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Above Average Developmental Milestone

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I felt that it was just me or my family thinking my 20month old son, Brody, was off the charts amazing. But more and more people outside the circle of bias began stopping me and telling me to nurture his gifts, so I began to do research and realized that Brody is way above his age group in many skills. His pediatrician said at his 15 month check up he was at a 2-3 year old level with many of his skills. But other than that she didn't push me any further to nurture that so I didn't pursue anything until now when I realize that he is doing most things you learn in U.S. kindergarten and he just turned 20 mos.

A few of his milestones and age he did them:

  • 1st word at 6mos " quack quack"

  • did patty cake & waves bye bye at 6 mos

  • says dada and gives high 5 when asked at 7mos

  • could point to mommys nose when asked where it was at 7 mos

  • 8 mos could sign eat & milk and could do 4 animal sounds when asked... Ex. WhAt's a cow say? He replies moo moo

  • 10 mos could identify most any body part

  • 15 mos counts to 10, identifies all upper and lowercase letters, can work iPad completely without any help, can spell words on iPad game ( boat, ball, tent) knows all colors, says 2-3 word sentences, spells his name aloud,

  • 16 mos can count to 10 in Spanish

  • 18 mos identifies most all shapes, even crescent and octagon

  • 20 mos sings songs like abc's entirely, says " mommy is silly" if we r playing. Uses emotional words ... He said, " mommy I so happy", can count to 25

  • many more cool things he has done: )

I guess what I want to know is... Is this signs of truly gifted? What do I do with him to best nourish and stimulate his mind? What schooling will keep him interested and well rounded? Thank you so much.

A: Based on your description, your son does show some distinct characteristics of children who are developing at a faster pace. There is no doubt that above average children tend to gain skills faster and sometimes with more ease than the average child with normal development. And quite naturally, the advanced development can and does show up in early life, making acquisition of other skills and abilities also at a faster pace.

In general, today, it is much harder to determine giftedness at an early stage since many children are exposed to various activities by parents; these activities actually make them learn faster due to mere exposure regardless of advanced ability. Children are like sponges; they 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 do 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. Hence, your son may be a potentially gifted child and you would need to take that extra step to cater to his needs to help him develop his potential fully.

What you may want to do now is nurture his potential further. Perhaps, a good start would be to encourage him to follow his interests at this point. In case you find that he is fascinated with something, do more of it and gradually increase its complexity. Please bear in mind 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. But to stop the activity totally may not be a good idea (e.g., the spinning toy). It would be good for him to learn and accept that he may not hot the target every time and you need to try to ensure that it is perfectly fine for that to happen. What you can do is to miss the target yourself and show him that even adults miss targets. Also allow lots of time for free play (with minimal guidance as long as it is safe). Pretend play is crucial and this is when they develop their brain and unleash their creativity.

It is important that he remains challenged all the time so as not to have any time to be idle which may cause irritation due to lack of stimulation and subsequent manifestation in disruptive behaviour. The following are a few tips that I have proposed on this site - some that you can use at this stage and some at a later stage to encourage his learning:

For instance, help him determine differences; compare and contrast things/people. For early exposure to math, you can use measurement words often: little, more, many, half, quarter, etc.

Not sure if he is showing much interest in books, but you may want to introduce him to the world of books. You can also watch educational programs with him and ask him the “whys” and “whats” - and then explain. If he enjoys a particular TV show, use the programme to help him explore learning further. You can also talk to him, tell him stories, create a scenario and ask him about what could happen in certain situations.

As for schools, pick one that allows for a lot of free play with various and stimulating activities. You may want to start him off at play schools soon to enable him to interact with other kids. Do talk to the school staff about the kind of activities available and some insights on your son's advanced development. The right play school can also be a great environment for him to develop his initial social skills.

For a better indication of his developmental milestone, please refer to the guide in the table of ' Developmental Milestones of a Gifted Toddler'. The milestones have been gathered over many years of research on giftedness. However, please note that these figures are just guidelines. There are other factors that may influence development such as general health, specific sensory disabilities, motivation, etc.

Hope the tips are helpful and have a great learning journey with your little one. Keep monitoring his progress and encourage him to learn positively. Wishing you all the best!.


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