“They think you are a computer connected to the internet”
Jordi Arce is twelve years old and is an enthusiastic conversationalist. The funniest part of the chat we have with him, however, comes at the end, when we ask him about his hobbies and he tells us about the chickens he raises with his grandmother. "They are like dogs with feathers, very affectionate," he says. His, he clarifies, has nothing to do with the recent fondness of celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston or Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for these animals. Once this point is clarified, he in an instant enlightens us about the character of the members of his chicken coop, but also about the breed of each one or even about the longevity of a rooster that "is not genetically modified".
Jordi's fondness for chickens helps to get an idea of his way of approaching life and knowledge. At a year and a half he was already writing his name and at two his command of language left adults amazed. Just when he turned six, a specialist (private) psychologist performed the tests that showed that he had high abilitiesdespite the fact that the time when detection is usually made is from 3rd grade onwards. His father, Enrique, remembers that "they didn't know whether to congratulate us or offer their condolences."
At the Escola Mas Clariana in Cambrils, where he was very pleased, the students of two courses go together. Thus, when he started in the first year, he did well, but in the second he had a "very bad" time. In third grade they decided to 'speed it up', that is, instead of fourth grade, he went to fifth grade.
So far, everything is within the script of what, not without effort, some families of children with high abilities tend to achieve. In the case of Jordi, the difference is that they accelerated him again, this time in ESO. From first he went to third, where he is now, after a process with a lot of bureaucracy.
Jordi admits that he continues to get bored in class. He did not speak to his colleagues from the outset about his condition, but they discovered it through a wording in which he had to put his year of birth and his "did not match." He studies at the Col·legi Cardenal Vidal i Barraquer and feels good in class. They voted him sub-delegate and he has a very nice group of friends who gave him two ducks for his birthday.
We ask him what really interests him and he answers that "geopolitics, geostrategy, the economy...". The day we met, his classmates were waiting to see who Luis Enrique would invite to the World Cup in Qatar. He was only interested in the implications of the collapse of the Kherson bridge in the Ukraine and the withdrawal of the Russian army.
When he explains it, his mother acknowledges his great concern: "That your son lives in a world where they do not understand him, where he cannot share his jarred meals with others." Not counting his intensity, "because you could be talking about the same thing from here to Portugal without stopping."
A common myth is that high abilities guarantee school success.
Jordi says that when it is known that he has high capacities, they ask him to calculate large numbers, "the fact that they think you are a calculator is very typical," he says.. Or they ask you to spit out all kinds of data. «They think that I am like a computer connected to the internet, as if I have all the answers. What they do not notice, he says, is that despite his abilities, those knowledge and skills did not get there by osmosis, he had to learn.
Jordan is a member of Athena, Association for the High Abilities of Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebrean entity that brings together 115 families. At its beginnings in 2016 when they got together to start it up, there were only five of them.
Its president is Mónica Casellas, who is also a doctor in education, associate professor at the URV, pedagogue and speech therapist. She explains that cases like Jordi's, with double acceleration, are unusual. In fact, his is the only one they have in the entity.
Remember, of course, that if there are great nuances in high capacities (there are students where the aptitude is only in one area of knowledge) it must also be taken into account that each student is a world. If, for example, the student is not seen as mature from a social point of view, it is not recommended.
You also have to take into account the interests of the child or adolescent. There are some who decide not to pass class to stay with their group. "They want to have friends, like everyone else, although at times they isolate themselves or are isolated for their own interests." In fact, in the entity they organize workshops on topics that motivate them and they meet very well. On Friday, without going any further, they had one on electromagnetism.
These students fall into the group of students with Specific Educational Support Needs (NESE), so they have the right to an individualized plan. This is not easy in a system with so many students. In some cases, if you just choose to give them more work, "we only make the children feel that it is a punishment."
However, there are schools where they give solutions that also benefit the whole class. He gives the example of a school where these students are allowed to do multidisciplinary projects on topics of interest to which other students can join.
Casellas acknowledges that in a short time the sensitivity of teachers and educational centers has changed a lot for the better and they are getting closer to asking them for information. In addition, future teachers are very interested in training. The association, in fact, organizes free talks for them. Jordi's family confirms this: "We continually answer student surveys," they point out.
The processes, however, to evaluate these children continue to be long. On the one hand, most families end up turning to private psychologists for detection, "families look for answers everywhere." On the other hand, schools tend to wait and see how things evolve and 'acceleration' is a measure that usually takes two or three years to work out. The risk is that, paradoxically, "and that is another myth", even if they are students with great ability, they end up failing or dropping out, he warns.
me What are High Intellectual Abilities? They are people who present quantitatively and qualitatively significantly superior intellectual characteristics compared to the majority of the population in one, several or all areas of aptitude, whatever their age.
me How does the family usually detect them? Usually the family is the first to identify that their son or daughter may be different and may have advanced or more developed abilities in the first years of life and as they grow older. Because he shows a lot of curiosity, he quickly learns to speak, read and even write. He has a very good memory and shows interest in topics and things unusual for his age.
me Is giftedness the same as talent? Giftedness and talents, both types are considered AC. High intellectual abilities cover a wide range of categories, including: gifted children, talented children (simple talents and complex talents) and precocious children. Source: Athena Association
Increasingly, future teachers are interested in training in these topics