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Highly Advanced Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have a 19 month old daughter who has been amazing us with her personality and abilities since she was born. I was wondering if you might be able to guide me on raising her as a healthy, happy, individual who will fit in with her peers.

When she was born she did not cry, rather gave a little squeak and immediately started looking at the world around her, turning her head to look at her father as soon as he spoke. When she was put on her stomach after being born, she was already able to pick up her head and look around.

She was definitely smiling socially and cooing before 3 weeks old. I had to take videos of this to prove it because everybody said it was gas.

She never lost her walking reflex, and from the time she was born, if placed on her feet, would "walk" holding onto something.

She could sit up independently and reach for toys before she was 4 months old.

She was pulling herself to a standing position at 5 months,

She army crawled at 6 months and crawled at 7.

She was able to stand independently for from about the age of 7 months and took her first steps the day after she turned 10 months old. I think it was partly fear that held her back because she was able to walk pushing a walker all the way to the park as far back as 7 months. She was running soon after she took her first steps.

She was able to kick a small ball accurately before she turned one year old and would say "kick!"

Her pincer grasp developed very early, although I don't remember exactly. Maybe 4 or 5 months?

She can walk up and down steps standing up with no assistance.

She holds a pencil,crayon or fork correctly.

She can walk backward and stand on one foot for a couple seconds since 17 months.

Cognitively, she has always been amazingly observant. Even as a newborn it seemed as if she was always watching what was going on.

She developed stranger anxiety as early as 3 months old. I was in the store with her and a lady smiled and cooed at her, and her immediate response was to turn into me and burst out crying.

She started experimenting with putting items in and out of containers at around 7 months and could do a shape sorter correctly at around 10 or 11 months.

Puzzles seem to come naturally to her and can instinctively put a shape into the right place the first time she sees a puzzle. She has been doing this since before she was a year old.

She now knows the names of many many colors, but even before she could verbalize what they were, she would always match up the correct color when putting something away or on a color coded gear toy we have. I remember her at 9 or 10 months old sorting rubber duckies that we have by color and size and tossing out the one that was different than all the other ones.

She said her first word (quack quack) at ten months old and by 13 months old could tell us at least 15-20 animal sounds complete with animated voice.

She knows all of her body parts, including wrist, palm, ankle, soul of her foot, which finger is which, eyebrow etc.

She knows all of her uppercase letters(we have never shown her lower case ones) and taught them to herself by continuously asking which letter it was.

She likes playing with the game "Bananagrams" and recently told me to spell her name and proceeded to tell me all five letters in it correctly!

She can sight read words like mommy, poppi, grandma, the name of her cousin....

She has a doll with the word "tiny" on it and after arguing with me that the "n" was really a "u" because of her lack of knowledge of lower case letters was able to spontaneously recognize the word tiny in a book in a totally different context.

She LOVES reading books and knows all of the ones she has by heart and all the ones we borrow are learned in quick order. If I say something during the day that reminds her of something in the book, she will run to get the correct book and show me where it says that.

She can say 5 or 6 word sentences to me at this point. "Mommy eat it, (her name) eating those now".

She has been able to count to 10 independently for a couple of months already, but I have never attempted to go beyond that. The other day I randomly started counting into the teens, and she immediately picked up where I left off despite never having heard it before that I know of.

She desperately wants to be toilet trained and is very aware of her bodily functions and demands to be changed every time she has a wet diaper.

There are no background noises for her, she hears every single thing and often hears sirens in the distance or helicopters before I can even register them.

She is very aware of emotions and before she was a year she could act out a wide range (sad, angry, happy, excited, silly etc.) She articulates when she is feeling sad and would like me to hold her or when she thinks a friend might be feeling sad.

She LOVES other children and will often ask to go to the swings and if there are no other children there, she wants to come back home.

She is busy busy busy, and hard to keep up with. Everything she sees reminds her of something else and she will tell me about it.

When I put her to bed at night, I can hear her over the monitor going through her whole day out loud and remembering little details that I may have even forgotten by then.

From a very young age she was able to correctly answer questions such as why? or who? or what?

When she hears a new word for the first time, it immediately gets incorporated into her vocabulary correctly and sheh does not forget it. She can use terms like "both of them" and "all of them" correctly for the correct amount of objects.

I feel like my question is getting too long but I have many more examples of her abilities.

My husband and myself were both extremely bored in school and I want to avoid that for my daughter. I also want her to be able to have friends her own age and for her teachers to like her. Is there anything that I should be doing to stimulate her while at the same time ensuring that she can be a normal happy little girl?

A: Thank you for the detailed description. There is no doubt that your little girl has a number of distinct characteristics of a gifted child. She has demonstrated early giftedness with an advanced developmental milestone, far ahead than the average child. Even her fine and gross motor skills are rather advanced.

As you indicated boredom during your school days, it could be possible that both your husband and you are gifted – this is an inherited trait. I can understand your concern in wanting to avoid boredom, which is very common for gifted children especially when not identified and recognized; hence not given the right opportunities to stimulate their intellectual abilities. Perhaps when you were at school, programmes for advanced children were uncommon. However, today these programmes are rather widespread (depending on where you live) and teachers are more trained to recognize the diversity of children and their learning needs.

If she is gifted, which I am sure she is based on your description, technically speaking, she will not be “normal” – but this does not mean she will not be happy. It is just that there will not be many others like her, so she may appear to be “different”. Normal is what the majority is. Gifted children belong to a special group. Given proper care in terms of their educational and emotional needs, they will be as happy as anyone and yet have the ability to achieve a lot more than their average counterpart.

You are on the right track, keep up the great work and just go according to her needs. Remember that she would need varied and stimulating activities that are meaningful. Try out new things. At her age, you should just keep exposing her to many new things and she will show interest in a few, little interest in others and perhaps no interest in some. Allow her a lot of free play under guidance but try not to interfere too much. Cognitively advanced children learn best when they self explore and discover.

As I have advised previously, a good start in nurturing an advanced child’s 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. She appears to enjoy books, so perhaps you may start with activities that includes reading, story telling, looking at pictures, etc. Have different types of reading materials in terms of texture - magazines, newspapers, books with hard/soft covers, fabric types and so on. Gifted children are sensitive to texture and this would enhance their sense of touch. 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. 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 such children to throw tantrums or be disruptive especially at her age and given that she has always been busy and enjoyed it. 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. Or play a game of stories - each comes up with one.

  • You can also watch educational programmes with her and ask her the “whys” and “whats” - and then explain. Youtube can be a good source for educational clips - perhaps make some time where you can pick some educational clip for her.

  • Look for similarities and differences and have her group things that belong. It helps in critical thinking.

  • 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. Speak to the school about her abilities and have them assess her to determine what may be best for her. I feel she would not fit in a chronologically similar age class; rather perhaps some kind of acceleration may help her develop further; then again it is best to allow the school to observe and decide.

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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