book about giftedness and disabilities, I was excited. I have long
believed that the fields of giftedness, autism, and related disabilities
need to share information. Professional literature needs to address
the presence of giftedness in individuals with disabilities, especially
Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism. In fact, giftedness
combined with disabilities is an area that in my opinion has
been underserved for too long. I have spoken at a few gifted conferences
and have had the opportunity to share important information
about how autism and giftedness have much in common.
At the many different kinds of meetings I have attended for
autism, giftedness, ADHD, dyslexia, and troubled youth, I see the
same kinds of kids. Although these young people may be similar,
when they have different labels they are subjected to totally
different ways of being treated. Each label has its own set of books,
professionals, and philosophy. One of the biggest indicators that
each label group stays in its own little sphere is that the books
its members are reading are almost all totally different. About
95 percent of the books are unique to each label. Which ‘‘label
community’’ the child gets assigned to can greatly affect the path
he or she goes down because the label affects people’s expectations.
Some of the views on giftedness and disabilities presented
in this book may be novel, but they are necessary. Bright Not
Broken endeavors to share valuable information from the gifted
field with parents and professionals in the field of disabilities.
I believe strongly that this discussion is necessary to provide a
comprehensive perspective on the problems facing our gifted kids
who are stuck in labels, and to bring the fields of giftedness and
disabilities together to focus on children’s special talents, not on
labels. This is why I agreed to be a contributor to this book.
One of the most troubling situations I find myself in is when I
am approached by a child who introduces himself to me as a person
with autism—in other words, the child is identifying himself by
his autism instead of his area of interest. I personally prefer being
thought of as a doctor of animal science first and as a person with
autism second. This is the way our kids should be taught to see
themselves, too—by their abilities, not their disabilities.
Today I am seeing toomany kids who have less severe symptoms
than I had, going nowhere. One of the reasons this is happening is
that there are not high enough expectations for them. Some parents
have adopted a ‘‘handicapped’’ mentality and rely too much on
medication to control their children. They think ‘‘Oh, poor little
Joey. He can’t do this because he has ADHD (or autism or some
other disorder).’’ I have seen smart, fully verbal twelve-year-olds
who have never learned how to purchase a meal in a restaurant
because it was always done for them.
Bright Not Broken provides parents and professionals a good
overview of the problems facing our kids who are gifted and labeled
as ADHD, ODD, Asperger’s syndrome, or learning disabled. It
explains who these kids are, the labels they carry, and how giftedness
is not recognized or developed enough. It explores why these kids are
stuck, while also critically questioning the diagnostic system and the
labels it gives to children. Finally, it explainshowtohelp develop the
special abilities of kids and how to help them reach their potential.
It concludes with a provocative chapter on future directions in
disabilities, diagnosis, and education to stimulate dialogue among
these fields about the importance of developing abilities instead of
focusing on weaknesses. By helping these bright not broken children
achieve their full potential, all of societywill benefit.