A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

For many of us, the word “gifted” brings to mind very specific assumptions. It’s an elite label that we put on highly achieving children for whom things come easily. We believe that success is pretty much guaranteed.


But not necessarily.

Many parents who seek my help have been told that their child is gifted. They’ve breathed a sigh of relief knowing that “he’ll figure it out, he’s smart.” At the same time, they may have received the news that their child has a learning challenge such as dyslexia or has an emotional problem. How can this be? Aren’t these contradictions? Too often, I find that the connection between these two is not defined. This can be detrimental to both the child’s learning and mental health.

Giftedness means having a brain that is wired differently. While no two gifted people are the same, gifted individuals can have extreme sensitivities, intensities, creative and intellectual drives, and perfectionism. The inner world of the gifted child can be much larger than she knows how to express and sometimes learning how to be in the world can be difficult. While many people associate the term “special needs” with children who have developmental or learning challenges, it means only that a child has “special needs.” Gifted children are a special needs population.

The Columbus Group, a small group of individuals (parents, educators, and psychologists) who in the late 1980’s worked with highly to profoundly gifted children in Columbus, Ohio, sought to re-define giftedness in terms of the inner experience of the individual. They define giftedness as follows: “Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (The Columbus Group, 1991)

Asynchronous development means that the child is not following the developmental milestones that we expect from a typical child. He may say his first word at four months, but not read until age 10. She may hold a calculus book in one hand and a teddy bear in the other at age nine.

Before she even entered school, Clara (name has been changed) was a science enthusiast and lover of horses and all animals. When her mother attended her first parent-teacher meeting, the kindergarten teacher reported that she enjoyed the level at which Clara could communicate about most topics. Furthermore, she loved Clara’s participation in all class discussions. When a guest science expert came to class, he was taken aback by her higher level, in-depth knowledge on various science topics. However, the teacher also said, “The other children don’t like your daughter.” Clara despised coloring, worksheets, and any “busy” work that was assigned to her. She responded to these by often ripping the pages with her crayon out of frustration. She told her mom, “It’s just what the teachers give us when they have other work to do.”

By second grade, Clara was having a harder time with the worksheets and homework. During a math homework session with her dad, she yelled out of frustration, “If I already did the problem, why do I have to keep doing all of these!” referring to the many pages of math problems.

Meanwhile, her mother was becoming aware that Clara was being left out and bullied by other children on the school yard. When Clara’s mom discussed this with the school principal, she was met with defensiveness, and the events were often blamed on Clara. Clara’s mother decided to help out in the classroom in order to observe and better understand what was going on. She noticed that Clara had become very quiet during class discussions. The second grade teacher didn’t know that Clara had previously been an engaged, articulate student. Clara’s mother felt her daughter was a stream of contradictions.

Since Clara was slower to read and to do math than her peers, after some testing, it was decided that she would be pulled out of class for special education tutoring. (She was tested as “gifted” for verbal vocabulary, but very low in other areas.) Clara’s mother didn’t quite know why, but she knew that this tutoring would not work well for Clara. However, she wasn’t sure how else to help her.

Clara often complained about the “baby” books she was assigned to read at school. Once, when Clara’s mother happened to be watching Clara’s first grade teacher testing Clara’s comprehension skills, there was a misunderstanding about whether water ran “over” or “under” the ground. The teacher thought Clara didn’t understand the words “under” and “over” and said, “No, water runs ‘over’ the ground,” pointing to the very simple book with a picture of a river. Her mother tried to explain that Clara was probably referring to aquifers. She didn’t want to be seen as uncooperative, so she didn’t press the issue. Sure enough, the first few weeks of her special education tutoring, Clara was in trouble for running down the halls, away from her remedial tutoring sessions.

At this point, the school psychologist was suggesting that Clara was “defiant” and was going to reevaluate her. Clara’s mother was starting to worry that Clara was defiant; that there was something wrong with her child. Even her behavior after school was becoming more difficult to manage. Clara would have meltdowns that would last until bedtime. The Clara that used to be, the sweet, curious, engaged, loving, spontaneous, and joyful girl was disappearing before her eyes. Clara wasn’t even drawing pictures of horses as much as she used to. Sometimes on the weekends she would return to her old self, if the family spent a day in nature with a lot of physical activity and quiet time, or if she spent time with non-school friends, or if horses and other animals were involved. But she felt that Clara’s spark was slowly fading. She wasn’t sure if this was part of the normal struggles of growing up and fitting in, or something was going very wrong. She feared it was the latter, and didn’t know what to do.

