This book is a wake-up call to mental health providers. Every other field of exceptionality has been embraced by psychology, but this child has been abandoned. The fate of the gifted has been left in the hands of educators. When Giftedness 101 was submitted to the Library of Congress for cataloguing, it was classified as “Gifted children” and “Gifted children—Education.” What happens to gifted children when they are no longer children or when they are no longer in school? There is no category for “the psychology of giftedness.” The gifted are not represented as a division of the American Psychological Association, nor are they listed as a specialization by state psychological associations. They are simply forgotten.
When psychology was in its infancy, giftedness was an integral part of the family of issues investigated. Alfred Binet, Lewis Terman, Leta Hollingworth, Peter Stern, and many others who studied individual differences, were curious about both ends of the intellectual spectrum. The psychology of giftedness was born of this intellectual curiosity.
The doctrine that we all have equal intelligence sounds deliciously seductive to a fiercely egalitarian society, but is it true? Are we really all the same? Haven’t psychological measurements verified the existence of a vast range of abstract reasoning abilities? For 100 years, we have known that there are at least 8 standard deviations of differences in intelligence (40 IQ to 160 IQ) in the population—probably more. No one appears to doubt the existence of individuals who are intellectually disabled. Psychologists have been at the forefront of identifying and providing services to this group. Why should there be derision and neglect of those who are intellectually advanced? Why do we allow this?
Part of the problem stems from our definitions of giftedness. Some psychologists, as well as reporters who popularize psychology, have defined giftedness as eminence. Eminence is a high level of success—lasting acclaim in one’s field. Sir Frances Galton, in 1869, set the precedence for this viewpoint, in his book, Hereditary Genius. The unpopular name, “genius”(usually reserved for males), has been changed, and the idea that eminence is inherited has been replaced with the equally bizarre notion that anyone can become eminent with enough hours of practice. But the message is similar. It’s all about success, not about individual differences. Giftedness is only recognized as achievement in adult life. There are no eminent children. If you were identified as gifted in childhood and you do not become eminent, does that mean that you were never gifted in the first place? This disconnected reasoning does not exist in any other branch of exceptionality.
Giftedness 101 is an attempt to re-establish giftedness as a legitimate branch of psychology. The intensity, perfectionism, sensitivity, and developmental differences that become apparent in the earliest stages of life, are lifelong characteristics that mark the gifted as outsiders in society, and make them vulnerable. In contrast to popular beliefs, they do not make it on their own. Most hide and underachieve. Some commit suicide. And some “tall poppies” are beheaded to preserve the fiction that we are all alike. This group has different psychological experiences that need to be understood by all mental health personnel. It is time to extend our hand to a neglected group that needs our understanding and support.