By Brianna Safe
Brianna has worked at IEA since 2011 and with gifted students since 2009. She graduated from Biola University with her BA in Humanities and English and is particularly interested in how literary art can inform issues in human psychology about how individuals conceive of themselves and make decisions.
The word “normal” is often casually batted across the field of developmental psychology, and I shudder at the implicit limitations of such a word. Sure, “normal” is a practical point of reference for understanding how children grow, in what ways and at what ages. When used descriptively, it can be a useful tool for seeing general patterns of physical, cognitive, and emotional development. The harm seems to come when we choose, often without realizing, to see normative development through a prescriptive lens. To prescribe “normal” as the measure of a healthy, happy child may confine us to a definition too narrow to allow the perspective that each child is a unique instantiation of life, and therefore will develop in his or her own unique way.
For those parenting a child at either end of the bell curve, the normalcy lens can cause more trouble than not. Any parent of a gifted or special needs child (or in some cases, the twice-exceptional child) can attest to the fact that, if normal is the rule, their child is indeed the exception. For these parents, it can be a challenge to let go of normative expectations and accept their child’s distinctive development.