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Possibly Gifted Preschooler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My daughter is 4.5 yrs of age and loves to read books. She knew a lot of things even by the age of 2.5. Her love for books is amazing as she can sit reading books day/night. She can read even level 4 books and not very fluently manages to even read the encyclopedias. She has good memory and loves to learn new things. I never pressurize her to study and does all of this by herself. I seldom help her. She could speak very fluent English since she was 2.5 yrs of age and has always stood out in pre school. She is now in junior kindergarten and knows her whole syllabus even before taught in school. Very curious and willing to learn. Has very good concentration.

I would want to know if she is gifted or bright and need your advise if she can undergo any kind of test. She can even write sentences , can do one digit addition , subtraction , knows places etc ..really need advise. Please help.

A: Your daughter surely demonstrate distinct qualities of gifted children and based on your description of her abilities, it appears that she may be potentially gifted. It is great to know that you have not been pressuring her to learn more and that she is learning at the pace and appears to be enjoying it well based on the development of her abilities.

However, you may find that if she is not given enough stimulation, she may burn-out so it is good that you are aware of her cognitive needs and seeking for more understanding of your child. Having a gifted child and more importantly, maintaining her gifts can be very challenging for parents. This is especially true if the school does not acknowledge her needs. Do speak to her teachers to find out how she is doing. If you feel that she may not be challenged at school, she may indeed require differentiation learning, or if possible an acceleration. The fact that she is writing sentences and doing addition and subtraction only proves that she may not be a good fit in junior kindergarten. However, her teachers would be better able to decide on this with information from you as the parent.

She appears to be very interest in books, something very common among the gifted. Therefore, provide her with many more books - perhaps have a book corner at home. It doesn't have to be expensive. Use the local libraries so she gets access to a variety of different reading materials. You would constantly need to provide her with a variety of materials that would interest her. Variety is the key here - gifted children need to be challenged and would get easily bored with repetition (which is happens at school). While there is little that can be done to change how the school deals with a gifted child, you may want to do all you can at home. Different ways of learning is also essential - expose her to different types exposures to allow exploration. Gifted children are very curious and love to explore. At preschool, since she is probably way ahead of her peers and doing well, teachers may feel that she does not need much help and can be quite independent in learning. However, this may cause them to literally exert minimal mental effort - which eventually causes boredom. This is where she needs help at home.

Good activities equates to a variety of activities that challenges and stimulates her. Activities in school may be monotonous and suitable for the majority. For a gifted child, you may need to put in much more effort. For e.g., if she learns about insects at school, different activities can include learning further with an encyclopedia, going on a nature trip to actually see real insects (do adhere to safety measures here), getting toy insects, getting a movie/documentary on insects - all used to teach her in depth in a much more interesting manner. The same can be done with any other subject.

It is very natural for parents of gifted children to be concerned about pushing their children versus challenging them. One way of understanding whether you are pushing or challenging them is your personal motivation. In your interests are generally to enable the child to get good grades and excel at school, you may be pushing the child without even realizing it. Gifted children, if pushed rather than challenged may lead to burnout and eventually mediocrity in life. Giving more difficult tasks is not the same as giving more challenging tasks. Children can get bored with more difficult work, which is not challenging. Therefore, difficulty levels can be increased gradually with more challenging and interesting tasks.

Note that your daughter may appear interested in everything initially but at some point may appear to be less interested. This is normal - gifted children may not be interested in everything you may want them to do that you feel may help them with learning. This is just natural, which is why a variety of educational exposure is crucial here. If one does not work, another may probably do the job. As parents, we need to guide and show some direction to our children, but pushing may not show results. Bear in mind that gifted children are children after all and may not know what is best for them. So parents need to help here - but to force the child to do something s/he is not interested in (and appears more like the parents' interest rather than the child's), even after a variety of teaching methods may imply that the child is having some problems grasping the concept or is just not his cup of tea. This is when parents need to move on and allow some space for the child. After all, loving and accepting the child as s/he is the best that any parent can do for a child.

On testing, I feel that it is too soon to test your daughter. Unless you have a good reason for e.g., to place her in a gifted education programme, to determine any learning disability - at this stage there is no point in testing. Wait till she is a little older so the results would be more stable. Based on your description, it is definite that your child has above average abilities so for now, just nurture that ability to the best that you can. Here is wishing you a very happy parenting journey!

Replied from reader: Thank you so much for your reply. It was truly encouraging.
Your email has really helped us as parents and has shown us a way further. Here in Mumbai there is no much help for gifted children in schools as the term gifted is still not familiar with many. All r treated equally and no extra attention is given to my daughter in any form - which is very upsetting.

Can you please advise me any program mes or activities in Mumbai conducted for gifted children. Whether or not gifted i would still like her to be involved in such activities as she is very curious to learn new things and also has very good memory.

Thanks again soooooooo much for your inspiring words and your advise. Truly appreciated.


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