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Uniquely Gifted - by design

By Dr. Kathie F. Nunley

Children are all born into this world perfect. The very core of my beliefs tells me that the good Lord doesn't make mistakes. Each of His creations is just as He intended.

Thus, all babies are born into this world as perfect human beings. It is not until later after their arrival that society starts to put labels on them - labels like Autism, Dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Asperger Syndrome, Learning Disabled, Attention Deficit Disordered.

The labels, often bigger than the children themselves, imply that these children are somehow not perfect. That they are in fact broken things needing to be fixed. While this may not be the real intent of the educational world and educators themselves, I believe that is what the children hear.

Maybe we should be looking through a different lens. These children are not broken misfits needing repair, but rather uniquely gifted children who should be helped to make those gifts apparent and appreciated by both themselves and society.

It is too easy to get wrapped up in our own technological and medical success. Modern medicine, new brain imaging techniques, assessment instruments, therapies and assistive technologies are glamorous items and may be so fun to play with that we fail to stop and really consider what the point is to all of these aides and treatments for the "disabled" children.

What would the world look like if all the children were fixed? Is there one person among us who feels this world would truly be improved if all children were the same in ability and talent? What if everyone was an excellent reader, an excellent mathematician, an excellent artist, an excellent athlete? What if we WERE all the same? What if we removed all the disabilities and variation so that everyone was "fixed"?

While I wear many hats in my life as a researcher, writer, speaker and consultant, my proudest role is that of mother. Persons often hear me speak of my children and their unique gifts. My oldest son was given the gift of autism. Some find it odd to hear a mother call autism in her son a gift, but I truly believe with all my heart and soul that the good Lord does not send children into this world as anything less than His best work. He doesn't send them with burdens, but with gifts. Unfortunately the world sometimes views those gifts as burdens.

If I was given a magic wand this week that could remove the autism from Keegan, now 20 years old, I would refuse. To remove the autism from Keegan is to remove the very essence of my son. It is an integral part of the person we know and love. Keegan is gifted with a unique perspective of the world and has shown us time and time again rich and varied details of the world we may otherwise have missed. His music, his art, his writings have insights beyond anything I could conceive. I am thankful everyday for the experience of raising and living with him.

My greatest mission and hope is to help other educators and parents see the hidden gifts in children which may be missed. We all need to focus more time and energy helping children discover, unfold and expose the gifts they have for the world. While it may be difficult at times to accept their gifts graciously, wherever possible, try to look deep and see and fully appreciate what they may have to add to the beautiful and intricate tapestry of humanity. Rather than label and attempt to fix, can we encourage, value and instill a sense of pride in the child.

Let us take the advice from the Birthday Bird in Dr Seuss's book as he reminds us to help every child climb to the tallest place and hold their unique gift up for all to see:
" So we'll go to the top of the toppest blue space,...Come on! Open your mouth and sound off at the sky! Shout loud at the top of your voice, I AM I !"

About the Author:
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing Corporation, Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC television.
Email her: Kathie (at) brains.org


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