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James T. Webb: Events in the Netherlands

Jun 28, 2017 by

An Interview with James T. Webb: Events in the Netherlands

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1)            Jim, I understand you have just returned from the Netherlands. Tell us about your adventures there and events transpiring there.

My Netherlands trip was exciting and stimulating. There were two main events—a SENG Model Parent Group Training, and the Novilo Conference, and in both of these I was impressed greatly with the depth of knowledge and innovative approaches being used in the Netherlands for gifted children and adults.

In the first event, I helped to train educators and counselors from across Holland in how to establish and conduct SENG Model Parent Groups (http://sengifted.org/smpg-facilitator-training/). The main organizers of this were Desirée Houkema, Albert Kaput, and Chantal Woltring, all Netherlanders who had received SMPG training at last year’s SENG Conference in Williamsburg, VA.

This event was the first time that SMPG training has been done in Europe, and the enthusiasm, group support, and organization was amazing. The training was done in English, but the practice groups were in Dutch, and it worked wonderfully! The concerns and issues for parents are largely the same across countries, and these support groups for parents are now ongoing in various parts of the Netherlands.

I am sure these SENG groups will make a difference to many families.

Because of international interest in social and emotional needs of gifted children and adults, SENG has begun an outreach to Europe and other parts of the world. This is a recognition that the issues for gifted and talented children and adults are not just issues in our country; they are worldwide. To help with this, SENG has appointed Femke Hovinga, who lives in the Netherlands, as the official European representative for SENG, and she has been in touch with persons from other European countries who are concerned with social and emotional needs of gifted children and adults.

Femke also organized the Novilo conference (www.novilo.nl/congres), which focused on underachievement and social and emotional issues. It was held near Utrecht, where I presented, as did Dr. Maureen Neihart, Dr. Claire Hughes, and Tijl Koenderink. It was a truly excellent and high quality conference, with persons coming from Belgium, Germany, France, and Switzerland, as well as the Netherlands.

In addition to speaking at the conference, I met with several professionals who are quite interested in the SENG Misdiagnosis Initiative

(http://sengifted.org/programs/misdiagnosis-initiative/) , and who want to carry it on into Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Misdiagnosis and 2e are concerns in these countries as well, and very few psychologists, physicians, or counselors have received training about gifted children and adults. The president of the national parents’ group in Germany attended the conference, and I was able to spend a good amount of time with her.

It appears that SENG is off to a good start in its European outreach!

2)            I hear that Adrienne Van Den Bos has just interviewed you. What did you discuss?

I had not met Adrienne in person before the conference. We had only corresponded via email. She had reached out to me because of her interest in misdiagnosis of gifted children and adults, and her particular interest in existential depression.

Adrienne, who counsels gifted adults, made a special trip from Njmegen to Driebergen (where the conference was being held) to meet with me and to interview me for the online newsletter that she writes as part of her professional practice with gifted adults. I found her to be an excellent interviewer, as well as a fascinating person. She wanted to know about my background, and more particularly why I have been so passionate in the field for so many years.

Needless to say, it was a trip down memory lane, often in a very personal way. I talked with her about things I don’t usually bring up in professional settings.

3)            What were the questions or topics that you were most asked about?  What were the main concerns?

Most of the questions Adrienne asked were about why I have such a “fire in my belly” about social and emotional needs of gifted children and adults. Where in my personal background did that passion come from? So often, people ask you about your academic and professional experiences; few ask about events in your own life.

Adrienne also inquired why I focused on existential issues, and how that had arisen for me. From there, we talked about how my experiences had evolved into writing the book, Searching for Meaning: Idealism, Bright Minds, Disillusionment, and Hope, and how through that book I am trying to pay forward an old debt to some people who were so wonderfully important in my life.

If folks want to read the interview, it is available to be downloaded at http://www.greatpotentialpress.com/where-the-fire-in-my-belly-comes-from

4)            Have things changed over the last ten years? Are the social emotional concerns the same or have they differed?

Regrettably, the concerns are largely the same as they have been for many years—idealism, intensity, sensitivity, finding peers, strong will that is misunderstood, misdiagnoses, perfectionism, disillusionment, etc.

I do believe, however, that these issues have been made worse in the last few years due to the world situation and our current political climate. It is difficult to not become disillusioned, to maintain idealism in today’s world, and to believe that you can make a difference for the better.

So much of our current social and political climate is filled with distortions, lies, meanness, and self-centeredness. Even in our educational system, as well as in much of social interchange, conformity, fitting in, and mediocrity are more valued than excellence, innovation, and creativity, particularly if these achievements somehow challenge or disrupt the comfortable (and often non-thinking) status quo at home, school, or in society.

5)            Jim, an anonymous source has indicated to me that there is some pending award that you are about to receive.  I don’t want to recuse myself, so can you share any information about this?

No need to recuse yourself. Yes, I was recently notified that I had been chosen as the person of SIGnificance for 2017 by the National Society for the Gifted and Talented. I am very honored and humbled by this award since, in their view, it is an “opportunity to highlight someone whose work exemplifies an essential aspect of our SIG (Summer Institute for the Gifted) programs.” The award will be announced in August or September 2017, and some additional recognition given during the NAGC convention in Charlotte, NC, in November.

6)            Where can parents and teachers get more information about your very important work?

Since my work is somewhat scattered, perhaps the best suggestion would be for them to just do an Internet search. I have written a few books that they could find there. The books that perhaps I am most known for are Guiding the Gifted Child (1982), Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults (2004; 2016), A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children (2006), and Searching for Meaning (2013). Most of the articles I have written are available either on the SENG website (www.sengifted.org) or on the Great Potential Press website (www.greatpotentialpress.com).

7)            Do you have a web site that teachers and parents can get more information?

Yes, the best website would be www.greatpotentialpress.com, which is the publishing company that I started after I “retired” from being a university professor.

8) What have I neglected to ask?

I think you have covered it well.

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