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What Do I Do With This (Gifted) Kid?


The following ran in the March issue of Dallas Child magazine. Marilyn Swanson, Marilyn Swanson, director of programming for Southern Methodist University’s Gifted Students Institute, provided expertise for this story.

March 7, 2012

By Julie Lyons

He would sit in his hallway, making tiny adjustments in his socks. It was that seam above the toes ­– it had to be in just the right place. One day at 3, he hollered from his room, “There’s a spike in my underwear!” He was nearly in tears.

We still tease him about that, but as he grew, his sensitivities, fixations and fascinations increased, taking on more complex guises. He seemed to experience the world in multiple dimensions, with extra senses. He smelled things we didn’t smell, and gazing at rocks, flowers and leaves, he saw things we didn’t see.

He didn’t care much about the usual toys. He wanted to create his own worlds, by drawing, sculpting, reading, acting. His room became a Lego mausoleum, many of them his own intricate designs. He could pull an image from his memory and draw it, with no physical reference point – a detailed rendering of a World War II bomber he’d seen in a book, for example. He fashioned tiny soldiers in colored clay, with rifles, bayonets and backpacks and the distinctive helmets and uniforms of the World War 1 British and German infantry.

Then there were the questions. “Why was Satan in the Garden of Eden?”

He’d take long showers that made the walls sweat – acting out dialogue among multiple characters, with different accents. And he’d read, well above his grade level, and write illustrated booklets, and compose melodies, and set up a camera on a tripod and shoot his own cooking videos entirely by himself – yeast rolls, from scratch (making, of course, a horrendous mess).

And, a significant chunk of the time, he would drive his parents nuts. He’d thrust his latest drawing in my face while I was on a work deadline, and often, I confess, I did the bad-mama thing and barely looked. He moved with all the alacrity of a sun-dried slug in the mornings before school, then he’d joke about how “the glacier inched slowly toward the plain,” pronouncing glass-ier with an impressive British accent.

It took me a long time to figure it out, and I don’t quite know what to do with him: Conor, now 12, is a gifted kid.

There – I said it. And I feel like a conceited jerk....

“If you’re a parent of a gifted child,” DeLisle says, “you want to be able to like and embrace those intensities. Because they’ll be in your face.” Gifted kids bring many unusual qualities to the table, say DeLisle and Marilyn Swanson, director of programming for Southern Methodist University’s Gifted Students Institute and president-elect of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented....