of exasperation along the way. We’ve put her in Spanish immersion classes, bought her instruments, signed her up for coding lessons and more. She has additional studies to complete at home and we’ve even contemplated home schooling. We want the best for her but we’re consumed with the thought that we don’t really know what looks like.

But we have learned some things and are sharing what we have freely with others. I’ve set up a pinboard dedicated to children like Jordan and I’m becoming more comfortable talking about this aloud. And most important, I am here tell you that if you have your own ‘Jordan’, you are not alone. If you believe that your child shows signs of giftedness, you owe it to them to become their biggest advocate. Start today by scheduling an assessment with a clinical psychologist, arm yourself with research, and take control of their education.

Honor your young, gifted, and black child with your labor and love.

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