Letters to Readers
Where to Get It
The goal of this page is to present a very complete list of the many types of well-developed abilities that could be referred to as giftedness. Some people might argue that certain of these types don't really exist, or they don't qualify as giftedness, or they don't occur in youth. In the interest of completeness, those arguments will not be addressed here.
It is certainly true that some types of giftedness are recognized, accepted, and sometimes rewarded by secular society, others by religion, some by both, and some by neither.
The most traditional and accepted form of giftedness, the high-intelligence-quotient person is one whose mental abilities, as measured by a standardized test, are high compared to others of the same age or age group. The average (in western society) is set at 100, although this may not be the average for the world. Originally, I.Q. was calculated as mental age divided by chronological age times 100, but this doesn't work for adults, so it is now calculated by standard deviations, with each representing 15 or 16 I.Q. points (there are still two competing system floating around).
Measured I.Q. theoretically ranges from zero (for a person incapable of taking the test) to about 200. However, I.Q. tests are rare that can accurately measure I.Q. below about 50 or above about 150.
The following labels are usually applied to the relevant I.Q. ranges: 90-110 average, 110-140 bright or superior, 140+ genius.
I.Q. tests have always had the criticism that they test several things along with, or instead of, intelligence: specific language skills, dominant-cultural knowledge, socio-economic status, and test-taking experience, just to name a few. There is certainly some validity to these criticisms, and yet the creation of a measuring device for "raw" or "pure" intelligence seems to elude us.
Of all the categories of giftedness, high I.Q. is probably the one that is easiest to associate with past or future success in an educational program.
Many associations of high-I.Q. persons exist, ranging from Mensa at about I.Q. 132+ to the Giga Society at about I.Q. 190+.
Talented people have a kind of giftedness that tends to be fairly focused in one skill area, or a set of associated skill areas. The area of talent can range widely from purely intellectual to completely non-intellectual (such as body-movement skills like sports and dance).
Unlike with I.Q., there is no overall standardized test that can be used to identify a talented person, although many skill areas have tests that can evaluate a person in that area.
Talented people are sometimes highly rewarded by society, and sometimes completely overlooked, depending on the fashions that are currently popular within a culture.
A few people are able to learn from experience very quickly, and apply those lessons to life situations almost immediately. This is in contrast to the average person who generally has to "make all their own mistakes" and rebel against authority whenever possible, especially during youth. With this type of giftedness, some or all of those stumbling blocks to learning are absent.
The experientially-gifted person often excels at fields that require "street knowledge" such as business, politics, diplomacy, and law. They typically incorporate new words into their vocabularies, and use them correctly, after hearing them just once or twice, while most of us must hear a word about 10 times before understanding it.
This kind of giftedness is not usually recognized by society, other than through higher earnings, although some of these gifted people may be noted as "quick learners."
Some people see savants as suffering from a "syndrome" or "disease," and it is true that this form of giftedness is often associated with autism, and sometimes with nervous-system injuries or diseases. However, that attitude can be unhelpful when attempting to understand and support this kind of giftedness, and can easily cause the gift to be completely ignored or even suppressed.
Savants can have several different types of giftedness, all of which seem to stem from the ability of their minds to focus on a certain skill to the exclusion of all else, and possibly also by tapping into subconscious levels of the mind. Highly-developed memory, calculation, art, music, and spatial reasoning are the most common.
With the voyant (French for "seeing"), we enter an area of giftedness that is usually (but not always) more recognized by religions than by secular society. However, any particular religion might judge a certain type of voyant to be good and worthy of support, neutral, non-existent, or evil, depending on their doctrines.
Voyants can be divided into 4 categories:
- Seeing at a distance: clairvoyance, remote viewing
Although these labels are not defined with much precision and are usually dismissed as "New Age" fads, they contain a thread of meaning that is relevant to a complete understanding of giftedness.
The abilities of many gifted people seem to "come out of nowhere," and cannot be explained by an examination of heredity, nurturing, or environment. This leads to speculation about what else might be involved in the constitution of an individual person:
In religious language, we could talk about "soul," "spirit," "purpose," "destiny", or "will of God."
In sociological terms, children are being born and raised today under very different conditions than ever before, including urban environments (with little space to play or roam), and a high level of constant sensory stimulation and information overload.
In medicine, we might point to the large part of our genetic code that we do not (as yet) understand, and sometimes call "junk D.N.A."
Finally, if we are familiar with alien abduction research, we might speculate that at some point in the family tree, someone from far, far away slipped into the gene pool.
All of these possibilities share the quality that they cannot, at this time, be proven or disproven.
This sort of giftedness is in the emotional realm: the ability to sense the emotions of others in ways, or to degrees, that most of us cannot.
