I've been promising to talk about the book that's coming out this fall from Free Spirit Publishing. I've heard back from Free Spirit that it's okay to put the cover up here, so it's time. My understanding is that the book's scheduled to be released in September 2007.
The name of the book is High IQ Kids: Collected Insights, Information, and Stories from the Experts, and it's edited by Kiesa Kay, Deborah Robson (me), and Judy Fort Brenneman. It took a long time to put the book together. The publishing house that decided to take a chance on it, after many others had said they thought it would be a great book but not one they could publish, is the perfect publisher to be issuing it and the people there are wonderful to work with.
So here's the cover:
That boy looks like what all three editors (and many of the contributors) wish our kids had looked like in school. Our kids didn't. We put the book together so maybe other people's similar kids will look like that. We've asked the press if there might be a similar photo of a girl elsewhere on the outside of the book—maybe the spine, since so many books are displayed spine-out. Our own kids, whose experiences motivated the creation of this book, are 50/50 split between boys and girls.
A quick overview of how this book came together
I wish I knew where I'd picked up the concept that I'm about to mention, which has helped me a great deal over the past couple of decades, but I don't. I probably came across it thirteen or fourteen years ago, when I was scrambling to learn what I needed to know about high-IQ kids, because my parenting responsibilities suddenly required this type of information on an emergency basis. The idea stuck because it's served as a compass point ever since.
The concept is that there is an “optimal” IQ, say between 100 and 145, with which people function easily and well in contemporary society. The idea is that people with IQs between 115 and 144 are smart enough to do anything they want but aren't so smart that they have trouble fitting in.
I just had to look up the latter set of numbers in the manuscript of High IQ Kids. I don't know all that much about IQ stuff, although I probably know more than most people because I've had to learn.
Personally, I view IQ like height: some people have more, some less. Some people need to use step stools while others bump their heads on doorways unless they duck. IQ is an arbitrary measurement, just like height is. It has nothing to do with the spirit inside. Height might have something to do with which rides you're allowed on at an amusement park like Elitch Gardens, and IQ might have something to do with which activities you enjoy most, but neither of these even remotely describes the entirety of a person or a life.
The helpful idea that I came across, though, is that children with IQs of 145 and up don't just have an extra dose of the same thinking ability that their peers have. They think differently. They may have trouble understanding, and being understood by, their age-mates—and their teachers and their parents, and the psychologists who are often called in to help everyone get along. Like extremes of height, extremes of IQ make a profound difference in daily living until you learn how to navigate in your particular vessel.
Most discussions of IQ don't differentiate between the experiences of people at different points above a certain IQ level (whatever that is). From X on up (choose a number), all is assumed to be peachy.
Many high-IQ kids don't appear to be smarter than average because for many of them the extra IQ points come bundled with learning challenges: for example, an inability to remember math facts, or cerebral palsy severe enough to prevent speech, or Tourette syndrome, or ADHD (I'm skipping a digression here on ADHD and intelligence), or a combination of these and other factors.
About fourteen years ago, I found myself struggling to get my brain around all this stuff while in crisis. One of the resource people I discovered was Marlo Rice, a psychologist who specializes in high-IQ kids and also has helped advocate for individual students' needs in the schools. A few years later, because she knew I'd been engaged for a while in a self-directed crash course in parenting a high-IQ kid, Marlo gave my name and phone number to Kiesa Kay, who was dealing with similar issues for her children, who were younger than mine. In the middle of this, I also met, and began to work on freelance jobs with, Judy Fort Brenneman. On behalf of her son (mid-range in age between Kiesa's kids and my child), Judy was paddling her own canoe upstream on the gifted/learning-different river.
Kiesa, Judy, and I all came out of our experiences with a strong desire to help other parents avoid some of the pain, frustration, and expense that we and our children had encountered.
Kiesa's first project to put this into action was an anthology she edited on “twice-exceptional” kids (gifted and learning-different), called Uniquely Gifted. She asked me to contribute an essay.
Then Kiesa and Annette Sheely began assembling another anthology, this one on high-IQ kids (those above 145 IQ). Judy and I first got involved as contributors to this work, and later as co-editors with Kiesa while Annette devoted more time to her counseling practice and her own incipient parenting.
We've been passing the responsibilities for this project back and forth for a number of years. Now we finally have a book that's on its way to being published . . . on its way to doing the work we want it to do.
It's the one book we wish we had been able to consult while we were doing our best to raise our kids. It contains personal stories that are funny, heartbreaking, and sometimes both, as well as academic papers that discuss researchers' studies and insights. It's as quirky and wide-ranging as the experience of being one of the adults in a high-IQ kid's life.
First the people at Free Spirit said, “This book willl need a different title,” and we said, “Sure. That's fine. We aren't attached to the one on the manuscript, but it's the best we could come up with over the years.”
They went into a huddle and then said they couldn't come up with anything better, either.
They did suggest a variation on the subtitle, which we had phrased as something like “for adults who care.” They shifted this to “from the experts.”
Because I'm a contributor to the volume, as well as an editor, I gather that I'm being included with the “experts.”
I think of an expert as someone who knows a great deal of what there is to know about a topic . . . therefore, not me. I'm always aware of how much I don't know about any given subject.
So I've looked up the word expert. I seem to have greater expectations of someone to whom the word is applied than the dictionary does.
The American Heritage Dictionary gives this definition for the noun form: “A person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject.” Here's what it says about the adjective form: “Having, involving, or demonstrating great skill, dexterity, or knowledge as the result of experience or training.”
The meaning of great is open for debate, but on the subject of raising a high-IQ kid (and a couple of other topics), I do have some experience that seems to be helpful to others. I guess the word applies, although I still don't accept it comfortably.
However I'll accept easily that all of the contributors to this book are sharing their hard-earned knowledge, acquired as a result of experience, training, or both. I'm one of those contributors. And I'll accept that it's the right subtitle for this book.
Are we there yet?
High IQ Kids is a big book—about 550 manuscript pages, which will be fewer pages when it's typeset but there's no changing the fact that it's approximately 124,000 words, including the short extra list of books Judy and I put together on Wednesday night for the reference section, at the in-house editor's request.
I'll be so glad to see this as a real, useful book that's out in the world, available to help parents, teachers, counselors, and others involved with high-IQ kids' lives, so the kids themselves can figure out how to get through doorways without bruising themselves or others.
Although we've been through the acquisition-level editing, we've still got in-house copy editing, proofreading, and indexing to manage over the next couple of months before this book goes to the printer.
But at the moment, it's off our desks and on someone else's! YAY!
Free Spirit Publishing
Free Spirit Publishing, founded by Judy Galbraith, is a strong, well-focused, independent publishing house. Several of its early titles helped the editors of the new book stay sane (or as sane as we did stay). Among those books are The Gifted Kids Survival Guide (both versions: the one for under-10s and the one for teenagers) and The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids.
It's nice to think that with our own book we are now able to contribute to the ongoing dialogue and to support the next generation of parents and kids.