I went to Big Guy's 'Individual Education Plan' meeting yesterday. It was step one in finding him a high school for next year. His difficulties are significant enough that even the ever-stingy city admits he can't be taught in a public school, so it pays for a private school. After Big Guy's IEP packet is approved, the district will send it out to therapeutic schools, who review it and (hopefully) invite us for an interview. Those of you who pray can start to ask now for a good placement. The options are few.
Big Guy is a 2E (twice-exceptional) kid. He is exceptionally bright, and exceptionally limited. The combination of giftedness and disability is not all that unusual; being smart doesn't exempt you from mental illness, physical ailments, or learning disabilities. I know a teen with severe dyslexia who attends one of our city's elite high schools, and another very bright boy with an auditory processing disorder that wreaks havoc with his ability to learn. We have friends whose brilliant kids have eye-popping ADHD and daunting mood disorders.
There's a tendency to assume that the gift balances out the disability. Not so. More often the disability disguises the gift, or simply frustrates the child so much that he starts to think he's stupid. Mel Levine's The Myth of Lazinessis a great introduction to how learning disabilities can limit any child's ability to produce output proportional to his intellectual level. Another helpful resource is The Mislabeled Child by Brock and Fernette Eide, which sifts through various signs and symptoms -- there's a a lot of overlap even for vastly different diagnoses -- to help you understand what kind of learning disability you might be dealing with.
And if you ever have to advocate for your child with a school, pop over to the Wrightslaw web site. They have a wealth of info about how to be effective, including a fantastic example of how to write a letter to administrators. It's useful stuff to know, even if you aren't facing a problem right now, and even if your child doesn't have a disability.