Originally published January/February 2017 in Journal of Australian Mensa.
I had the good fortune to meet Alan D. Thompson, coach of gifted families and author of Bright: Seeing superstars, listening to their worlds, and moving out of the way for the first time earlier this year at the AAEGT National Gifted Conference in Sydney. He was there to present a seminar as our Mensa Gifted Children’s Coordinator. I was attending the conference to learn more about how to support our highly gifted teenager.
A few days before, not knowing Alan, and that he would be at the conference, I Googled ‘life coach gifted kids’ and came across Alan’s website, www.lifearchitect.com.au.
I was looking for the next step on how to help our son find his own light and reach his true potential himself with ongoing support. At this point he had come through a challenging time personally in his schooling and was being expertly supported by Michele Juratowitch of www.clearingskies.com.au, a specialist counsellor of gifted children and their families, who continues to support him with his psychosocial needs, as well as study skills and learning strategies.
However, we felt he needed to complement this with an in-depth look to find out where his innate passions and strengths lie, what he wants to offer and how to harness his talents to build his own vision for his future. Most of you will agree, these kids often have a very clear, intense and brilliant sense of themselves and what they are passionate about, but may struggle with articulating how to weave this into their practical lives of home and school—coming up against roadblocks as Alan puts it. This can become a difficult fork in the road for some parents, as sometimes we don’t have the necessary skills and knowledge to help them at this stage. While I believe as their parents we continue to be our children’s most important mentors and teachers, honing incredible talents takes careful and expert guidance. At a timely point, as their parents and carers we need to learn how to get out of the way (my favourite concept from Alan’s book) so they can flex their incredible imaginations and unique take on the world with someone who understands how to guide them expertly: a coach. Just like adults who turn to executive or life coaches to navigate their lives, why not one for our gifted kids. We felt he was ready for a coach now and so were we!
Before we made the decision to approach Alan to coach our family, as mentioned previously, I had looked through his whole website, www.lifearchitect.com.au and particularly enjoyed watching episodes of lifearchitect.tv. As our family has been on the gifted journey for 11 years now, most of the information presented I had discovered through reading multiple books on gifted children, as well as those late night Google episodes we go through when we are desperately trying to find answers about what to do next for these special needs children.
There is so much incredibly good information out there, but Alan has synthesised the very best of this information, as he puts it ‘using clear language delivered in bite-sized videos + bonus curated content and resources.’
Being a highly visual-spatial learner, I was really tuned into this style of presentation. Often very well written information comes from hours of analysing and extracting from very complex information, to make it powerfully simple. Alan has achieved this brilliantly. After watching lifearchitect.tv I intuitively thought it would be a great segue to then read Alan’s book Bright: Seeing superstars, listening to their worlds, and moving out of the way to further my understanding of Alan’s philosophy on how to support and nourish our gifted kids, before we decided whether Alan and our family could find some value by working together. It quickly became clear that this book was written in Alan’s same clear and intelligent voice that I heard on lifearchitect.tv and at the conference. The book really struck a chord with me as a parent.
Every chapter is packed with thought-provoking concepts about bright children, beginning with Alan guiding you through what brightness can look like, the traits of brightness and its sources. But as a parent, the most brilliant part of this well-researched book is at the end of each chapter where there is a section called ‘Take it further’. Rather than reading a book cover to cover, then thinking about it, I found myself stopping to answer each of the questions as a way to deepen my understanding of what I had just read. This really excited my conscientious spirit. We had thinking work to discuss!
I couldn’t just passively read the book without going deeper into the learning. Also, alongside there are questions for your kids, so you can begin the conversation together immediately. You can also choose to check out resources either visually, as audio or reading material. This is the magic of how Alan has planned this book for families. It is proactive and challenging and delicious fare for gifted families!
There are many wonderful reviews you can read in the chapter ‘Praise for Bright’ that give you an extensive picture of how professionals, teachers and parents really feel about Alan’s book and that they deeply respect his full intentions to have a real and sustained impact on the lives of gifted families; children and adults included.
So I felt it could be useful for parents and carers reading this article to share a few of my own personal reflections on some of the questions from ‘Take it further’ as a way to give you ideas for reflection about your own gifted families.
Coaching question from Bright: What interests you about brightness?
My reflection/insight: I see brightness as the centre to greater possibilities. A starting point. I believe brightness needs to be nurtured and developed to really bring out the ‘shine’ in a person.
Coaching question from Bright: How committed are you to exploring the world of brightness?
My reflection/insight: We have to be committed to exploring the area of brightness, as every day our children challenge us, themselves and each other with their ideas. There is a thirst to learn that is innate and we feel a great responsibility to learn to listen to them deeply and help them to develop the skills to bring their ideas to fruition.
Coaching question from Bright: How should we help a child use their advanced brain?
My reflection/insight: We want to help our children use their advanced brains to follow their passions, by giving them access to mentors, encouraging perseverance and joy from their passions. By listening to their dreams and guiding them to be open to possibilities.
Coaching question from Bright: What are gifted children’s greatest strengths?
My reflection/insight: They have a voice and opinions. They have a deep love and affection for others. They have advanced verbal expression and big imaginations and like to be heard! They have great musicality and artistic expression. They love ideas. They appreciate a wacky sense of humour. They have so much to give to the world.
This quote that Alan cites in Bright from American violin instructor and gifted teacher Dorothy Delay is so profoundly simple and resonated so strongly with me as the foundational approach to supporting our bright children: ‘Kids become what you tell them they are.’
We are not perfect, nor should we be, but if we can become aware of this message whilst raising all our kids we are a long way to giving them the unconditional love and support that will ultimately help them to reach their own ‘shiny selves’.
I feel we can own brightness every day by always trying to find solutions to improve and enrich our family learning. Learning can be a cornerstone to happiness, especially for insatiable learners. If we can grasp that bright children need to be ‘living up to speed’, then we naturally find ways to find out more about their strengths, needs and values. As parents and carers we can teach so much of this on a daily level, but the specialised wisdom and authentic voice that Alan shares in Bright is really exciting and challenging to take your family through while also being full of heart.
This is one of those books you can return to. No matter what stage your family is at with owning brightness, I encourage you to give Bright a go.
Bright: Seeing superstars, listening to their worlds, and moving out of the way by Alan D. Thompson is available from lifearchitect.com.au/bright or www.amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle editions.
Katie Ravich is an Australian fine artist living and working in Sydney. She is also the parent of an Australian Mensan boy. She specialises in oil paintings of micro-landscapes that uncover nature’s rich language of texture, colour and form. Katie’s work brings forth an up-close, detailed view of nature, magnified to reveal delicate and intricate forms. She loves to tell stories through her paintings that give viewers pause for reflection of previously unnoticed beauty. For more info, see www.katieravich.com.