Tag Archives: Giftedness

Why I’m Happy I’m Not Gifted After All

In 1999, I had a psychologcal evaluation done. Included in it was the verbal part of the Wechsler IQ test for children (WISC). The performance part can’t be administered because I’m blind. My verbal IQ score, according to the report, was 154. This indicates I may be gifted.

There were several problems with this test, the most importnat being that I’d had the exact same test a year earlier. Now i must admit the psychologist who tested me in 1998 also estimated my IQ as in the gifted range.

In 2002, I had the verbal part of the Wechsler IQ test again as part of a research project on former preemies. I scored above-average, but not gifted. I blamed this on the new version of the WISC being used and continued to use the score of 154 as my official IQ score and proudly showed it off wherever appropriate. In fact, I used it as my official IQ score up till a few months ago, when I had the verbal part of the adult Wechsler test as part of my autism re-assessment. It showed I have an above-average IQ, in line with my high level high school education, but definitely am not gifted. My verbal IQ as of 2017 is 119.

When I told my parents I suspected I didn’t score as gifted on the test this year, my mother responded with: “You just don’t want to know about it.” She seemed to mean I underestimated my achievements, but did send me the message that I was supposed to be gifted or I didn’t try my best.

IQ, of course, is not a static characteristic. Before the Flynn effect was known, researchers thought people’s intelligence started decreasing in their late twenties already. I don’t know much about the science of changing scores on IQ tests, but I do know many factors contribute to one’s performance. Like the letter written to me at the end of the 2002 research study said, it’s just a snap of a moment. Maybe my IQ did really decrease as a result of my having been out of education for ten years. Maybe the medication I take has a dulling effect on my cognition. Maybe, like I said, the score in 1999 was based on retest bias. I do care in some ways, because I don’t want to be “dumb”. Then again, an IQ of 119 isn’t “dumb” and labeling people with a lower IQ as dumb is ableist and classist anyway.

However, I am also happy that I am no longer labeled gifted. I can still say I’m smart and people will acknowledge it, but I don’t need to carry the burden of being seen as “hyper-intelligent”, as my father once coined it.

There are a lot of ideas about gifted people that just don’t apply to me. Now some of these ideas are really prejudices, so the solution isn’t to distance myself from the community. However, within the gifted community there is also the assumption that people who are gifted naturally struggle with social and emotional development, unless they interact with people of their intelligence level. I embraced this idea before I was diagnosed with autism. I still understand it bears some truth. However, my take on diagnosing misfits is pragmatic: if an approach suited to one population clealry doesn’t fit, then maybe the person in question doesn’t belong to (just) that population after all.

Now you could say I’m blind and (supposedly) gifted, so I really should be given services for blind people who are gifted. In other words, it’s no wonder I struggled at special education, because most kids there are not of my intelligence level, and of course I struggled in high school, because no other kids there are blind. I can tell you though that there may not be many blind and gifted people, but they certainly are there and I struggle with interaction with them too. Besides, no-one ever gave me the opportunity of going to a high level special education school.

I don’t honestly know why, interestingly, people prefer my supposed gifted identity to my autistic identiyt when they want to choose one. I prefer my autistic identity, because it fits better. For others though, there seems to be something inherently wrong in autism and something inherently fabulous in giftedness. This goes even for people who keep telling me that all gifted people struggle with social interaction and behavior so I don’t need my autistic identity for that. Well, why then not say I don’t need my gifted identity for that?

Fear of Joy

Fear of joy. Some people find this hard to imagine, but it is real for some of us who’ve experienced depressive symptoms. It is real for me.

I have a really hard time experiencing joy without sabotaging it with fear. I don’t deliberately do this, but quite often I tend to feel intense anxiety when I notice I am in a good mood. Then obviously my mood goes down again.

It’s probably because of expectations. There is this man on my unit who always says he’s doing so-so or bad and never says he’s doing well. He says it is because, if he says he’s doing well, they’ll think he’s no longer mentally unwell and will expect him to leave the psychiatric unit. I can relate to this. Now I myself don’t want to be on this unit forever, like this man does. What I can relate to is the expectation that, if I’m well once, I should be able to keep the feeling and not fall unwell again. Worse yet, I fear that if I say I’m feeling well, I will be expected to cope with less support, more independence. In this sense, I can relate to the fear of being kicked off the unit if I say i’m well. Though I don’t want to stay on this unit forever, I do want to maintain a certain level of support.

