A place to discuss the needs of bright kids too far from the norms to “fit.”

Let me introduce myself. I’m Stephanie S. Tolan, and for 30 years I’ve been writing and speaking about gifted kids, with an emphasis on the kids at the far end of the continuum–hg to pg. In Guiding the Gifted Child, which I co-authored with Jim Webb and Betty Meckstroth back in 1982, my “Open Letter” chapter (now a Page here) was included because the book itself did not focus specifically on the population that had brought me into the field in the first place. It’s a population that the organizers of the first gifted conference I ever attended (in 1978) declared to be “statistically insignificant,” when another mother and I asked why there seemed to be nothing at the conference suited to the needs of our children.

For a long time I intended to write a book called Where Do the Mermaids Stand? about the needs of highly to profoundly gifted children. I haven’t written it, though I have several times given talks with this title at gifted conferences. The title comes from a story in Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

The story goes that Fulghum was organizing a game for children at his church. The game was called Giants and Wizards and Dwarves. He explained to the children that they were each to choose whether they wanted to be a giant or a wizard or a dwarf. When they’d chosen, they would be directed to go to the part of the room where their group was supposed to stand, and then the rules of the game would be explained. As he was telling the children where each group was to gather, Fulghum felt a tug at his coat. He turned to find a little girl staring up at him. “Where do the mermaids stand?” she asked.

“This game is called Giants and Wizards and Dwarves,” Fulghum told her.

“I know,” she said, “But I’m a mermaid. I need to know where the mermaids stand.”

What this child represents to me is the highly to profoundly gifted child who understands her own existence and her right to a place in the game, and simply demands to be directed to that place so she can play.

Of course, one must smile at the idea of a place for mermaids to “stand,” since they don’t have feet to stand on. This place is about The Deep End, where the mermaids belong. I invite anyone–parents, teachers, gifted program coordinators, counselors, highly asynchronous adults (anyone who cares about the “selves” of these very different kids) to follow this blog and to share ideas, research, historical conceptions–whatever you think might add to the focus here on possibilities. 

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