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Grade Skipping for the Gifted

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have a 5 year old son that was tested and determined to be gifted 4 months ago. At the time (in Kindergarten) he was the youngest and smallest child in he school since his birthday falls on the cut off date for enrollment. Both his father and I are short, so he will always be on the small side. I tell you this because his teacher has requested that he skip first grade and enter second. I trust his teacher and I am also a teacher at the same school.

My son attended 2nd grade reading classes while in Kindergarten and did very well, but I am against his skipping a grade ... mainly because of his size. I can't help but wonder if I am making the wrong decision, especially since he says he hates school. He tells me that they keep making him learn the things he already knows. I worry about all the other "social skills" he may miss. Am I wrong in thinking "mom knows best"? Perhaps this time, I don't know what is best form my son. Please help! Thanks.

A: There are many reasons for unhappiness in school. For example, gifted children are often inappropriately placed in educational programs where they are under-challenged and frustrated. In your case, your son has clearly expressed his feelings. From your letter, I feel that you may be most concerned about his physical state rather than his social skills, perhaps due to some past experience.

You need to ask yourself a few questions here.

  1. Have you spoken to your son about this? What are his feelings? The biggest mistake would be to force him to do something he may not desire, be it grade skipping or staying on. I understand that he is rather young but it is important to respect what he thinks and lay out the pros and cons of grade skipping and staying in the same grade.

  2. Is he really much less physically matured than his classmates? People come in different shapes and sizes. Some children grow much faster than others. He may well be an average sized kid, or there may be others smaller than him. In fact, if he appears to have good social skills, then his physical development may not be an issue at all. Some children are just better able to mingle and adapt to the school environment. You must consider these factors and not allow just one aspect to influence your decision. More importantly, for all you know his size may not be an issue to him at all but by "reminding" him often (by making it seem such a big issue), it may be one soon.

  3. How different is the curriculum for grade skipping? Is it much better and more suitable for your son? You may want to consider a school for the gifted where enrichment is done in stages and grade skipping may not be necessary.

  4. Is he socially very adaptable? Does he have problems making friends is his current class? Do consider if his social skills may improve or deteriorate through grade-skipping. It may go both ways, so it would be helpful if he is socially matured to skip grades.

  5. Speak to his teachers to get a feel of what they think. Teachers are in a good position to make educationally sound decisions as they are directly involved with the child at school, and perhaps understand the child's school behavior better than parents may be able to.

Whatever decision you make, it is crucial that you consider the above questions and more importantly, whatever decision is made, you must be there for him to support and guide him.


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