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Potentially Gifted Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Hi. I'm from the Philippines. I have a son who at the age of 3 years and 3 months old already knows the things listed below. I just wonder if these traits make him gifted or advanced? Is there any difference between the two? I am also writing this because he is soon to start schooling next year when he's 4 and we haven't decided about the school yet. Because we want a Christian school for him at the same time a school that will cater his needs specially in his state of capabilities. We're thinking of homeschooling but we know that EQ should also be taken into consideration.

Most of the time he's really in the mood to study most specially when it's a new topic, you can easily get his attention but sometimes really not in the mood. We want to really maximize his potential and to not idle it. Because maybe in the longer run, if we don't focus on it, he might get bored and might just put his potentials to rust. Thank you so much. I hope to hear from you. :) Looking forward to your advice.

  • complete alphabet

  • phonics

  • can read 3 to 4-letter words

  • shapes (2d and 3d. (ex: a ball is a sphere not a circle. box is a cube not a square.)

  • very good at sorting

  • different colors

  • 40 flags of different countries (if you ask him what's the color of a particular flag, he knows without looking at it.)

  • the digestive system (he knows all the internal organs and even the flow of the digestive system)

  • can name three muscles on the face

  • opposites (we did not teach him that. we were surprised he already knows)

  • can count up to 100

  • knows all the planets in the solar system even the dwarf planets. He can recite it in order and backwards. He can identify which planet is which even when the color is different from one book to another. (even if it's black and white) -he knows a lot of trivia in the solar system (e.g. What are the satellites of Mars? What is the 5th planet? Doesn't take him a second to answer. You may be confused with the planets but not him.)

  • He loves books. He likes bookstores. Sometimes he just likes to run around, sometimes he reads.

  • He gets frustrated when he commits a mistake. He wants everything that he does to be perfect even if it's just his first time.

  • He's impatient when he thinks he can't do something.

  • He talks like an adult sometimes.

  • He remembers everything you tell him.

  • He's very energetic, bubbly, and has a sense of humor that makes him adorable.

  • Has a very large scope of imagination (he even said that the coral reef rock is like an artery.)

  • He can be moody at some point.

  • He has a very long attention span. One time, we just caught him watching a documentary in Youtube.

  • He has a lot of interest. He likes animals, anything that has to deal with science, arts and crafts...

  • Sings short songs.

  • He's curious at all times. (ex: we collected rocks from the beach and when we're home, he asked me what specific kind of rocks were those.)

Thank you.

A: Your description does make me think that he may be potentially gifted based on age appropriate skills. Advanced is a term I use for young children who have mastered learning way ahead of their age with help and guidance from parents, teachers, etc. These days, with parents who are aware and dedicated, it may not be too difficult for children to be advanced as young children have a thirst for learning. These children may possible “even out” when they grow older. These days many young kids are able to memorise stuff – some due to excellent memories, others due to repetition. Most kids regardless of their gifts would be able to memorise many things with constant repetition. Gifted, on the other hand, is a term I use a little more carefully for children who display characteristics distinct to most gifted children – excellent memory, love for books/knowledge, heightened sensitivity in general, streak of perfectionism and a few more. Your description about your son indicates some of these. However, unless formal observation and testing is done, it is hard to tell for sure.

Home-schooling at this point may be too early as you have not given him the opportunity to try out play schools, which he may enjoy and learn much more. Children who are home-schooled are usually ones that have a large gap between their capacity to learn and what is being offered in school. Unless this is the case, which is not common at good preschools, it would be better to allow him with the early social exposure to enhance his social skills.

For schools, most play school focus on learning through play, which helps learning for any child. It will best to speak to the school about his progress and choose a play school that allows him to learn at his own pace rather than a rigid and structured system. At home, make sure his learning is always progressive, meaningful, stimulating and challenging. These are needs that should be catered for. Allow time for free-play rather than having structured learning. Remember, they learn best through play and it would be good if he can start to play with other children as well – even older children.

Look up the older newsletter for suitable and challenging activities. Enjoy him and do not worry whether he is gifted or not – you are on the right track and I am sure he will do well with your guidance. Happy parenting!


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