Advocating for the gifted adult

If I was to achieve anything this year in the world of giftedness it would be to raise awareness of the difficulties that young gifted adults face in their college life and beyond into the world of work.

In a previous blog “They don’t get it off the wind”  http://www.giftedkids.ie/voice/?p=644 I ask the question “What happens when gifted kids grow up?”  Where are all the gifted adults?”

If you’re lucky enough as a gifted child to have survived the education system and still be interested in learning you are one lucky person.  Many gifted kids get so bored and disillusioned that by secondary school they have either switched off, become class clowns or simply drop out.  The lucky ones stay out of trouble but for many they end up in prison or young offenders facilities.  In a book I read recently “Gifted Grownups, the mixed blessings of extraordinary potential” by Marylou Kelly Strenznewski. She interviews some gifted young offenders.  She says in her book “if they are lucky young offenders are sent to a juvenile detention facility away from hardened criminals, if they are even luckier it will be a well run place where unusually bright kids needs will be both recognized and dealt with” She says of one centre.  “The center provides testing, continuing education and counseling for all it’s inmates”. Such a pity that all these facilities couldn’t be made available at school stage and so avoid so much heartache for the gifted person in trouble, their families and society.

For the lucky ones that do go on to college, they may find it a bit of a challenge at first, getting used to the new type of learning environment, but where academics are concerned often the gifted youth doesn’t find it mentally challenging at all. Young people coming out of school are often ill equipped for self directed learning, having endured a system that was more concerned with points and grades than the actual joy of learning and investigating.

Gifted young adults face many of the difficulites gifted kids do.  Social issues such as mixing with peers.  While they might have more access to like minded people, often the gifted youth finds themselves still trying to fit in where they are clearly uncomfortable.  They often don’t like drinking/nightclubbing/partying that many students enjoy and which is very much a part of college life, so the gifted student either endures uncomfortable situations or sticks out like a sore thumb, something they have probably long since learned not to do.

Then there’s the asynchronous development.  They start into the world of work and discover, yet again that they have to “sit on their hands” they have the ability to do the job as well if not better than their work colleagues that have been doing the job for years, but because they are only starting out and don’t have the years behind them they end up working at a level that is not enough to challenge them, and again they find themselves in a situation where they again have to play the waiting game.

With all this ‘waiting’ is it any wonder that many of our gifted end up seeking psychiatric help.  It would be a very sad and eye opening study to do to see how many gifted end up suffering depression among other mental illnesses simply because their needs are never met.