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Above Average Intelligence

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I am in my late 50's and have child just turned 2 years to a new partner.

The child seems very gifted and has reached milestones well ahead of other children and in comparison to your gifted criteria. I have two other children from another relationship and they fit the category of very bright to gifted and are very successful lawyers.

My concern is that in Australia because of a new academic process, he will not start school until 6 1/2 and prep (kindergarten) at 5 1/2, what should we be doing for him in his early years to keep his very demanding mind active.

My wife has stayed home from work to cater for his seemly insatiable desire to read and learn, but we don't want to fall into the trap of 'academic hot-housing' the child. I thought maybe we should be bringing in special tutors to cater for his needs, but thought I should look for advice before doing this.

I was naturally bright at school and seemed to fall through the cracks in the system and became very disruptive and unpopular as a result. I did get tested late and found out that I was 30 points above the MENSA entry standard. I therefore made sure that my first two children didn't also fall through the cracks in the system.

My new child seems to be a level or two above my first two children in intelligence. Some of the milestones reached for my son:

  • He was aware of his surroundings from birth and extremely alert from this period.

  • Could sit up and was demanding solid food at 3 months.

  • Could stand up unaided at 5 months and would walk around the furniture.

  • He had a huge repertoire of words at 12 months. Would laugh at funny events and jokes at an early age.

  • Would follow, understand and follow-out complex instructions at 12 months.

  • He could differentiate between most colors at 12 months.

  • At 14 months when he pointed out some stars on a display, I mentioned that there were two red stars. He corrected me and said there were six stars and there were - two red and 4 white. We have never taught him to count.

  • His memory is outstanding for names, machines, locations. He never forgets anything and only needs to be told once.

  • He doesn't seem to be introverted and naturally plays better with much older children. He is physically very strong and extremely coordinated.

We are very careful when we talk around him as he picks up on every word we say, even if it appears he isn't listening or even asleep. Hope you can provide some advice.

A: From your description, it is obvious that you have a very special child who is milestones ahead of his age group. All of what you have described shows that he is indeed very gifted and it is a very legitimate concern that he gets the right nurturing to develop his above average potential.

Unfortunately, there are many who fall through the cracks in the system but just by being aware, you have won half the battle. Do not hold him back. From your letter, it is obvious that you are trying your best to give him the challenges he needs without overdoing anything. This is a very good sign as children learn through play and I believe that self-exploration is best for the very young instead of getting too academic at this stage (that would happen anyway when he starts formal schooling!). Apart from the environment (nurture), your son also has the genetic factor (nature) that contributes to his high level of intelligence. Furthermore, there have been studies indicating that children of older parents tend to have higher intelligence levels in comparison (though there may also be risks of learning disabilities). In this case, your boy has the best of both worlds.

What you may want to do now is to go with what you are doing and think of new ways to expose him to new and different things. Bear in mind that he may need a variety of activities to keep him busy and not get bored. You can try to do nature walks, swimming, outdoor activities (simple games that he may be involved in), going to the beach (using beach toys to help introduce him to the world of Math - counting and measurements), exposure to educational computer games, and the list goes on. Now, this is not going to be easy on parents, especially if the parents are very busy, so what is important here is the effort you put in (the results are fruitful, so use that as a motivating factor). It can also be very exhausting, so some help from relatives could ease the burden. In addition, bright children get bored with the same things all the time, and this may include the same people! So, variety is the key here.

A home tutor may be helpful if s/he is able to engage your son. This is more formal learning which would be good to expose your son to as he has to be introduced to formal learning at some point. Parents can do this as well. Observe his development and nurture him accordingly. Apart from all of the activities mentioned above, the most important thing now is perhaps to introduce him to books which will open up a whole new world for him. You may also want to join gifted associations in your area (if any) to meet parents of other gifted children and share and learn from their experiences. You have done well so far (as with your two other children), so I'm sure you are well capable of nurturing your little one to the best of your abilities. Here's wishing you the very best of luck and happy parenting!


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