Annette Revel Sheely
interview by Douglas Eby
Annette Revel Sheely, M.A., is a staff member
of the Gifted
Development Center. Her areas of interest include the emotional and
needs of gifted children, adolescents, and adults; the special issues
gifted girls and the highly gifted.
Referring to the Gifted Women Forum and associated message
America Online, Sheely says, "the first thing I loved was seeing people
discovering the place, and getting excited about it and saying 'Oh, my
God, that's me. I never knew before why I was so different.' I love
"The other thing is seeing certain names over and over again, and beginning to see personalities coming across, who's an ally of who, and who's a little more assertive. It reminds me of an email loop I'm on that's mostly for parents of profoundly gifted children, but also some professionals, talking about HG (highly gifted) and PG (profoundly gifted) children.
"Someone recently wrote in to the loop that they feel that
are profoundly gifted have more spiritual and psychic sensitivities. So
I asked if anyone would be willing to share more about this, and one by
one people emailed me to share these amazing stories.
"And I thought what a unique forum this is; it's so hard to get people to open up about things like this, but with email, because you're not there, looking at the person face to face, sometimes it's so much easier to confide things. And it's so immediate and that's also exciting."
The Gifted Development Center in Denver and Boulder, Colorado, focuses primarily on children. Sheely notes the youngest client she has worked with was four years old.
"I do love working with children; it's very rewarding," she says. "But I value my adult clientele, because I find that a lot more stimulating. I love those crisp moments in counseling and therapy where you feel electricity in the room, and you know something has shifted and something is going to change for that person. I experience that with adults, and not with children, with whom it's much more gentle. It's much more play therapy, and trying to guide them.
"Working with teenagers I find exciting in its own way, because it's such a critical time, and they're turning away from the parents, so I feel it almost an honor to be there at this critical time, someone they trust and their parents trust to help keep this person growing in a healthy way. I don't mean to get too "out there", but in some ways it makes me think of more primitive times, where a spiritual leader or shaman would help someone with their rite of passage. Sometimes it kind of feels like that.
"A number of people come to the center to get their children tested primarily to see if placement in a gifted school would be appropriate. Besides doing intelligence and achievement tests, we also assess the child's self perception.
"And I see some gifted children who are very unhappy, and have low self-esteem as a result of being so different from their age peers and classmates. Their classmates don't 'get' their jokes, and don't understand their vocabulary, so either they're ignored as if they don't exist, or they're actually chastised for being intelligent.
"Also what I've seen, which I think is really sad, is that rather than the child going to school and being stimulated and challenged, it often happens they 'dumb down' to fit in with other kids, or they can go the other way and become sort of 'teacher's pet'. The teacher recognizes their ability, and sees they aren't struggling like everyone else, so they become a junior teacher, and have to go around and help everybody. And that's not fair.
"One thing we recommend is that parents get their gifted children into a program where they can be surrounded by true peers, that is to say, children who are not only their same age but same ability. Another thing for gifted children to do is read the biographies of eminent people.
"And even if they don't have mentors in their area, now, with the internet, mentoring relationships can take on a whole new format. There are internet sites like "Ask a Scientist" where someone can go and ask a question they can't get answered by their teacher. And also you can do so much research on the internet in a particular field of interest, and get names and addresses of people to contact.
"In terms of my own growth, I know there have been periods of my life where either I didn't understand my giftedness, or was hiding it to fit in. I know there were definitely periods when I questioned whether I was even less intelligent than most people because I could look at something and someone else could look at it and we would not come up with the same conclusion or have the same ideas, so I'd begin to think 'Well, more people are doing it this way, so what's wrong with me?'
"I had been in some gifted classes in school, but in some ways I didn't like them, like some math courses, because I don't think I was prepared for it and it wasn't a subject of interest to me, and it felt really intimidating to me. And I didn't feel I fit in with the people; I saw myself as more social, and I saw the people in the class as being quite introverted, and willing to stand out.
"I don't like to use the term 'nerd' but that's how I saw them at the time, in junior high. And I just thought 'This is not for me' so I backed out and wanted to be in normal classes, yet I found that boring and easy. So it was a real challenge, finding a place where I fit in.
"I had a tendency to be the teacher's helper. It was easy for
both my parents were teachers, so my parents and teachers joked that it
was in the genes- it seemed cute at the time. But as I look back on it
now, I wish now I had a class that felt stimulating and challenging.
"College was better, but I had worked full time for a while after high school, so college was a slow and delayed experience for me. I got my B.A. when I was 30, but it was heaven; grad school was the closest thing to ideal I'd ever had, in terms of a stimulating academic environment.
"People were finally doing critical thinking. It was like, now that you have these intellectual tools, what do you make of this subject? What original thought can you create? That's what I'd been waiting for my whole life, so that was really exciting.
And now, working at the Gifted Development Center, I have found my "niche. Researching giftedness and counseling gifted people of all ages is the work that I was born to do. I find it satisfying in a deep, nurturing way and it also stimulates me intellectually."
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Annette Revel Sheely, M.A.
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related Talent Development
Resources pages :
Adults blog gifted/talented/high ability
intensity / sensitivity resources : articles sites books
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