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By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I really think my just turned two year old son is gifted and if you have the time to read this email and respond I would appreciate it. He seems to be doing things far beyond his age. Before Jack was two:

  • Knew entire alphabet

  • Could also recognize any letter or number you showed him

  • Could count to 12 (also recognizes #'s 16-20)

  • Knew the shapes of square, triangle, rectangle, oval, heart, diamond, star and could recognize them

  • Huge vocabulary of words including almost all animals (tropical bird & sea turtle) and when shown about 25 animals cards he could recognize them and everyday words

  • Know the parts of a face (chin, cheek, ear, eye, nose, mouth, teeth)

  • Know at least 10 colors


Now at 25 months

  • everything above

  • can spell bird, pig, dog, cat, song, sun, cow, moon, rock, book and more words

  • draws circles

  • draws smiley faces

  • counts backwards 10 to 1 (can count very fast as well but you can still understand him)

  • spells his name on the computer

  • reads all the above words as well if shown

  • is counting (on his fingers as well) and counting objects

I feel he has a photographic memory. His pediatrician has said he's bright and extremely advanced...does that mean he's gifted? I know this is lengthy and if you've received this in error...please forward this to somebody that can help me. Thanks so much for your time.

A: From what you had described, your son is definitely gifted the term is usually not used freely (or used by professionals/educators in the area) to avoid labeling and anticipated unnecessary pressure on the child. Your son's ability is not impossible for his age but rather rare. Children usually start picking up on the skills mentioned above usually only after 2 years of age that too for the more advanced ones and ones with lots of coaching and guidance.

The good thing here is that you are aware of his abilities some parents may not even be aware and thus, the child is not helped much. What you need to do now is to get him formally assessed, which will enable him to further develop his skills and learn new skills. He needs a good program and depending on where you are (some countries may not have special programs for children of his age), you can do some searching. In America, various advanced programs cater for all age groups. It would be good to get the help of an educational psychologist in your area who would be able to assess his abilities and advise accordingly.

If no programs are available until he is three (which is usually the case), enroll him in a reputable play school with special request to allow him to be around older or more advanced children (based on mental and not chronological age). Speak with his teachers and explain his abilities. They would be able to match his needs with what they offer at an advanced level. Alternatively, if there is no provision for any of these, you may need to put in a lot of effort to help him develop further. Research has indicated that highly intelligent children learn faster, and thus benefit from being allowed to progress at a faster rate. From your letter, I believe what you have been doing is great and you need to continue nurturing and guiding him. Look up the Internet for latest educational materials for children who can recognize words. Make sure that any educational materials that you decide to use should be based on your son's abilities and not his age. This can be very time-consuming and tiring, so get all the help you can from your spouse or other family members. Gifted children tend to get bored with anything that does not challenge or maintain their interest, so sometimes learning from the same person all the time may not be interesting anymore. Remember that teaching special children (be it gifted or academically challenged) can be very draining, so you need to be motivated to keep going on. 

Good luck and I really do hope you will be able to get a professional to assess him and move on from there.


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