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Being Different

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My question is that I know that my 9 year old daughter is gifted but no one seems to believe me she just started 3rd grade she reading at 5.9 grade level. She does not have perfect grades but she has A's and B's which 81% is the lowest grade she has. For some reason or other she can not take District test well, she as been diagnose with anxiety.

I think the she is a visual-spital thinker, she is very creative and musical talented (plays the drums). She was born premature by 7 weeks but she has developed normally and some things she did before she had too. She walked when she was 9 1/2 month and already spoke in 3 words sentences. The school tells me that she is immature and that she has trouble reading direction and staying on tasks, I understand but when I explain things to her and show her how to do one question. She does the rest in 5 seconds. She has to see it before she learns it. Once she learns things she remembers it forever. She has a remarkable memory, she remembers thing that happened when she was three and know direction to place that we have not been for years.

She is a bad test taker I notice she states that she gets very nervous and forgets the answer while taking the test and then remembers later after the test is collected. She is not lazy she is a very good girl and respectful. What should I do to help her at school? She had a student call her not smart and that she did not belong in the exceeds class because she asked a question and did not understand what to do and she was told by another student that she was the worst girl in 3rd grade. She does not want to go to school but I work there! Please help.

A: From your description, she is clearly more advanced than her peers and probably views things a little differently. However, at 9 years of age, this is not quite the norms and your daughter is going through quite a bit and already feeling different in a regular classroom atmosphere. The fact that the school does not even recognize her exceptionality makes it even harder for her to cope.

As for testing, you need to help your daughter relax and understand the need to be tested. For this, the low-key, matter-of-fact approach is best for her age group. Even if she does not test well on a district test, you should still look for ways and means to address her needs as parents are the best and generally most accurate when it comes to predicting giftedness in their children. District tests provide a framework and norm for learning the core curriculum. Unfortunately, they are used as a single indicator of a child’s learning in a regular school system. There are no multiple measures here used to monitor a child’s progress and development. These tests, at best, provide basic information of a child’s mastery of the subject content according to an age based national percentile. However, major decisions on educational requirements are made solely on district test scores, which may not favor gifted children. District tests are so black and white that they do not take into account the various learning styles of a child – which has been proven to exist. Children take in information in so many different ways. Nevertheless, this style of testing works for the majority of the students- hence perhaps the best method to test a large group. Due to this, special children may be left out.

On how to be a better test taker, you may want to look into the various sites for tips on test taking and help your girl with the information. In reality, while traditional schools system might do a great job of educating the kids within the spectrum of normal (may be bright and high achieving), they may not be so good about dealing with anyone outside that group – especially the gifted. Gifted children who may not perform as expected to may be either so bored that they kind of mentally check out of school, or their brain is simply wired differently and a traditional classroom is just not the answer to meet their needs. This may lead them to often performing poorly when it comes to exams, although they might be doing things like writing novel or conducting scientific experiments in their spare time! Your daughter may not be doing as well as you feel she could since she probably finds the lessons not so meaningful – an aspect that is crucial to learning for the gifted. This is quite obvious since she actually knows the answers when you ask her again, perhaps in a way more suited to her understanding since you understand her needs better. This may not be possible in a traditional classroom.

Having said all that, since you mentioned that she has been diagnosed as having anxiety, there are some medications that may reduce her anxiety during test periods. Speak to your doctor about it. On her grades, a score of above 80% is a dream to most; perhaps you should not push her too much for better grades as she may equal grades to success. She is already doing very well at school level so I would suggest that you look into her gifts (creativity?) and help her at home. You may also want to help her with her social skills to enable her to fit better socially. If she has a few good friends at school, it may help her view school more positively.

There is a lot of work to be done on your side to nurture her potential to the maximum but it would be well worth it. Help her understand that grades are not everything - that may reduce her anxiety tremendously. You may want to speak to parents of the other kids who are mocking her at school for some help in managing other kids. For now, nurture her creativity, help her understand and find meaning in the work she is doing. This may require you to teach her in a different way – a method that she may find exciting and meaningful. She needs a variety of activities. From what I see, she is doing pretty well on her own and perhaps with some help from you, she can learn even better regardless of her grades. Do also help her understand that she may be different and it is not bad at all. If she feels bad being different and gets no support, she may try to fit in the group and eventually burn out and accept mediocrity. This would be really sad.

Try joining any gifted network and look up information on the web. You could also identify other similar students from the school and speak to the parents. Having others in the same shoes can be very encouraging and helps build stronger support. You may be able to get some help from the Child Development Institute. Hope that helps a little. All the best!


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