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Stimulation for Gifted Children

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I'm turning to you as I have not yet found an appropriate website to have my questions answered. I am a mother of a very bright boy who is now 4.5, and we're living in Sweden.

He is very curious boy and also very advanced in his development compared to other children of his age.

My son has always been interested in numbers, patterns, letters and more. By the age of 2 he could count to twenty in both Swedish and English, build 80-pieces puzzles, knew the whole alphabet, shapes and colors.

By the time he was 3.5 he taught himself how to read and by the time he turned four he could read fluently from any kind of book. He has also taught himself to write, and when other children bring home drawings from daycare he brings home letters.

He goes to a public daycare (age 1 - 6), which he does enjoy, but I can notice that he is getting more and more bored and frustrated.
Of course he loves to play with his friends inside and outside, but he demands so much more. He can sit for hours playing advanced games, such as Chinese checkers, but none of his friends can handle these more advanced games. He also loves all kinds of activity books, such as reading or writing activity books.

Where we live in Sweden we only have public schools from the age of 6, with no alternatives such as Montessori, or advanced classes for brighter students.

I once asked his pediatrician on how to deal with his rapid development and received the reply that I should try to hold him back a little so he would be around the same level as other children once he starts school.

What is your advice? Should I try to keep him stimulated when at home? Should I put him in school one year ahead? Do you have some ideas on good activities for his age?

Feeling both confused and disappointed as there is no information or good activities for my son where we currently live.

A: It is indeed unfortunate that there is very little support for parents of highly able children in Sweden.

I feel very upset hearing your pediatrician's suggestion to hold back your son's rapid development. I really hope you have not held him back in any way as that would be the worst thing anyone could do to early giftedness. Your boy appears to be very advanced and I wouldn't be surprised that he has started showing signs of boredom and frustration at his present daycare environment. He is showing signs of less excitement and enjoyment in learning.

Since there is no provision for a more advanced learning facility in Sweden, you may have to work very hard to help him maintain his interest and enjoyment in learning. Firstly, you may need to get some help from his school or the daycare centre (if he is still there). Speak to one of his teachers (who appears supportive and one whom he likes) to keep observing him and giving him more challenging work.

Secondly, at home, you must keep him stimulated most of the time. Look for learning materials that appear interesting and challenging to him. Give him projects to accomplish, e.g., when he has read a book, get him to write a review of, say, what he thought of the book and how he would improve it. Have a lot of outdoor activities; introduce him to the world of insects, plants, etc. Children usually get fascinated with such things so you can also get him to relate his experiences to his friends it's two-way so chances are that his friends will be engaged as well and his social skills improves with increased mingling.

Thirdly, find out if there are other parents who may be facing a similar situation. You may want to place an ad at his daycare. You can team up with parents and meet on a monthly basis to discuss issues in raising a highly able child. Nothing can be more effective than support from other parents as personal experience is the best teacher. In fact, if there are enough parents, you may want to start an association and eventually become the first association for the gifted in Sweden!

Last but not least, keep yourself updated with the latest information on gifted education on the web. You may want join in as member and subscribe to newsletters from national associations for the gifted for a small fee. This would also enable you to hook up with other parents from different countries.

As for grade skipping, it really depends on a number of factors; his socio-emotional maturity, whether enrichment is offered in his present grade, his feelings about skipping grades (especially if this practice is not normally done). If he is ready for more challenging and advanced work, and his present learning is not stimulating him enough, he should not be held behind.

You may also want to talk to him about his gifts. Explain to him that not everyone has such gifts, which is why some of his friends may not be able to understand him or enjoy what he enjoys. This is going to be a tough journey for both your son and you, but I assure you that it will be well worth it. All the best!


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