“I’ve done lots of reading. I’ve looked at the standard definitions. I listened to the niggles and ‘problems’ that different people – my GP, a friend, my child’s teacher etc. have mentioned. I know my child’s quirky . . . But, is my gifted child autistic?”
It’s a question almost every parent of gifted kids I have ever talked to has brought up at one time or another (particularly the parents of highly to profoundly gifted children). And though it seems there should be an easy answer to this question – a quick test, a definitive way of putting a yes or no to this question, the answer is actually much, much more complicated.
Having travelled down this rabbit-hole for a long while now, I’d like take you on a trip into the world of giftedness and autism.
Personally, I find it deeply amusing that, depending on the flavour of the month, our little family can be both academically pushing and overly restrictive tiger-parents, and laissez-faire, academically neglectful parents at the same time.
Every now and again, more often than I am comfortable with, various memes pop up in my news feed. They’re usually positive, with a cute picture – a happy child, a beautiful baby, a rainbow over a lovely green field. Rinse and repeat.
There is a wonderful, probably reasonably obscure book by Rafael Sabatini called “Bellarion the Fortunate” where the intellectually gifted Bellarion is sent out into the world by his abbot because his reading and reason have lead him to believe – with the certainty of an intellectual who has read all the literature and thought hard about it in his convent – that evil and sin are a construct and do not exist. “But to all the weapons of his saintly rhetoric Bellarion continued to oppose the impenetrable shield of that syllogism of his which the abbot knew at heart to be fallacious, yet whose fallacy he laboured in vain to expose. ”  The book is not a treatise on the reality of good or evil, but an adventure book which ends with a very worldly Bellarion who is very much more aware of his fellow humans after leaving his ivory tower of thought. But I am not writing today to talk about Bellarion and the nature of his discussions on good and evil. I am instead going to write about the work, so far, of Dr Clementine Beauvais, and her blog entries on ‘The Giftedness Project’ .
Much like Bellarion’s abbot, I do not expect to be able to make much of an impression on Dr Beauvais as she has her armour of academic credentials, and the raft of knowledge collected from many thousands of academics discussing ideas among themselves with little reference to the outside world, and that armour is very strong. She has also made clear that she is not interested in the reality of giftedness, which she believes to be largely a construct of society.