This is when a friend suggested that Clara might be gifted. Clara’s mother thought this was a joke, because Clara was having problems in school. (Her high vocabulary didn’t seem relevant to what was happening.) But when she sought my help, read about it, and talked with other mothers who had gifted children, she was shocked to discover the similarities in their stories.

Even though Clara had been tested through the school system, I suggested that she be tested through a center that does in-depth, individual assessments. Clara was assessed to be in the highly-gifted category. Clara’s mother was given very specific information, such as the fact that Clara is an introvert (a surprise to her mother) and that she was a highly visual-spatial thinker. The report included information about Clara’s sensitivities, propensity for ADHD, and sensory issues. While this isn’t the case for every gifted child, since Clara was highly gifted, she would need special classes designed for gifted children that offer more depth, density, and opportunities for her to use her imagination while learning.

Clara’s mother discovered that the reason the math worksheets didn’t work for Clara was because she had already integrated the knowledge and found that repeating the “same thing over and over” was more than just tedious. In the words of Linda Silverman, an expert on gifted visual-spatial learners, doing repetitive work “is like being asked to remove the egg out of the cake batter once you’ve mixed it in.” Most gifted learners integrate knowledge as they learn and need to learn and to be tested on a higher level. The more gifted a child is, the more asynchronous she can be, and the more she will require early identification and support.

While homeschooling is an excellent option for the highly-gifted student, Clara’s mother found a school that is a good fit. The teachers have a deep understanding of giftedness and offer ways of learning that cater to her need for creativity and higher in-depth learning. The school values social-emotional learning as a top priority, and Clara has been able to process her high perfectionism, high sensitivities, and strong will. The school staff sees many children who have not had great experiences with authority figures and rather than label them as “defiant,” they help the students through this, recognizing that a strong will is a common gifted trait.

While Clara continued not to read, the school allowed her to dictate stories and to listen to books. This kept her engaged in storytelling while she found her own way. Her reading was supported in other ways that she enjoyed, such as a spelling game app and having to check her own dictation. A year and a half later, she was able to read high school level novels.

What Clara’s mother found interesting was how sensitive Clara was. As is more typical in boys, she often hid her sensitivities under anger or tantrums. Clara seemed to be going in both directions – both shutting down during class and running away and ripping up papers. With my help, Clara’s mother was able to side coach her about her strong will and her constant fight with authority figures in a way that acknowledged the need to disagree, but in a healthy way. This, of course, is a process, but good for Clara to experience before the teen years.

Clara is now in sixth grade and her mother reports that she is doing well. She is back to her talkative, intense, sensitive, and engaged self. Most importantly, she has good friends with whom she can relate, some who she met in school, and some from gifted groups outside of school. Her mother feels like she has her daughter back.

While it took some time and her parents continue to need support from time to time, they feel they are better equipped to raise her and better able to hold boundaries as they help her navigate her intensities, sensitivities, and intense drive to experience and learn. Her mother understands Clara’s deep need for “down time” and sees how important it is to allow her to process her ideas in her unusual, creative ways. Her father knows that running and playing “gymnastics stunts” is not only fun for his child, but also essential. As her mother has discovered, their entire family is gifted on some level, and she has sought my help in understanding their family dynamics as well as her own struggles as a gifted mother. Their knowledge of Clara’s differences and how to help her through difficult times is what I hope for every gifted child. What I strongly advocate is even earlier intervention when possible.

Why is it so difficult to identify and get help for the gifted child? By the time my own child was having difficulties in school, I had already received my Masters in Counseling Psychology and was a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Not once did giftedness enter into my education or training even though giftedness can influence a diagnosis. This is the case for most psychologists, therapists, and teachers, including school psychologists.

In retrospect, in my work in community mental health with children and families, I suspect that some of the children I worked with were gifted. Clearly there needs to be more awareness of giftedness in the fields of psychology and education. While we would expect that the school system would address our gifted children’s needs, at this time, that is not the case.

If you have a gifted child, or suspect that your child is gifted and seems to be struggling, I recommend further testing and support. Your understanding of your child will become deeper and clearer; your child’s understanding of himself can help guide him into adulthood.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

Coverage:

A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

You might also like:

News

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

You might also like:

News

[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

You might also like:

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.