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Raising a Gifted Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: We have 2 children, a son 4yrs old and a daughter 18 months old. This is regarding our son, who from early on probably has shown exceptional qualities in terms of:

1. Memory (though he couldn't talk well at that time, would point to all his body parts, about 15-20 of them from head to toe when he was about 9-10 months old). He remembers things that he just sees once and recalls it after few years, e.g., he remembers what he did and went when he was 2 - 2 1/2 years old even now.

2. Reading or showed interest in books ( in 3-4 months old stayed focused in baby books for a long time about 1 to 2 hours, would love to lie in bed and read to him , was very interested to see and observe everything, I would ask him questions like point to the dog, giraffe, elephant, and would do it correctly by 7-8 months. One he sees objects in books he will show them in real life.

3. Music and performing - had his first piano recital before turning 3 yrs after 2 classes. Don't know if playing western classical music while I was pregnant and during his early baby stages had an influence , of course part of it could be hereditary since we have few talented musicians in both sides of his family.

4. Understanding, inquisitiveness, detail oriented, sharp observation. He did 24 and 35 piece jigsaw puzzles in about 6-8 minutes when he was 3 1/2 years old. He likes to work with a timer, and wants to complete his task before the time is up.

5. Vocabulary - learns new and long words fast and uses them pretty well.

At first we thought that it could be normal for babies and toddlers since he was our first born we didn't know what to expect from a baby but later we started observing his peers. Now after having a second child we see differences with our daughter who is ahead in a different way and now we realized that he has special talent or is a gifted child. It amazes us how he deduces or reasons or explains.

Our son has been mostly home schooled by me, (we both are professionals, I am a Vet Dr and my husband a Computer Software Engineer and come from educated families but I chose to be a stay-at-home Mum now to take care of the kids) but has started going to Pre-K this summer for only 3 hours for 2 days a week. We are now thinking of having him tested so that we know how much to guide, motivate, encourage him ( he does pretty well in Brain Quest game for 5-6years old when he was only 3 years 10mths old), thinking of getting the 7-8 years old group now.)

We do not know if this is a gift or hereditary pattern seen in our son since we have very brainy people and talented folks from both sides of family. I believe my husband was or is gifted because he excelled very well in school and college and has characters of gifted people but was not identified as one while he was a child. Please let us know your expert opinion about testing, raising a gifted/ talented child, guiding him, how much pressure can he handle?

A: From your observation, there is reason to believe that he is definitely milestones ahead of his peers and may be potentially gifted. Whether a test would determine his level of IQ as being in the gifted range, it would surely be necessary to maximize his current potential to the fullest. However, you may want to look for a reputable psychologist to have an IQ test done which will determine his areas strength and perhaps less strong areas which you can work on.

As a parent, you have indeed taken the first step to ensure good education by staying and home and personally taking up the responsibility of education him - parent are usually the best educators and have the best interest of their child in mind. Being professional helps in that it is correlated with higher education and awareness. Home schooling is an excellent way to raise an above average child, especially if there are limited educational choices in your area. In fact, by allowing him a few hours a week at preschool is an excellent way to balance his social life. Schools are important for children to learn social skills and interact with other children. This is where they are able to learn to appreciate human differences among individuals.

It is probably true that to some extent, genes may play a part. Coming from an educated family background and as you mention that your husband may have been gifted but unidentified; there is a high chance that your son may be gifted. Unlike the case for the husband, then there were limited resources to identify giftedness. In fact, the manner in which individuals are identified may be questionable. However, today, things have changed a lot and standardized IQ tests go through many revisions.

For now, a good way to raise your child is to hook up with other parents who have potentially gifted children and share the experiences. It is amazing how much you can find out from parents through experience; something no book can help! Joining a gifted association in your area is a great idea. Gifted children need other children of similar ability to learn at a certain pace, so getting to know other parents of gifted children and organizing, say, weekly activity may be a great way to help your child. On guiding him, you seem to be doing a wonderful job, so keep it up.

Try not to pressure him at this stage, allow a lot of free play, observe his interests and give him more stimulating and challenging work at every stage. With puzzles, working with a timer indicates someone who enjoys challenges - but the other side of it indicates perfectionism which you may want to be careful about. Allow him to make mistakes and help him realize that it is perfectly fine.

Having said all that, all work and no play may burn out a potentially gifted child, so let him be a kid and enjoy childhood. He need not only indulge in educational activities, get him involved in other activities (sports, games, etc) as well. All kids need to enjoy their childhood; something that is not happening much these days due to parental and school pressure, so you may want to strike a balance here.

All the best in raising your wonderful son and hope you daughter would follow suit.


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