By Angel Pittman
Inquisitive, curious, creative, a leader. These words hint at a talented and bright student. When we hear these words, we might envision images of students that include high academic achievement and a successful future.
Active, messy, argumentative, bossy. These words might suggest a student with behavior issues. Our minds envision a student with these descriptions as a child that might be more difficult to manage in a classroom setting.
All these characteristics are common among gifted children, yet our perceptions of each imaginary student might be quite different. As many of us have learned, perception acts as a lens (although not always an accurate one) by which we view reality. Classroom teachers are no different from the rest of us.
When LaDarius* and his mom met with me the first time, she told me how LaDarius was being sent home with alarming frequency from his 2nd grade classroom. His mom was understandably concerned. She knew LaDarius was smart as he had done well in kindergarten and 1st grade.
As I heard the stories during our initial meeting, I knew there was more we needed to learn about LaDarius. I had a hunch that LaDarius wasn’t just smart but gifted and that his misbehavior was a by-product of boredom coupled with a lack of impulse control because of undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).
While I could not make a diagnosis, I noticed that just on hearing that there might be underlying causes at play, the relief on Mom’s face was apparent. Our first step was to get evaluations completed. In a normal year, a “gifted” evaluation can take a long time. During this strange pandemic school year, the backlog for evaluations will likely stretch throughout the summer.
The least expensive private evaluations in the Miami area cost over $350 with the cost of a comprehensive test nearing $800.
After a number of calls, I was able to find a very discounted evaluation option for LaDarius. As we awaited his testing day, his mom and I began meeting weekly for parent coaching. She wanted to increase her parenting skills to better support LaDarius and I was thrilled to be a part of her journey.
On the day of testing, LaDarius was excited and chatted during the whole ride across town to the testing center. As his mom and I waited, we worked through a parent coaching session and before we knew it, he was bounding out the door ready to get a treat before heading to school.
It was no surprise when a week later the evaluation revealed that LaDarius was indeed gifted! Active, messy, argumentative and bossy were all evidence of a mind fast at work.
I’m pleased to continue my work with LaDarius through his upcoming ADHD evaluation and the creation of an educational plan that will accommodate all of LaDarius’ incredible strengths.
*name changed for privacy
Angel Pittman is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel serving in Miami, Fla., as educational advocate. Angel, a former educator, has served in educational ministries for over twenty years including fifteen years at the CBF partner ministry, Touching Miami with Love. Learn more at www.cbf.net/pittman.