Touched by an Angel

Gifted children are otherworldly, Linda Silverman says. The challenge is helping them thrive here on earth.

Silverman found a sponsor to help pay the Chapmans' household expenses; she introduced them to other gifted advocates. "She's gone way beyond the call of duty," Elizabeth says. "She's been a huge help. She keeps things in perspective. She shines a whole new light on things."

On his Web site, Justin has dedicated a song to Silverman: "Because You Loved Me." The site includes photos of them jumping on a trampoline, riding in a wagon, laughing their heads off. When he has nightmares, he often discusses them with Silverman first, Elizabeth second. And when he has a particularly difficult problem to unravel, he seeks Silverman's advice.

"She never tells him what he should do," Elizabeth says. "She asks the right questions in the right way so he is able to find his own solutions."

Jay Bevenour
Practice what you teach: Linda Silverman has devoted her life to gifted kids.
Practice what you teach: Linda Silverman has devoted her life to gifted kids.

Silverman introduced Justin to Harry Potter, and today his bedroom is crammed with Harry Potter posters, puzzles, bedspreads and pillowcases. "He identifies with Harry Potter," Elizabeth says. "He says people stare at Harry Potter because of the scar on his forehead, and everyone stares at him because of what he's doing."

For her part, Silverman keeps everything Justin has given her: a batch of cookies that spells "Thanks," a Christmas book, those e-mails.

Elizabeth says Silverman's friendship with Justin is just another example of how she supports gifted children with her entire "body and soul." But Silverman has an even simpler explanation: "We love each other."

As another school year begins, Linda Silverman's phone has been ringing off the hook. She's testing more and more children, speaking her mind as undiplomatically as ever.

Last spring, eleven-year-old Julia Musser was dropped midway through a course at Red Rocks Community College because she was too young -- even though the sixth-grader, who reads at college level, had spoken to the instructor. School authorities invoked a state law prohibiting students under sixteen from enrolling at a community college.

"That's blatant age discrimination," Silverman says. "The college itself has a policy saying it cannot discriminate based upon age. We are more willing to hold on to our rules than to look at individual differences and really see what an individual child needs. Why don't we value and nurture our most advanced children? Why do we continuously keep them down? That's the great mystery."

She continues to seek her own answers. Recently, she asked one boy to close his eyes, contact his higher self and contemplate an age when he might be ready for college. The boy thought a moment, shook his head and told her that all he could see was a number twelve. According to his evaluations, that might be just the right age. "I'm surprising myself," Silverman says. "Before, I never would have thought to do that. Now I'm beginning to think that if you ask these children, they know their own answers."

Silverman is also reaching out more to adults. Not long ago, a man arrived at her office seeking advice. A gifted child who'd been rushed from grade to grade, he was still deeply troubled by the experience. He told Silverman he'd spent his life believing there was something terribly wrong with him.

Silverman listened quietly to the man, who had a profound spiritual awareness. Then she told him she could see nothing wrong with him at all -- in fact, she could only see something terribly right. And the man replied: "Thank you for existing. It has taken me forty years to find someone who can understand all that I am. Now I don't feel so alone."

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Linda Silverman is a joke. It boggles the mind that she retains any credibility after the fiasco with Justin Chapman.