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New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education's Blog

What's the Story? 

Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


The Wrestler and the Elusive Z's

My introduction to giftedness




Where is that ‘off’ switch?!

So I was lying in bed last night...as you do...thinking "I wish my brain had an off switch so I could get some sleep!" But as I don't, I got up and wrote this. (Figured I might as well be productive since I was awake.) Of course the following morning after a night of tossing and turning and wakefulness I will be wishing I had an on switch!

But seriously, how often do we find ourselves in this state of sleeplessness? Wrapped up in contemplation in the small hours of the morning, thinking about something exciting that has caught our fancy and we want to explore more, or considering how we might solve a tricky situation we are facing with a student...or maybe how we might make the climb up Mt. Everest, because at times this might seem easier! I don't know about you, but too many nights like this and I seriously start to tank out.

I thought I knew this as a youngster, as I often found myself contemplating the world, making up scenarios for stories in my head or planning a project till the wee hours of the morning and then I would sleep in for hours in the morning to catch up again...okay, I admit, perhaps this hasn't changed much over the years! However, when we were introduced to the perils...(*clears throat), I mean...joys...of parenthood...Well you can imagine right?





Torture techniques

Well I thought I could imagine, but two years in, and my husband and I found ourselves sitting in the pediatrician's office with great expectancy...hoping that the doctor would provide us with the reason - and a cure - for why our child only sleep snacked, needing no more than two hours of sleep at a time and little more than 5 hours in any given 24 hour period. Bad parenting right...? That's what we were told on a regular basis from anyone with an opinion...which at the time seemed like everyone! But not, thankfully what the pediatrician had to say. Phew!

What we got instead was a prelude of, "you know the US army uses sleep deprivation as a form of torture don't you...?" Really helpful! Not! Followed by the extremely dissatisfying statement, "he just doesn't seem to turn his brain off". Ughhh! You have got to be kidding me! That is your answer?! I am glad it is not our 'fault', but how does that fix our problem?! I have to say, that to my horror, I have since heard the story of children who needed even less sleep. Holy moley...! I would have been snuggly wrapped in a straight jacket if that were my situation. All kudos to families which experience this and come through it, with sanity and/or family in tact.

Anyway, after trying everything in the books to get our son to sleep, we had nothing to lose. So, with thanks to a parent in an online gifted forum for her advice, we changed our tack and went against the grain of social norms (and acceptance), seeking as many opportunities for intellectual learning as our son was interested in and would slurp up. He already regularly sucked up 30 books in a sitting, wanting yet more to be read to him (again, and again, and again, as toddlers are renowned for when it comes to favourite stories!). What can I say...thank goodness for the library! I remember telling a friend I had learned more in two years than in my entire life preceding that because we had read so many books on all sorts of topics. But I digress.


Hitting Gold!

After five years of desperation, we hit gold!! The key, it turned out, was not tight consistent routines, lots of physical activity, ensuring quiet times during the day and reducing stimulation in the evening and all those other..."common sense" solutions (although many of those things are still important), but rather to satiate his desperate thirst for learning. It meant going beyond the usual activities such as playing in the sandpit, going biking and walking, visiting little friends, playing with his beloved little toy vehicles and reading books. Rather, it meant actively finding ways to help him to consider the world in a different light - making new connections as he reflected on these. Looking for ways to give him depth and complexity in his daily world to churn over. All of a sudden, he began to relax more...and sleep more! It turned out that it wasn't that he didn't need sleep...he just couldn't sleep. He needed a different approach to his care for the sake of his wellbeing (and his families!)...feeding his ravenous brain.


“This was my introduction to giftedness. It was like being body-slammed at full speed by a wrestler, and as it became apparent, I was not about to escape from the ring. I had to get a handle on the situation we were in; I needed to get help and learn some new skills, if we were to survive this journey and do right by our child”.


Now What?

Our son is now 12 years old, and I am thrilled to tell you, he is presently sufficiently stimulated at school and through his own endeavours, and these days is able to turn his brain off - most of the time anyway. He also has a younger brother (who is introducing a whole new level of learning and understanding to us!), but who has always slept amazingly well since birth (phew!!). And me? After training in psychology, working in specialist libraries, becoming a galleried artist and later managing regional art exhibitions, it turns out I was given an extra gift through my parenting; direction and a true sense of purpose.

I, perhaps unsurprisingly, am now a qualified gifted education specialist working to support educators and parents of gifted learners. I am privileged to be contracted as part of the inspiring team that makes the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education; a team who work tirelessly along-side families and mainstream classroom educators to support gifted learners like my boys. In fact, my eldest is now thriving thanks to the collective input of both his mainstream teachers and the specialist educators in the one day a week gifted programme he participated in, which is now offered by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education and called MindPlus.


So who am I? I am Ness. I am a wife, a parent, an advocate and an educator, and this is my story. What's yours?



'What's the Story?' is a new blog section which is being written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.


We would love to hear from you.  Grab a virtual cuppa and share your story in the comments.

What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


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Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

 Image credit: Zzzz by Kārlis Dambrāns is licensed under CC BY 2.0. The image has been modified with the addition of the wrestler and avatar.

The Wrestler and the Elusive Z's

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