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How to Raise a Gifted Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have a little girl who has just turned 4. She has been reading short sentences fluently for the past 8 months even though she couldn't speak much English until she was 2 and a half. She has somehow learned how to write all the number up to 1000 and she can add up numbers in her head. She has just surprised us by writing whole sentences quite accurately. She has a fantastic memory. Her teacher tells me that she is miles ahead of everybody else but I don't think she knows what to do about it. What should I do? How can I help her without putting her off? Is she too young to be tested? Is perhaps her ability not that rare? Please help.

A: From what you had described, I believe that she has some potential that may be further developed. If her teacher is aware of her abilities, she must know how to help her (if the school has any such provision) or at least refer her to someone who would be more familiar. That would be the first step. If this is unsatisfactory, you may want to do some searching for gifted programs available privately in your area. This is likely if you live in cities or big towns. You may also want to get her tested as most schools for gifted would require some kind of proof for potential. Different schools would have different criteria to judge ability - some have their own tests, others may require you to see an expert to get your girl tested using a standardized IQ test. At four, there are non-written tests to evaluate ability.

Alternatively, you will have to do your own hard work if there are no other options for additional help. If you feel that she is doing her schoolwork quite easily, you may want to get her materials of a higher level. Go gradually and try not to be over-enthusiastic about starting her off at a rather high level as this can result in her experiencing "burn-out". When she appears comfortable with one level, tell her that you would introduce her to something more challenging and assure her that she need not be worried if it appears to be more difficult work as you are going to help and guide her through. Also, assure her that it is ok if she is not able to do it. Then, you may want to take a step back. Slowly, she will start enjoying her work and this is extremely important to keep up the flow. Surf the internet for educational material for children of high ability and carefully decide on what is best for your girl. As I have mentioned many times, this is not going to be easy and it can be very draining, so be prepared for it. It is always easier to pay someone else to do it, but at a very young age, parents are the best educators children can have, so invest whatever time you have and you will be almost assured of good results. All the best to you!


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