Of course, everyone, whether we’re mentally ill or not, experiences highs and lows. People who aren’t mentally ill aren’t expected to keep feeling well forever if they say they’re well once. Why should people with mental illness be expected to be cured if we say we feel well once, then? The truth is, no good mental health professional or understanding relative expects this out of us.

Of course, I remember the situation a few years ago where a woman with depression was denied sick leave benefits because she “didn’t look depressed” in Facebook photos. That sort of thing may happen, and I’m sometimes afraid of this too. Like, yesterday I told my named nurse I’m afraid of not getting community support once I live with my husband. The reason is my staff aren’t coming to the tiny village to assist me with my application and the social consultant there isn’t coming to my institution. This means I’ll need to file the application all by myself. Of course, my husband will be there, but I doubt he knows what care I’ll need. Now I’m at once afraid that I’ll not be able to clarify what I need so that the consultant won’t be able to get me care, and that I sound too capable. The care needs paperwork that the Center for Consultation and Expertise created for me in 2013 lists my intellectual giftedness. I’m tempted to delete that in the process of updating it for the current application. The first reason is because I have no clue what significance a high IQ has over a normal IQ when applying for care. I mean, it means I can’t get care from the intellectual disability agencies, but I couldn’t if I had a normal IQ either. However, the other reason is I fear it will be seen as significant by the social consultant and they’ll determine that if I’m so intelligent, I should be able to solve my own problems.

This is what’s behind my fear of coming across like I’m doing well, and consequently my fear of experiencing joy. Of course, like I said, every understanding person should realize that having a good day doesn’t mean being cured of your mental illness. Then again, I’m not sure most people are all that understanding. Could be my stress-related paranoia though.

Test Scores Don’t Determine Ability to Get By in Life

On a Dutch blog by the mother of a child with autism, I read about the impact of IQ on school choice. The child in question is intellectually disabled. I am not. However, I can totally relate to measured IQ impacting the choices made for me regarding my education.

I have a verbal IQ that was at one point measured at 154. I have had many IQ tests other than this one. I didn’t score as high on all. On one, I didn’t even score within the gifted range. Nonetheless, my IQ score of 154 is mentioned in every diagnostic report about me.

This is a verbal IQ. IQ is composed of two components: verbal and performance. My perfomrmance, or non-verbal IQ cannot be measured because I’m blind. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact me. Professionals involved with autism have consistently suspected that my performance IQ is significantly lower than my verbal IQ and this could be one reason my abilities are constantly overestimated. It cannot be measured, however, so let’s just continue expecting excellent, or at least good performance out of me. Or not.

The mother writing the blog I mentioned above desperately wanted her child to have an IQ above 70 so that he could go to a school for children with behavioral disturbance rather than a school for children with an intellectual disability. In my own case, my parents desperately wanted me to score high so that they could convince the special school for the blind to recommend me to regular education. Finally, they needed not just to prove that I am intellectually capable, but that I excel academically, because they had decided I should go to grammar school. I had to have a standardized test score above a certain number and thankfully I scored within the expected range. The special school principal called my parents in total shock, because she didn’t have a clue that I was this capable.

In real life, unfortunately, it takes more than academic excellence to excel, or even to get by. It takes more even than a high verbal IQ. More than a high IQ in general, in fact.

Why do people rely so heavily on test scores to determine what they can expect out of someone? Because my abilities are consistently overesitmated, the autism consultant recommended further testing to determine why I function at a much lower level than my (verbal) IQ would suggest. My psychologist dismissed this idea. I understand, because it takes a lot to be able to assess someone who is blind. Besides, I’m not so sure I’d be able to take yet another exam, as that’s what it feels like.

Why don’t we just understand that people are different? People have different abilities and difficulties and they shouldn’t all have to be Einsteins or prove why they’re not. Yes, I know Einstein is sometimes suspcted of having had practically every neurodiverse codnition under the sun. I don’t care. My point is that, if someone doesn’t get by, they need help and it doesn’t matter whether a test score says they should be able to get by.

Seven Things

Last week, one of Friday Reflections’ prompts was to list seven things about yourself. I was at my parents’ for the week-end, where the desk I had my computer on was uncomfortably high. I also I had a hard time concentrating with my parents, husband, sister and her boyfriend in the room. For this reason, I didn’t write a post this week-end. (On Friday, I attended a concert so didn’t have the time to blog at all.) I’m still not very inspired today, so I just choose to use last Friday’s prompt. Here are seven keywords that describe me.

