By Marianne Kuzujanakis.
It was with wisdom that SENG’s founding members, including Dr. James T. Webb, established a SENG Professional Advisory Committee shortly after incorporation as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2000. SENG’s mission has always been unique:
“To empower families and communities to guide gifted and talented individuals to reach their goals: intellectually, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.”
It is in this defined empowerment of diverse communities of peoples with the sole goal of supporting gifted and creative individuals that the SENG Professional Advisory Committee holds a key SENG role. In the chaos of pressures upon today’s educational and medical systems, the need for vanquishing gifted myths is even more essential.
But first, let’s put aside once and for all the oft-cited and uninformed question of “Why do gifted individuals need support?” The answer is simple and can be stated in three words: Because they do. Gifted individuals of all ages have at some point in their lives been misunderstood, marginalized and made victims of discrimination whether due to their abilities (or in the case of twice-exceptional individuals, their disabilities and/or masked abilities). The gifted are as much in need of improved understanding and support as any group of special needs individuals.
This need is where the SENG Professional Advisory Committee can help SENG in its outreach by playing a vital role. Formed originally from a group of influential professionals in healthcare and counseling, the SENG Professional Advisory Committee consisted at different times over the years of professionals in internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, neurology, clinical psychology, school psychology, special education, and educational psychology.
Expanding outreach directly via these and other healthcare and education professionals is one of SENG’s many goals. It is an understatement that the complexities of the gifted are not well understood within the healthcare and psychology fields, nor even within much of the educational field. Having an advisory committee within SENG who can reach out to these professional groups is crucial.
I have been proud to serve as Chair of the SENG Professional Advisory Committee, a role I humbly serve with honor. A role established and held since its origin by Dr. James T. Webb with his focused vision “to foster global awareness and programs that promote the healthy development of gifted individuals: children, youth and adults.”
SENG is one, albeit one I hold so dear, of the many parts of the solution. The adage is true that if you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Through the combined efforts of countless people, both in and out of SENG, the world – through fits and starts – may one day become much more aware (and fully accepting) of such gifted-related issues as Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities, developmental asynchrony, existential depression, prodigies, twice-exceptionality, radical acceleration, individualized education, as well as neurodiversity, neuroplasticity, and medical misdiagnosis.
It is through these efforts that one day SENG’s vision of “a world where gifted, talented and creative individuals are supported to build gratifying, meaningful lives and contribute to the well-being of others” may become a DREAM COME TRUE.
Help SENG and the SENG Professional Advisory Committee realize this dream by supporting SENG and its mission, embracing the healthcare and educational professions to join in the solution, and having the wish to one day be part of a world where the words “gifted” and “neurodiversity” can be said without hushed voices.
Marianne Kuzujanakis MD, MPH, is a pediatrician with long-standing interests in parent and clinician education. She is a co-founder of the SENG Misdiagnosis Initiative aiming to increase public and healthcare awareness for giftedness, 2e, and medical misdiagnosis. She received her medical training in Memphis, TN (Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the University of Tennessee Medical Center), more recently receiving an AHRQ Pediatric Health Services Research Program fellowship and master of public health degree in Boston, MA (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston Children’s Hospital). In between, Dr. Kuzujanakis served as a hospitalist, and then as the director of the outpatient department of a children’s teaching hospital. The majority of her medical career has been in primary care practice in Massachusetts, having regularly dedicated a portion of her time as a clinical instructor, both through Harvard Medical School and also as the course director of a local clinician-training program for practicing pediatricians. Presently, Dr. Kuzujanakis is focuses on being the homeschool educator for her gifted teen and being a resource in homeschooling and gifted communities.