These gifted people vary widely in their ability to handle the emotions of others without distress to themselves, and also in their ability to provide any help and support to the others. At one extreme, they can be constantly distressed by the emotions of others around them, and unable to give any help and support. At the other extreme, they can be very skillful care-givers or therapists.
Some intuition is present in most people, but it remains unfocused and unspecific, giving them a warning that something should be paid attention to, but not what it is, how dangerous, or how to respond.
A few people get clearer, more focused, more specific intuitions.
This sometimes amounts to a kind of short-term knowledge of the future, and is most often reported when someone is able to avoid an accident by changing their plans after receiving an intuition. (See the warning after pre-cognition above.)
This sometimes also manifests as the ability to see deeply into matters that most people cannot. An example is medical intuition, in which the practitioner can make an accurate diagnosis without the tests that most physicians need.
The ability to be with animals, work well with them, sense their moods and needs, and communicate with them effectively, is another form of giftedness that varies over a wide range of skill levels.
Traditional farmers and ranchers (those who use few or no machines in their work) develop some of these abilities by growing up around animals, then working with them day after day. Even in such situations, not all people can develop these skills.
Veterinarians, animal trainers, pet store clerks, and anyone else who finds themselves working with animals, might discover that they have a gift for it (no matter how little they are paid), or just cannot learn these skills (no matter how hard they try or how much money they make).
A very few people develop a much deeper ability to communicate with animals. This is often limited to a single animal with whom a close relationship is formed, but can also extend to an entire species, or even several species. These deeper abilities and relationships are usually not acknowledged by society or science.
Other Psychic Abilities
Other psychic abilities could also form kinds of giftedness if they were actually and objectively developed to an unusual degree: telepathy, telekinesis, psychic healing, astral projection, and others.
What do gifted youth need?
More than anything else, they need SOMEONE to accept them and their gifts. Having lots of people is nice, but the important thing is to have at least one. The situation of having no one, while not fatal for all youth, is dangerous because it makes the development of a positive self-image, and self-confidence, very difficult. And it can be fatal when a young person decides they would rather not live than be a "freak" (or whatever term society uses to describe them).
(The author has a hunch that he provides this for several gifted youth who correspond with him, and hopes that this support will help them find other supportive people, ideally closer to them geographically.)
Next, gifted youth need the challenges and feedback that come from having the tools, materials, and/or activities appropriate to their gifts. Poverty can sometimes make this difficult, but gifted youth are often very good at improvising if they have an accepting adult to share ideas with. Thrift stores can sometimes provide just what is needed, from old electronic devices to usable sports equipment.
Like all of us, gifted youth need safety. Specifically, they need time and space where their gift is safe from all those who would tear it down. This might mean a place to keep special ("age-inappropriate") books, or it might mean a regular time to play music or dance without any criticism.
How can the NEBADOR stories help?
They give examples of several types of giftedness, some that allow the characters to pursue their goals, and some that do not. They show us that every kind of giftedness has its strengths and its weaknesses, and being gifted does not give a person a "free ride."
In fact, the NEBADOR stories show, if anything, that more will probably be expected by the universe from gifted people than from most of us, and that continual growth and learning is important to anyone, especially the gifted.
The usual argument against giftedness, and some thoughts:
"Don't make them grow up too fast! Don't steal their childhoods!"
After dealing with this admonition from parents and/or other "concerned adults" many times in a mental-health clinical setting, I eventually learned how to decode it:
"Make them normal so I won't be embarrassed by their differences, which could cause people to shun me."
Yes, like all other efforts to control and manipulate others, this attitude emerges from deep-seated fears.
The fact is, the immaturities and inabilities of childhood have a purpose, to work out the rules of maturity and competence for adulthood. There is, therefore, no good reason to stop or slow down a young person who is able to grow quickly in some way. If a person is capable of maturity and competence, then acting the opposite (just to placate or manipulate adults) would be nothing but a pretense, and could be very damaging to the person's mental health and the quality of their relationships.
The worst aspect of a gifted person being held back is that the "shutting down" or "dumbing down" process can be internalized, and the gifted person will continue to deny their gift even when there is no longer any reason to do so.
In addition to the "bad" aspects of childhood like immaturity and inability, there are certainly many others that are "good," such as spontaneity, creativity, learning, and friendship. Any or all of these "good" aspects can be kept by the gifted person who is otherwise growing up quickly, or if lost, re-discovered later.
Parents of intellectually-gifted youth often fear that they would be stealing some essential youthful experiences if they let them go to college early, only to discover that their son or daughter is happier than ever before once they get into an environment where people actually want to think and learn (as opposed to the usual attitude in compulsory public schools). There are currently 3 colleges in the USA that routinely accept gifted persons 11 years old and up, and many more that have no specific policy but will examine each application on a case-by-case basis.
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