1. Preemie. Last week was World Prematurity Day, so I just got to choose “preemie” as my first descriptive word. I was born a little over three months premature in 1986. I was very lucky to have been born in the city of what I believe is the oldest children’s hospital of the Netherlands and even luckier that the Netherlands is a developed country with good health care. Read this article on Preemie Babies 101 to find out more about preemie care in developing countries. This made me realize how fortunate I am.

2. Intelligent. This is the first thing my parents would say if they had to describe me, or at least it was when I grew up. When I was twelve, my verbal IQ was measured at 154 (my performance IQ cannot be measured because I’m blind). This means I may be intellectually gifted. At least, Mensa considers a verbal IQ of over 130 to suffice for membership if you’re blind. Yes, I did at one point consider joining Mensa.

3. Blind. Okay, let’s start the collection of disability labels here. I am blind. I have always been legally blind and have been practically totally blind since age eighteen, although I still keep noticing that my vision can get better or worse. I notice even tiny changes that are not measureable by ophthalmologists. I am clasified as having light perception only and have been classfied as such ever since 2004, but I still use the tiny bit of vision I have for orientation sometimes. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I can’t shut it off.

4. Autistic. And possibly otherwise neurodiverse. I wasn’t diagnosed with autism till age twenty but suspected it from age twelve on. My parents didn’t want to hear of it, so after they voiced thir strong disapproval of my “hypochondriasis”, I pretended I was completely neurotypical. I failed, of course. Even though my autism diagnosis has been questioned a few times, most professionals are sure that I’m not neurotypical.

5. Mentally ill. After all, I have a mental health diagnosis. I am not one of those neurodiversity activists who believe that a psychiatric disorder is completely separate from a neurodevelopmental disorder. That distinction is, in my opinion, entirely political. I however do sometimes wish I didn’t have the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, but that’s because BPD is one of the more stigmatized mental health diagnoses.

6. Blogger. I have been a blogger since 2007 (or 2002, if you count my online diaries that have been republished on my old blog). I don’t like to be associated with my old blogs though. I have this idea in my mind that I need to blog regularly or i need to start over and not associate with my old blog at all. It’s really surprising that this blog has been active for over two years, because I’ve started and restarted my Dutch blogs half a dozen times in the last year.

7. Wife. I don’t like this word, although I do like to refer to my husband as such. It’s probably because, in Dutch, the word “wijf”, which sounds like “wife”, is an insult for a woman. I always feel that the word “wife” sounds slightly submissive. However, I like being my husband’s wife.

Mental Health and Art Therapy #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

Welcome to day 15 in the #Write31Days challenge on mental health. I will resume writing about personality disorders soon, but today, I don’t have the energy to do my research. Instead, I will write about art therapy, which is a form of therapy that can be particularly helpful to people with mental health issues.

Art therapy is a creative method whereby art mediums are used in the therapeutic process. It obviously originated at the crossroads of art and psychotherapy. Sometimes art therapy is focused on the creative process itself. For example, today while in art therapy, I made polymer clay beads. Sometimes, art therapy focuses on analyzing the interaction between therapist and client while engaging in creative arts.

Many people use art therpay to express feelings they can’t express in words. For example, trauma survivors, especially children, may use art to express their feelings about their life and the trauma they endured. An example of this was mentioned to my high school class when we got an educational session on giftedness. (My school was a grammar school, where about 30% of pupils were gifted.) A gifted boy, when drawing the human face, always drew an angry face. Another example perhaps comes from myself. In high school, I often drew blue-eyed figures in cages. This was an expression of how I felt trapped by my blindness.

Art can also serve a symbolic step in the healing process. For example, sometime in 2014, I created a baby self out of clay. I put it in a box lined with soft textures to express that she was safe now.

Art therapy can also serve the purpose of having the client explore new creative media. In this way, it can be used to encourage people with anxiety or sensory issues to try out new things. For instance, I sometimes get to try new materials to explore the boundaries of my sensory and emotional tolerance.

The creative process can also be used to have patients step out of their comfort zones. For example, my art therapist and I have used a drawing exercise by which I’d draw a random pattern (I don’t have enough vision to draw anything meaningful anymore). My therapist would first stay at a safe distance with her felt tip, but would try to gradually move into my drawing space.

Lastly, art therapy can simply be a form of leisure or recreational therapy. The polymer clay bead making didn’t have much of a purpose, other than perhaps having me try to handle the feel of polymer clay. Then again, I came up with the idea of doing this. It is more just a way to learn new techniques to use in my free time.

