January 6, 2008

Divergent Thinkers

Some parents have asked me why I feel so passionately about preschool psychiatric diagnoses when my own daughters didn't have such serious problems. I will let you in on a secret. Bright, creative children can have a terrible time adjusting to traditional American grade schools. Bright bored children don't finish worksheets, don't pay attention, daydream, forget assignments, leave books and homework home, ignore the teacher, read ahead of the class and miss their place if called upon, miss many days of school. My local school insisted on testing a kindergarten boy for development disability; his IQ was genius level. When my writer, pictured above, was in first grade, her teacher refused to assign her to the advanced reading group until she was more "cooperative and compliant."

Rose never became compliant. In kindergarten she refused to do assignments because "writers use their own words." In high school she refused to do art projects because "artists paint what they need to, not what the teacher assigns." Now I would be told to have her tested because her "emotional maturity" lagged behind her intelligence. My two high school valedictorians were not given any awards from grade school. They only truly liked school when they got to Yale.

Your bright preschooler might face as many challenges as your friend's autistic or ADHD son. More schools have special ed services than have gifted services. Again and again, I questioned whether home schooling might be easier than my daily struggle with their school. Younger parents might not anticipate the extent to which they need to be advocates for their kids in American's test-obsessed schools. Getting high test scores is more important than being a gifted musician or artist. Kids who don't adjust to the norm are stimatized. The most creative, divergent thinkers our society desperately needs can be slapped with a psychiatric label and have their giftedness drugged out of them.

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