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Gifted but Exhausting

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Should I ask my GP to have my 5 year old son assessed:

My son has a great memory. By 2 1/2 he knew the alphabet so well you could take any letter out and he'd tell you which it was (he would make it a game and try to pretend it was something else. he would smirk to see if he had fooled us).

By 3 he could 'roughly' tell the time (half past, quarter too etc).

By 3 he learnt some French words with interest.

By 3 would talk about Web-pages with adults; "I have one. Its Cbeebies".

Within a week of giving him a map of Europe jigsaw for his 4th birthday, he knew all the countries. You could move a piece and he would name the country. He could tell you which countries bordered each other without looking at the puzzle.

Within 2 weeks of starting school they discovered he could read just anything. We have never pushed this area and only ever had the magnet type games. We were surprised too!

A few months ago he debated with my sister which of Henry the 8ths wives had a son named James.

He approaches staff in shops and asks them for items he is interested in "excuse me, do you have any boys watches" etc.

Ever since he could connect Lego bricks together he has made Swords and Booshers (guns?).

He challenges adults as well as children e.g. the other day at a charity table top sale he decided he wanted to buy a toy golf-club set. The lady said it wasn't for sale and that it was used to entertain kids at other events. My son stood there, hands on hips, and said "why is it out here then?"

He will always find the 'naughty kids' and thinks it funny disrupting the class. He finds it hard to be quiet and always shows off. At home he can sit an hour at a time with puzzle books etc. He loves them.

He will always be the one who lashes out at another child. If someone is crying my son is always there. It is getting to where we are not welcome and excluded from visits to his school friends.

Although competitive with mental challenges (although hates too lose and denies he has) he is totally the opposite with physical ones. At sports day he ran along in last place waving at the row of parents. Apparently same attitude to PE.

Although he plays with lego, board games (very good at draughts) and inventive with play at home (loves to role play); once he is with his friends, play always involves using a stick type object to lash out. (He can't resist walking around with sticks, swords, cricket bats etc. And usually an arm full.) He is constantly demanding that adults play and liaise with him at home. (His brother and sister are much older and no longer live at home.)

He has problems with regards to emptying his bowel, and usually goes every 9 days with much trouble (I believe that this sometimes contributes to the extreme naughty behavior).

His writing has barely improved since 4 years old. This has despaired his teacher who said it will told him back next year. When you try to teach him anything, "he claims he knows and proceeds to do it wrong" (quote of his form teacher).

We love him very much but he is exhausting. As we didn't want his abilities lost in a class of 30 or his bad-behavior given space to develop, so we decided that he should go to an independent school (which we can hardly afford). It seems even they can't deal with him (I had a meeting the last day of term as I wanted his teacher and head to be aware that he thought they hated him. He truly did. His form teacher and head of department said that "you have to remind yourself you are not dealing with an adult". She also told me that she had said to him that "at times I tell my own children, I love you but don't like you". I think my son is bright enough to understand that she doesn't like him. And that statement was to re-establish a relationship. (Don't get me wrong I agree with the statement but you don't say it to someone at 5).

Should I get help from my GP or is this normal? My other two kids weren't so bright or academic.

A: This is very interesting, and doesn't sound like the norms. I am surprised that you have not seen your doctor for his physical problems or had him tested for his IQ (most parents would have!). Perhaps, these are the most important steps that you need to take right away as these are not the norms.

Rather than an independent school, what he probably needs is a school that challenges him. It is not surprising for gifted children to act out in class when they are bored, leading some teachers (who may not be aware of the characteristics and needs of gifted children) to see him as a “problem child”. I believe that if he is kept constantly challenged and more involved in school learning, he may be more likely to listen, learn and be less disruptive.

Of course, if nothing else works, you may want to consider homeschooling.

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But first, see your doctor, then see a psychologist to get to the bottom of the concern here. They are best professionals to advice you on this matter as this case is quite different and needs help from experts. Based on their evaluation and report/recommendation, you may talk to someone in the school to possibly determine if his needs can be catered to. Good luck!


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