Guest Author - Lorel Shea
Infinity and Zebra Stripes is a very personal account of a family's struggle to find an appropriate educational situation for their two exceptionally gifted children. Mom Wendy Skinner shares her parenting joys and challenges with a candid and often humorous delivery. Topics touched on include intelligence and achievement testing, perfectionism, the reluctant writer, depression and anxiety, sensitivities, intense interests, and social relationships.
The writing is very honest and gifted anecdotes ring true. Seven year old Ben's exploration of the concept of infinity is a wonderful illustration of the profound thoughts that can occupy gifted young minds. Jillian's conversations on God and Santa Claus show extremely high levels of curiosity and inference. A particularly poignant piece concerns Wendy's reaction upon hearing that her young son is way beyond the gifted threshold. The professional test administrator discloses where Ben falls on the gifted spectrum, and Wendy reacts physically. She relates, “ My eyes and breath were caught and frozen by this statement. It was as if I had a sudden shock. I was aware of a solid thumping beneath my ribs.” Many parents of highly to profoundly gifted children seem to share this feeling of panic, with thoughts spinning off into worries about how the child will ever be educated, make friends, or find a compatible mate.
Statistics put children like the Skinners in the top tenth of one percent, which means it's very unlikely they will encounter a true peer in their classroom or their neighborhood. It's no wonder that some parents describe coming to terms with the label of highly gifted plus as similar to working through the stages of grief. Children this gifted do indeed have special needs.
Skinner's open manner and focus on educational teamwork eventually lead to successful full grade acceleration for son Ben and daughter Jillian. Parents currently struggling with advocacy for their own gifted learners may find Skinner's example encouraging and informative. Her emphasis seems to be on polite persistence and an assumption that teachers and administrators share the common goal of finding the best situation for each individual student.
The book ends with an up-to-date list of terrific parent resources. Highly recommended!