“Smart” Is Not a Side Thing

“Smart” is not a side thing. 

The evaluation or assessment or school test says, “so and so is smart, but …….“ “oh, he is smart as all get out.” Written right there on the kinder or 1st-grade evaluations submitted to the IEP records. As though it’s a side thing. When a child shows giftedness at an early age and also has challenges socially or academically, that should be a red flag. I’m not here to scare you, but if the same child, four years later, is still a mystery, I say return to that word. 


Was it a side thing? 

Charlie is getting into trouble. He’s in the time-out chair, or the “pod” is what we’re calling it now. In the middle of the classroom, or if he’s older, it’s a side room, because he disagreed with another child. The other child did something that wasn’t fair. He asked for support from the teacher. He tried to hold it in. 

Until he couldn’t. Then he does something that gets him in trouble. The other child’s actions are invisible. To be fair, the other child was just acting his age. 

Smart might mean that he couldn’t tolerate the injustice he saw happening. He’s so far beyond what his classmates can understand in terms of how he sees right and wrong, and therefore their social skills can’t match for at least a few years because Charlie can’t rest until everyone understands. But they won’t until High School, or maybe even college. And he won’t rest until everyone understands because his own sense of self will not be offered up to get along. This is how he is wired. 

He will not betray himself. And he will not allow injustice. 

Charlie is differently wired. He may be on the spectrum, or have attention issues, or any of the other things, and these diagnoses will give him some accommodations, which is great. Go for the earphones to block out the noise, help him set reminders on his phone because he won’t remember, be forgiving when he can’t get that assignment in… but what are we doing about the need to express all that he knows, the need to get out what is in his head in a way that may be faster, deeper, and across subject areas? And what if he processes information visually, or in certain specific categories? How can we meet him there too? He may not need to be placed in classes that expect less of him cognitively. In fact, this could increase the acting out, and eventually the depression. And some part of him, perhaps even without full conscious awareness, will no longer answer simple questions that are thrown at him daily. “What did I just teach you and can you repeat that?” when he really wants to make connections, create a new idea, talk about the subject matter in terms of the state of the world, or quantum physics, or art. Even if there are challenges, such as poor handwriting and spelling….. please continue to allow him to express himself in other ways while these needs are being addressed. And let’s hope he believes he has anything to express anymore…

So, yeah, Charlie is smart. It’s not a side thing. It’s everything. 

© 2021 Teresa Currivan