Pleading the Pink Slipper

Image Jo Freitag

Image Jo Freitag

“You remember how Wistful Black Dog said I should blame forgetting to acknowledge the Psych Owl Ogist in the presentation on my learning difficulties” said Sprite
“He said that I should Plead the Pink Slipper. What did he mean by that?”

Dr Ed Needs, the Education Consultant, has given recommendations for Sprite’s education using the Feetspeak and De Bono’s 6 Action Shoes method of planning.

It includes opportunities for her to be accelerated in some subjects (do the most sensible thing brown brogues), to undertake research projects in her areas of passionate interest (grey sneakers) to have time with a mentor (purple riding boots) and to participate in some formal gifted withdrawal programs (blue formal shoes) at the same time as she receives the support she needs for her areas of weakness (the plaster cast and other aids) and the social/emotional and pastoral care issues will be addressed (pink slippers)

This means sometimes using Combinations of the De Bono 6 Action Shoes and Sprite wearing a different type of shoe on each foot. Sometimes she wears a Blue Formal shoe or a Grey Sneaker on her right foot and a Pink Slipper on her left foot.

Pink Slipper action planning leads to programs which take into consideration doing what is caring and compassionate and paying attention to feelings and sensitivities.
The possible Pink Slipper programs for Sprite could include programs that focus on social / emotional needs, pastoral and spiritual care and coping strategies. They could also be service clubs, environmental concern groups and fundraising programs.
Some of the programs are very helpful and necessary as support programs but most of them do not actually offer curriculum content.
The pink slippers could also represent special provisions such as additional time to complete a task or dictating to a scribe.

Sprite loves her De Bono 6 Actions Shoes Pink Slippers and has several pairs of them. She keeps a pair at school and has some at home. But she is quite self conscious about wearing just one pink slipper.

Sprite’s Can Do Adjustable Velcro strap sandals are not part of the De Bono 6 Action Shoes set but they provide the necessary adaptability and flexibility. Sprite likes the Can Do Sandals because they allow her to fit in and hide her difficulties so that she appears to be an average student.


Image Jo Freitag


There are some times that Sprite cannot cope with wearing two Blue Formal Shoes, two Grey Sneakers or even two Can Do Adjustable Sandals and needs to wear a pink slipper on her left foot.

There are times when wearing one pink slipper is obviously the wisest and most suitable choice; for example when she needs the provisions and care of the Pink Slipper programs in order to be able to master the challenges of Blue Formal Shoes or Grey Sneaker Programs.
Sometimes one Pink Slipper is actually part of the modifications recommended by Dr Ed Needs using the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. method


Image Jo Freitag


Sometimes Sprite decides herself that she will ignore her embarrassment and wear one pink slipper.
At times it is because she rightly knows that she will not be able to manage without it.
She will often wear one pink slipper when going into a new program or class as an indication to the teacher that she may not be able to manage all the formal requirements and may need modifications

On other occasions it is her perfectionism and anxiety that prompt her to wear one pink slipper so that she has an ready-made excuse if her performance is not up to expectations..

At times she just wants to avoid taking risks, challenges, boring tasks or difficult situations and wears one pink slipper to garner sympathy and claim exemption. I call that Pleading the Pink Slipper.

Because Sprite’s intelligence allows her to compensate for her learning difficulties she does not appear to need any extra provisions or remediation.  It is sometimes difficult to tell whether Sprite is ‘Pleading the Pink Slipper’ and it can cause misunderstandings with her teachers. She has been accused of faking.
It is something that Sprite wrestles with too. Imposter syndrome can kick in and make her feel that maybe she is not really gifted. If she really were gifted maybe she should not need any extra provisions. She mistakenly feels that she should just put on the Can Do Adjustable sandals, blend in and manage as well as she can without any concessions.
Fortunately her Purple Riding Boots mentor, Paula the Physicist, has overcome similar difficulties and encourages Sprite to accept help when needed and not to be concerned about wearing one pink slipper.

People who know Sprite well would know that if she is wearing one pink slipper it is usually because she really does need it or feels that she needs it and has had to overcome her reservations and embarrassment to do so.

It is much easier to tell when she is Pleading the Pink Slipper at home.
A few days ago I overheard Sprite talking to Intellectual Dabrowski.
“I am just going to sit here and read a novel and eat chocolate.”
“What do you mean I am malingering?”
“It really does hurt!”
“It is just a coincidence that there is homework to do and I don’t want to do my chores.”

Image Jo Freitag

Image Jo Freitag

Gifted Island – Testing, testing…

“Are you really enjoying being here on Gifted Island?” Sprite asked me.
It felt like a trick question. It reminded me of a time I was trudging along a hot, dusty country road toward the fun I had promised at the playground, with a three year old and a baby in the pusher. Three year old asked in a very serious tone of voice “Are we having fun yet, Mummy?”

I did not want Sprite to think that I was not enjoying the experience of Survivor Gifted Island because then she would feel guilty that she had arranged it.
But I did not want to give the impression that I was ecstatically happy either; because we had often talked about the value of being direct and truthful with each other. In that way we could build a large reliable deposit in the truth bank and would be worthy of being believed when it really, really mattered.
I was tempted to answer “It’s like the curate’s egg – it is good in patches!”
But I did not want to have to explain the joke.

Then I wondered whether Sprite was wishing that she had not signed us up for Gifted Island and was hoping for my unhappiness as an excuse to leave.
So I gave her a flowery spiel about finding value and things to enjoy and learn in all experiences. I probably sounded a bit like a Pollyanna clone. But it convinced Sprite.

“Oh!” said Sprite “Oh! Well then I think I will be too sick to do any activities tomorrow”

And then I realised what the problem was.
In the handouts from the producers of the Survivor – Gifted Island game we were told that participation in the program would not exempt the students from the regular national and international academic benchmark testing.

“I thought NAPLAN was scheduling time to have a snooze in your hammock” said Sprite “But it isn’t! It is testing and tomorrow the inspector, Mr TIMSS is going to come and take the students to PISA to dive for PIRLS for more testing.”

Naturally Sprite was very anxious about the prospect.
One of the characteristics on Dr Linda Silverman’s Gifted Children with Learning Disabilities list was
* performs poorly on timed tests

Testing was one of the times that the De Bono pink slippers could sometimes be produced.

As a 2E student Sprite would sometimes be given concessions such as extra writing time or use of a scribe or the computer during tests.
But she had not been permitted to bring the pink slippers to Gifted Island.
She was forced to wear the Can Do adjustable Velcro sandals and just manage as well as possible.
And I had noticed that some of the producers of the show tended to greet any concerns or complaints with “Suck it up Princess!”

“Would you still love me if I failed the tests and they said I wasn’t gifted at all and we had to leave the island and you couldn’t stay here any longer?” she asked.

That one question illustrated so many issues that can besiege gifted and 2E students

I could see it was time to go to a quiet rock pool for a long talk about how much I love her just for herself regardless of her performance.

“Of course I would still love you!” I said.