Content note: This essay discusses death

These are only my personal views.

I still see a lot of “gifted” labeling in the school system, along with a conversation that is frustratingly narrow, because gifted labels cause harm—both to the ability of “gifted” disabled children to get support, as well as to those without the gifted labels.

My deceased brother was labeled as gifted, and that label played a direct role in denying him the support he very much needed while he was alive: He was always expected to “use” his giftedness in Area A to “rise above” in Area B. The problem, is that when you have uneven or “spiky” abilities, as he did, being “good” in Area A actually means less than zero about what you can and can’t do in Area B.

I wish there was a way to make all of this truly clear without coming after some people’s sacred cow—the gifted label—but there is not.

I too was labeled gifted as a child. When I finally went for autism testing as an adult (so that I could get competent, autistic-informed PTSD treatment; I was striking out on that count sans formal autism diagnosis), I informed the tester that I had been labeled gifted. She was flummoxed.

I emphasize “flummoxed” because I miss some non-autistic reactions, especially doctor ones, but her reaction was very very clear. Some doubt even flashed across her face, doubt as to whether I could be lying, or exaggerating.

Why? Because, well, I had not tested as “gifted” as an adult. I tested as very spiky: over 90th-percentile in some areas and single digits in others.

This made for an IQ and testing mechanism that didn’t know what to do with me, and sure as h*ll wasn’t going to label me as an impressive specimen now. In fact it refused to assign me an IQ label at all due to the “significant discrepancy” in my sub-scores. As if I’d been trying to game the test mechanism with my spiky brain.

But my brain is just my brain. And as cool as it is to think that my brain “broke” IQ, IQ ain’t ever going to examine itself and change on its own.

My deceased brother also tested as having a “high” IQ, and he is f*cking dead. Sorry to keep playing the dead brother card, but if it wasn’t for his “high” IQ and associated gifted label, he may have gotten some of the supports he needed, instead of being called lazy and having his disabilities erased.

My child, also quite spiky, has not been labeled gifted and likely will not be, and I wish to be able to talk about this in disability spaces as the f*cking relief that it is. She has an IEP, and it is in no way shape or form a “gifted” IEP. I doubt she would cooperate with IQ testing if it was attempted, and I certainly do not plan to consent to such testing as her parent. She will face barriers, sure—and has—but at least we are learning the areas she needs support and how to provide it.

That is what I want. Not imaginary labels that are projections of fantasies and “better than thou” posturing, which is only used to obfuscate and cause pain.

F*ck IQ. F*ck “gifted.” F*ck ALL the harm they’ve done and continue to do to disabled communities.

Again, my personal views only.

Image with a blue background featuring a Mexican child with long wavy black hair, wearing a green graduation gown and cap, smiling widely with, in neon photorealistic style but with AI image generator-garbled teeth.
A perfect child. Image by DALL-E.