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Gifted and Learning Disabled (GLD)

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 7 and was recently diagnosed as Gifted / Learning Disabled. He got a WISC IV GAI score of 130 (I'm not actually sure what that means, but apparently that was the gifted part) and is also dyslexic, dysgraphia, and possibly has ADHD, the inattentive kind.

I'm confused. I know that my job will be to advocate for him, but I'm not sure how.

His skills are literally all over the board. He shows areas of intense interest, almost like an autistic child, but it's not limited to one area. He's intensely interested in many things.

The only books he is willing read are Percy Jackson, Flat Stanley, or Magic Tree House books. They are what is interesting to him. He can read them decently well, not great but at least with the later two it's less than five mistakes on a page. However, he has trouble reading basic picture books.

He makes mistakes everywhere in his reading. He skips all the little words, changes stuff in mid-sentence, and pretty much ignores words that he doesn't know. But through that, his comprehension is fantastic. On the reading subtest, he got an eight for the actual reading part but got a 13, the highest score possible for comprehension.

He can do math, conceptually it just clicks with him, but he'll randomly forget basic math facts, like 6 4. His handwriting is awful.

All told, he functioned at his grade level as 1st grader for all subjects, not shining anywhere, except in science (he explained the concept of omnivores to his reading group and told his teacher that plasma was really a fourth state of matter.)

How do you advocate for a kid when you yourself are totally stumped? When he can function very well in some ways, but is truly struggling in others. What do you do with a kid that is "LD Gifted" who is compensating well enough on his own to not get help but not well enough to get him any enrichment? How do we help him get what he needs when we can't figure it out ourselves?

Thanks for any thoughts on this one.

A: It breaks my heart to hear of such special children with so many problems at such a young age. And I can understand how tough it is to parent this child. It does take a toll on parents and sometimes causes extreme frustration. One thing is for sure - he is gifted.

First and foremost, he may appear to be compensating well on his own but he is in fact struggling and there can be a breaking point. He needs help with each and every of his learning concern. He need intervention with his dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD. If he has been diagnosed, he should get educational intervention at school regardless of whether he is compensating on his own. You may need to speak to the school about this. He has been able to compensate for his weaknesses because gifted children learn compensation strategies more quickly than their non gifted counterparts. Here I would like to quote Dr Silverman (Gifted Development Centre):

"It takes more energy to compensate and when one is fatigued, ill, stressed, dieting too strenuously, or adjusting to a new situation, there may not be sufficient energy to support the compensation strategy. So the individual is likely to experience "good days" when the compensations work well, and "bad days" when they fail. Twice exceptional children and adults often believe that the true level of their abilities is revealed on their bad days, and that they are faking it on their good days. It is important for their self-confidence for them to reverse this impression. They need to understand that their high intelligence is revealed on their good days and that there will be bad days, when their compensations, like bad brakes, fail to support them. One school psychologist said that she tests a twice exceptional child at two different times of day. She tests for giftedness in the morning when the child is fresh, and learning disabilities in the afternoon, when the child is tired and less able to compensate for weaknesses".

It was further added that the secrets to reaching GLD children are teaching to their strengths, assistive technology, and accommodations in the classroom, such as untimed tests and shorter written assignments. They blossom and fulfill their potential with supportive teachers. If this is not happening at school, you may want to intervene and advocate for him.

For home help, you may want to check out the following articles/sites:

Teaching Techniques for Overactive Children, by Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.

Top 3 Facts on Giftedness and LD - Characteristics and Assess

On Dyslexia Treatment: Hints for Parents (this is really interesting!)

Treatment of Dysgraphia (also see the other articles at the bottom of the page)

I hope the above has been somewhat helpful. My good wishes for your journey.


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