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Above Average Development

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: At 18 months my daughter was assessed by a group of medical professionals (Pediatrician, Psychologist, Nurse and Occupational therapist). She was able to speak in 3 and 4 word sentences, follow complex directions without difficulty. She would pay attention to small details, able to problem solve and sit and listen for an extended time frame (10 to 15 minutes). I was told she was highly advanced in cognitive abilities and motor skills. They told me that in order for her to have gifted potential that I would need to maintain stimulus.

She is now 2.5 years old. I have enrolled her into swimming, skating, gymnastics and mommy time. She loves singing, reciting the ABC's, counting up to 20. Able to recognize patterns and 5 letters with sounds and enjoys being read to. She spends hours playing with dolls and teddy bears and spends time with pretend play.

I am looking for other stimuli, I am not sure if I need to place her in an early preschool program. I would like to have further direction as I want to give her the ability to reach her full potential. If you could help me out that would be much appreciated. Thanks.

A: Your daughter's development is rather advanced and she is doing a lot for a 2.5 year old child. I would say that she is potentially gifted. As long as she is enjoying learning and is able to take on all the activities, I believe her needs are being met. You are one busy mummy!

Today, it is much harder to determine giftedness since many children are exposed to various activities by parents; these activities actually make them learn faster regardless of ability. All children are like sponges and absorb learning quite rapidly, and enthusiastic parents certainly help in their development. For example, a gifted toddler may learn to read at three, and so will a bright toddler. The earlier one reads, the faster learning will take place. However, a gifted child would need much more stimulation and any learning activity needs to match their intellectual capabilities. If s/he does not, the child would lose interest in learning and may become disillusioned and probably disruptive. On the other hand, a bright child would does well in most learning environments and would usually be toppers. They adapt to learning quite easily and are viewed as “good, obedient children”. Naturally, a bright child is easier to nurture compared to a gifted child.

A good start in nurturing her potential would be to encourage her to follow her interests at this point. In case you find that she is fascinated with something, do more of it and gradually increase its complexity. Having said that, more work of the same kind may sometimes bore above average children, so it is always important to try to have variations of the same activity. This involves creativity on your side. You must also know when to stop - a good cue is to observe when she starts to lose interest (irritable, distracted). If this happens, drop the activity and allow her some free play time. It is good to hear that she is playing with age appropriate toys. Pretend play is crucial and this is when they develop their brain and unleash their creativity.

Ensure that she remains challenged all the time so as not to have any time to be idle (which may cause laziness in future). The following are a few tips that you can use at this stage and later to encourage her learning:

Help her determine differences; compare and contrast things/people:

  • Use measurement words often: little, more, many, half, quarter, etc. as an introduction to early math.

  • Instead of reading stories from books all the time, create your own and try to get her to contribute.

  • You can also watch educational programs with her and ask her the “whys” and “whats” - and then explain.

  • Look for similarities and differences and have her group things that belong.

  • Create a scenario and ask her about what could happen in certain situations.

You may also want to look out for play schools which may be a great environment for her to also develop her initial social skills.

Hope the tips are helpful and have a great learning journey with your little one. Keep monitoring her progress and encourage her to learn positively. All the best!


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