Defining Myself

One of the March writing prompts on the SITS Girls site is “what defines you?”. I could write an essay on this, and in fact, in 2002, I did this in response to the “defining yourself” prompt on a disability website I visited at the time. I wrote an essay on the ways in which I was different from most other people: being blind, being in the intellectually gifted range and (I thought at the time) being a lesbian.

I no longer identify as a lesbian obviously, but the other minority statuses still apply to me, and so do many more. I am autistic, mentally ill, unemployed, etc.

Do these minority statuses truly define me? I don’t think so. Rather, I think I am defined by the core of my personality. Having a poor self-image makes it hard to define myself as such, but I will try.

1. I am intelligent. I don’t like my intelligence in a way. I embrace my giftedness as a minority status, although to be honest I don’t think I’d like to be part of elitist high IQ societies. I am part of a few Facebook groups that define giftedness as asynchronous development and often also link it to high sensitivity. These groups do not see giftedness as all positive, like the high IQ societies do. They rather see it as a distinctive but value neutral characteristic.

As a more abstract quality, I however don’t embrace my intelligence. It is so often used to define the core of my abilities, as if I can’t be impaired with such a high IQ. I realize that intelligence is what allows me to write relatively coherent blog posts, for example, but if it’s connected to social skills or practical independence, that’s just not okay.

2. I am stubborn. Sometimes, people say I am a go-getter. Other people say I give up way too easily. It all depends on the situation. In a way, my stubbornness can be seen as rigidity: if I’ve got something in my mind, it’s got to go this way. I just today remembered pushing my father to vote for a particular political party when I was too young to vote (around sixteen). I don’t remember the details and am not 100% sure he ended up voting for that party, but I do remember being quite adamant that at least one of my parents was going to vote for my party.

3. I am sensitive. I want to firmly distinguish this from being empathetic, as in knowing how to react to people’s emotions. However, I do sense and absorb people’s emotions very easily. This sometimes leads to overload. I am also, of course, sensorially reactive, wich can also lead to overload.

4. I am socially awkward. Back in like 2003, I used to own an E-mail group (one of the many inactive E-mail groups I’ve owned) called something like Socially_Awkward. This was how I defined myself in the midst of suspecting I had autism but also being aware that others saw autism as an inherently negative thing that an intelligent person like me shouldn’t associate with. The fact remains that I’m socially awkward. I can converse semi-normally when the situation is familiar, but I often have to be taught explicitly how to handle unfamiliar social situations.

These are but four of my characteristics. I undoubtedly have many more, but it is hard for me to think of them. There are also many other ways in which I could define myself. As I said, I could go with my minority statuses. People could also define themselves by their jobs or roles. In this case, I’d be defined as for example a wife and a blogger. Then there are probably many more ways to categorize and thereby define people. I am curious to know how you define yourself and what categorizations you use to define others.

Asperger’s as Mere Genius

Just came across a question on an Asperger’s page on Facebook. Someone asked whether we could name any historical genius without Asperger’s. Most people couldn’t, but this made me think of the validity of the whole Asperger’s concept in highly intelligent people, and whether it’s not just their genius that makes these people appear autistic.

If everyone who is a little quirky gets labeled with Asperger’s, it erodes the meaning of Asperger’s as a disability. I know that probably the people who can’t name a genius without Asperger’s, don’t see Asperger’s as a disability. That’s fine with me, but I for one do see it as a disability, having an Asperger’s diagnosis and clear difficulty functioning.

That’s in my opinion what it boils down to. Most geniuses can function quite well in life. They may have some trouble making friends with the average person, but that’s because they are highly intelligent and the average person isn’t. I did not start suspecting an autism spectrum disorder in myself until I found out that I couldn’t interact with my classmates at the high level high school either, while around 30% of them were gifted. In this sense, I feel the fewer labels the better, and I don’t see why you need a disability label if you’re going to see it as all positive. We already have the label of giftedness for that.

The reason I eventually sought an autism diagnosis, was not that I had a hard time making friends actually. It was because I was overwhelmed with even the simplest of daily tasks. If I didn’t have this many problems, I would be fine just being gifted. It wouldn’t mean I’d have absolutely no issues, because after all I’d still be a misfit among all average peers. But autism isn’t about fitting in or being able to make friends. If that were the case, many more people would qualify for the label of autism than is currently the case.

