Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lovecraft" The "gifted child"

Chrispy has been approaching HPL's childhood with a perspective that I haven't read much about. I suppose I'm especially sensitive to this stuff, as it was years before my IQ was even known (a student snuck into the office and looked up my file and told me. I was stunned. I think I was 16 then.) My parents were 8th and 9th grade dropouts, and I struggled mightily as I began to tackle complex mathematical subjects with no hope of support. We were just below the poverty line, so no hope of a tutor, and I was pretty unaware our poor state I had zero contact with other children outside of school - I was virtually banned from playmates (I had one allowable playmate later on, but only rarely). Of course, in our neighborhood, there were lots of poor people - so called - but we did seem to stand out as rustics and poor. We shared a bathroom for years with other folks - and we lived in the city. No complaints, it just gives me, I think, a somewhat unique perspective on Howard's bookishness and loneliness. Like Howard, I grew up in a household of older people - my parents were pretty old, as was my grandfather, grandmother, and step-grandfather - and my parents were kind of old ,relatively speaking, when I was born. Much like Howard, I did not date much after I turned 19 and lived with my mother at home for quite a number of years.

OK, sheesh,enough about me! You want to know more about Ech-Pi-El, not me! On to the subject ...

"The gifted child syndrome"


There are hundreds of articles and books on this subject now - but educators and parents in the late 19th century experienced the same issues, and had as few resources to cope. One saving grace was that Brown University was right next door chock full of grown up gifted children and they had went through what Howard was going through, and off and on they reached out to help, methinks.

Joy and Loss:The Emotional Lives of Gifted Children
by Joshua Freedman and Anabel Jensen, Ph.D.


...gifted children, childhood ... that is more painful, more isolated, and more stressful because they do not fit in with their peers and they set high expectations. ... Because they are different in other ways, gifted children are often isolated anyway. Somehow these multiple tendencies toward isolation reinforce one another to the point where the majority of gifted children feel lonely, left-out, or different.

Social Skills
Another key area that is connected to isolation is often described as "poor social skills." Perhaps caused by the isolation and accentuated by zealous adult attention, gifted children often develop a near blindness to "reading" social cues. It may be also that since their intellectual capacities are so strong, they have less need to develop their emotional intelligences. In any case, a major pitfall for some gifted children is a lower level of empathy and an inaccurate perception of their communications with others.

The virtue/vice of perfectionism
Gifted children are usually perfectionists. On the one hand, perfectionism means they are motivated to work toward mastery and they earn pleasure from achievement. On the other hand, it means they are unforgiving of themselves, they resist learning from failure, and they have great difficulty going backwards. Perfectionism contributes to pessimistic beliefs, feelings, and actions.

The burden of becoming a change maker
There is a common feeling among gifted children that they have some added responsibility to "live up to their potential." Perhaps because in many ways, it is absolutely true. True or not, it leads to a special sense of burden.

Was Howard "gifted" or "highly gifted"? It appears he was gifted, but was not highly, highly gifted in the sense of Albert Einstein. He was certainly not gifted in mathematics, which can be a good thing, as highly gifted mathematicians have certain traumatic disorders that force terrible challenges between emdication and triumph in their careers.

Highly gifted, change makers have these characteristics, of which Howard showed several:

75%-85% experienced major adversity as a child.
Make no distinction between work and play.
Are genuinely independent — conformity is less important.
Possess a strong belief in self.
Take risks.

Other factors:
- For many gifted students, academic work in childhood was not a significant challenge, but work in upper grades, middle, or high school, they may experience academic failure for the first time. {Howard may have hit the wall on this with Algebra & Oh how Chrispy got this mesage in college. From 13th in the HS class, and Dean's list first semester to drop out in a few months.}
- As academic subjects increase in complexity, frequently learning differences/disabilities become apparent. In less sophisticated tasks, gifted children can often cover up or compensate for an inability (which could come from a learning disability), but those compensations may not work as learning becomes more complex. {For Howard, it was probably lack of a sense of team work and application to making revenues for himself and his mother.}
- Some gifted students resent their own giftedness. They want to be cool, they want to fit in, and they conclude (correctly) that their intellectual capability reduces the probability of this happening. Adults usually make it worse by denying this harsh conclusion. {Howard did not seem to have this issue}
- Gifted kids are terribly competent at knowing when adults do not tell the whole truth. {Howard would have picked up on numerous concerns, and felt creeping poverty keenly.}
- Gifted children typically are greater risk takers. This can lead to both more success and more danger. {Only one weird anecdote on this, a fall from a house which has never been verified independently. He did pack real guns as a kid.}
- "Gifted" does not mean "reasonable." Frequently adults forget that these great thinkers are children, and that as children, part of their job is to push the limits. Even though the children see the connections, anticipate the consequences they still want/need to win, they still want/need to be right, they still want/need to have it their way. Some gifted kids are particularly skilled in this area! {Howard probably had few boundaries, and woe to those who tried to impose them on him.}

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