Book Review: “Understanding Your Gifted Child From the Inside Out”

 

A photo of James R. Delisle's "Understanding Your Gifted Child From the Inside Out" on a wooden table.

Having spent several years writing about parenting and homeschooling gifted and/or twice-exceptional (“2E”) kids, I’ve amassed a couple of shelves worth of books on the topic. Some are great; others, ho-hum.

Imagine my surprise last fall, however, when a new volume arrived, reigniting my own enthusiasm for the topic as a genre.

James R. Delisle’s Understanding Your Gifted Child From the Inside Out: A Guide to the Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Kids (Prufrock Press, 2018) [Amazon Affiliate Link*] is a deeply satisfying combination of the author’s personal and his professional experience with the population. As he notes in the introduction, Delisle—a retired Kent State University professor of special education—sat out to “put into a larger context the many moving parts that constitute the lives of gifted children and the people who are raising them . . . . I want my book to provide as much solace as it does advice because, let’s be honest, parenting a gifted child in a world that neither fully accepts nor appreciates advanced abilities in kids can be an unkind and lonely task at times.”

If that was his goal, then Delisle stuck the landing.

Not only does he bring the reader up to speed with terminology common to parenting and teaching gifted children (overexcitabilities, differentiated instruction, multipotentiality, etcetera) but also Delisle shares frank, straight-forward advice for helping kids chart the waters of early childhood through to young adulthood. Most importantly, he calls upon parents, too, to take a look at where past narratives about giftedness and parenting may impede raising kids thoughtfully, compassionately, and effectively. (Think a kid has to be an academic achiever in order to truly qualify as “gifted”? Think again.)

There’s not a lot of mincing of words on these pages; Delisle unabashedly asserts his opinion in several places and with a welcome frankness. To wit, on page 121, he writes, “Some of [the historical research related to gifted individuals] is relevant and meaningful, but other studies should probably never been done in the first place.” That is both a wonderful, as the kids say, “burn” and a hard truth well known within the gifted education community. Sadly those old beliefs about giftedness pop up all the time in pop culture, casual conversations, and in the halls of our schools. They impede the understanding of and care for gifted people in a way that would leave us aghast if similar narrow stereotypes were applied so freely to other groups.

Time and again as I worked my way through Delisle’s latest book — he’s written 21 of them along with more than 250 articles — I found myself thinking how helpful it would be to have a copy of this one at the start of one’s journey to understanding giftedness and gifted identity. While personally I’d still like to read some deeper probing of how the trait fits within our contemporary understanding of intergenerational family dynamics and epigenetics (for better or worse), Delisle has done parents a great service in his most recent book. I recommend it highly.

Pamela Price is the author of two parenting books by GHF Press. She blogged here at RedWhiteandGrew.com for a decade, but in the last year she’s refocused her work—and rediscovered her passion for cultural reporting—with a new project, TheTexasWildflower.com. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

* Disclosure: Pamela Price, the publisher of this website, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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