Being gifted: Does it mean feeling lonely?
Joe was just 10 years old, but when he first came to my clinic he sounded like 20. And most of the time he spoke: in the first weeks of his treatment it was very rare for him to agree to any of my suggestion to play or work together – a tactic I use when I wish to learn more about my patients without using the term “dynamic diagnosing” [see, for example, A glimpse into my clinic: The “Associations Game” as part of a dynamic diagnosis in Researchgate or Academia.edu]. Most of the time he preferred to complain about his hard life as a highly gifted grade-4 student, learning 5 days a week in a regular class, with boring classes, boring teachers, boring classmates… The only place he had peers with whom he could connect was the enrichment program for the gifted and the only day he was happy to go to school was Wednesday, when he attended the special center for the gifted instead of school.
Indeed, there was a point in Joe’s complaints. His vocabulary was far beyond the level of other 10-year olds; his areas of interest, such as advanced programing, philosophical thought, solid-state physics – were more typical to 15-16-year old adolescents, if not to university students – than to grade-4 children. But did it mean that Joe could not find friends until he was 15? Or maybe 20? It took a few weeks till Joe started trusting me. As I never tell any child or adolescent to do that, and never use sentences such as “Believe me, I know” it is, in most cases, the child’s task to say to me: “you know, I feel you understand me” and that is the time to start the change the patient needs to go through. So when Joe was ready I first ensured him that indeed, it was much harder for a young gifted boy like him to make friends than to an “ordinary” child his age, but I added that this did not necessarily mean that he “must” be lonely. I first mentioned that he already met some children he had a common ground with, some of the peers from the gifted program he had been attending. When Joe said that he could meet them only on Wednesdays I asked “why”. Very quickly he came to the conclusion that if he felt like meeting some of them on other days as well he had to make a special effort to arrange these meetings, he had to take the bus by himself in order to get to their houses – as none of them lived in his neighborhood, and he had to prove to his parents that they could rely upon his new independence so they would not be worried if he was late, missed a bus, or his cell phone was out of battery. The next step I suggested was to enlarge the circle of potential friends by adding the activities for the gifted offered by the Tel Aviv university, as well as those offered by the Weitzman Institute for Science during school vacations.
It took many months till Joe became mature enough to adapt all my recommendations; it took even longer to help his parents understand that Joe was not their little boy but a gifted son with intellectual and social needs that could not be filled without extra-investment. But at the end Joe not only found friends but also came to believe that for him growing up meant a consistent improvement of the situation as more and more opportunities opened to him in ALL areas of life.
Hanna David received her PhD, "magna cum laude", from Ludwig Maximilians Universität, München and was a college lecturer in Psychology and literature. Dr. Dav
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