I was discussing this whole labeling thing with my parents yesterday. My father, who says I’m merely gifted and not autistic, said that Hans Asperger probably didn’t intend merely quirky kids to get his label. Rather, the kids he intended the label for were most likely unable to have any form of meaningful interaction and were completely preoccupied with their own special interest. I wouldn’t be an Aspie in this situation, but neither would anyone on the Facebook page. Now I don’t necessarily agree with this analysis of what Asperger intended his label to mean, and I don’t have his study at hand to look it up. However, DSM-5 backs up this portrayal of autism spectrum disorder in its description (and to some extent criteria) of ASD. I am not sure myself that I meet DSM-5 criteria for ASD, and I can see that many people diagnosable as Aspie under DSM-IV, don’t.

In my case, this has nothing to do with the criterion about the symptoms limiting people’s independent functioning, like many parents of severely autistic children say. I am most definitely impaired in my functioning. The problem areas I’m having are just not the core ASD impairments. But I am impaired.

For most all-genius-people-are-Aspies proponents, the opposite is true: they do have core ASD symptoms as their primary reason for being misfits, but they aren’t limited in their daily functioning. In this sense, I can totally see why parents of severley autistic children would not want them on the autism spectrum. Why lump people with no impairments together with those with severe impairments? That’s either stigmatizing the people with no impairments or invalidaitng the people with severe impairments. One of the main reasons people are fighting to keep Asperger’s on the autism spectrum, is because we most definitely have impairmetns and are in need of support. If Asperger’s is reduced to mere genius and the accompanying and inherent misfit status, I am not saying I want no part in it. Identifying as an Aspie would then be similar to identifying as my Myers-Briggs personality type, after all, and I do participate in places for that. It would, however, mean that I and many others who do have significant impairments, would need an additional label to justify their need for support.

Journaling on Accomplishments and Hopes

From the age of ten or eleven on, I used to keep a journal, first on paper and then on the computer. I quit in 2003 when my computer crashed and I’d lost the last four months of journaling. Besides, an Internet diary had taken over my mind. In 2006, when I moved into independence training where we didn’t have an Internet connection, I started again. I continued to write a journal through my first two to three years in the psychiatric hospital, and then the Internet took over again. My online diaries have often been pretty persoanl, but over the years, I learned to write more for a general audience.

Nonetheless, journaling never ceased to capture my interest. I read and enjoy a lot of personal blogs. A few months ago, I tried to start a weekly gratitude journal here on this blog, but I never got past the first entry.

Today, I bohgt Journaling Tools by JanMarie Kelly, which is basically a very introductory explanation of journaling plus an assortment of prompts, alnd I thought I’d createa “jouranling” category here on the blog.

The first and third prompts in Kelly’s book are about accomplishments you’ve completed and expectations you have for yourself. Kelly asks the journaler to write ten of each, but I am not sure I can get to that many, so I guess I’ll just reflect on a couple.

My biggest accomplishment so far has been graduating from high school. I went to a mainstream school where I was the only blind or visually impaired student. I am also gifted, as were about thirty percent of the students, and of course I have Asperger’s, which I suspected at the time but had not been diagnosed with yet. I remember when I was in the tenth grade, my teachers saying in a performance that only students who had something different about them – gifted, Asperger’s, blind, dyslexic, etc. -, could go to their school. “But our little Louis William George has nothing wrong with him, not even fear of failure, so he can’t come to this school?” Quite funny.

My second biggest accomplishment is choosing my own path of study, which was quite at odds with my parents’ ideas of an appropriate field of study for me. I chose psychology, and completed my foundation (first year) in 2007. I reaalize that psychology is not an ideal major for someone with a communication disorder like autism, and I guess so neither is linguistics, which I majored in the following year. The only thing I can say I accomplished during the two months at that university, is getting a B in intro to linguistics despite taking the exam in the week of the crisis that led to my hospitalization.

I honestly cannot think of any more accomplishments that I consider big enough to list here. Of course, I lived independently for three months and am married, but are these accomplishments or just things I did?

I also cannot think of ten expectations for myself. I used to be able to think of several dozens when I was still in school. I wanted to graduate from college, get a Ph.D., live in the United States, get a job as a researcher, and many other expectations that are out of reach for most non-disabled people. Now I cannot get beyond hopes. I will just write a list of hopes that I have for my future, and think I can get to ten with this.

  1. Complete some more further education.

  2. Get a volunteer job.

  3. Live in a workhome or other suitable supported housing.

  4. Learn to cook independently again.

  5. Work as a recovery worker either on a voluntary or paid basis.

  6. Get any paid job.

  7. Live with my husband./Li>
  8. Visit the United States.

  9. Take and complete some writing courses.

  10. Write a memoir.

Yeah, I made it to ten. 🙂 In fact, I could think of some more, but these are enough f o now.