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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Surviving your gifted child's schooling, part 1

I don't think I've pulled many punches to date in my posts about gifted children. I don't think I've ever led you to believe it's going to be easy raising that child. Well, news flash: this is the hardest bit, right here.
My young man in the early school years.
He must have had a good day- the smile
is very unusual!


One thing that the parents of most gifted children need to understand is the level of ignorance in the general community about the special needs of their particular child. Most adults don't have a clue how to cope with a gifted child. This extends most tellingly to the school system, where giftedness- with its frequently associated outspokenness, lack of respect for authority and low threshold for boredom- can often viewed by teachers with a little resentment... or even a lot. It's a gift, isn't it? That child has an advantage! They don't need any extra help! We should be helping the kids who are behind! And those parents are so pushy, and that child is so naughty...

Yep, labels abound in the world of gifted kids' schooling, and few of them are complimentary. Look, don't be too hard on the teachers here. Sure, some teachers are just bone lazy and ignorant, but most of them are actually just terribly over-burdened with rising expectations, special needs students and paperwork, and are at the end of their tether. Few receive any training whatsoever about gifted children- heavens, many of them have received no training about special needs at all, and yet they'll doubtless be expected to cope with a plethora of them (seamlessly) while ensuring that the whole class performs brilliantly in standardised tests so the school's funding doesn't get cut.

Have pity.

So the first thing you need to do is lower your initial expectations when you walk in the door of a school with your gifted child, and be prepared for some difficulties. Please don't despair. It is a gift. Your child will give you (and, with any luck, the school) the most extraordinary pleasure along with the pain, but you do need to brace yourself when school begins- and then keep your eyes open for warning signs that he or she needs your help in communicating their needs.

And the other thing you need to understand is that gifted kids don't automatically take well to being schooled. Far from it. They are very, very different from your average school kid, and yet they're about to be popped onto a one-size-fits-all, age-graded conveyor belt for the next twelve years or so.

That's not really the school's fault, either. No government can afford personalised tuition for all children for 12 years. Be reasonable.

But please accept that our gifted kids are going to cause a few stirs. I mean, I should have seen the writing on the wall when I took my gifted boy to swimming lessons as a four-year-old. All the other children were obediently holding their foam boards and kicking away in a neat line next to the teacher. Mine was up the other end of the pool, splashing his arms, jumping up and down laughing and ignoring the teacher completely.

I was mortified.

He'd always loved the water, and he'd always loved to learn. But I'd just seen the evidence with my own eyes that he hated- HATED- to be taught.

(I'll come back to that swimming lesson later. Back to school for us now.)

I'm quite often asked for advice about choosing the 'right' school for a gifted child. Sorry folks- there's no magic answer here. Picking a school for your gifted child- assuming you have the luxury of choice- is fraught with difficulty. Unless you know other families whose gifted children are happy at that school, there's really no way of knowing that your child will fit in and be accepted for who he or she is. Even if you are in a position to send your child to a selective school from an early age, you are at the mercy of the individual teacher- and quality does vary.

I may have mentioned my son's first day at school to you before. He was enrolled at a public (ie entirely government-funded) school in a posh suburb where the parent demographic was top-flight professionals- doctors, architects and the like. I expected a lot, because this school should have been pretty accustomed to very intelligent children.

My illusions lasted one day.

Bored to death before the day was an hour old, my little darling took it upon himself to create some fun; noticing that the teacher had yet to grasp the children's names, he surreptitiously rearranged the individual names tags the teacher had placed on each child's desk.


Thus a class clown was born, and thus a slightly over-confident teacher became very, very cross with a gifted four-year-old, to the point where I was called up almost at once and berated for my child's bad behaviour.

I was startled and more than a little heartbroken, because I'd somehow got it into my head that my child would be a raging success at school. I mean, hadn't I been a good child at school? (Well, yes, I was- but I was graced with unusual social skills thanks to my early childhood modelling career, and I had the immense good fortune to have a brilliant teacher in my first year at school. It made ALL the difference.)

And my child was at least as clever as me. For heavens' sake, he'd been using advanced grammatical constructions in his speech since he was two. He was making puns and multiplying by 2 at three. He was able to name all the major political figures in Australia at four.

Why wasn't my child behaving himself and using his extraordinary brain to his advantage?

More 'pleasures' awaited me as my child moved through the infants' department of this school. I was called up again, because in the absence of an intellect-appropriate peer group, my son had made 'friends' with an extremely dysfunctional child whose language was, um, 'colourful'- and my dear little fellow was using those swear words to much greater comic effect than his peer, to disrupt the class.

The next complaint was to do with him mimicking the teacher behind her back (and damn good at it he was- I couldn't help laughing- oops). That teacher hated my son, and he hated her right back. Oh, that was a terrible year for us all.

And so on, interminably.

The constant complaint in every single school report was that despite my son's willingness to take over any discussion in class and run it singlehandedly, he never lifted a finger to do any written work- or, as the years went on, homework.

And the message to me in these early years was always one of blame. My child was obviously bright. He only had to open his mouth (and I assure you, the biggest problem was getting him to STOP talking) for anyone to see that he had a brilliant mind. I was a failure as a mother, and he was a failure as a student, because he wouldn't just shut up and do his work to the best of his ability. I MUST BE DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

No teacher ever suggested that the school was perhaps not meeting his needs.

So, was I doing something wrong? There are some things I'd change in hindsight. If I had my time over again, this is what I'd do.

Let's go back to that swimming lesson. I had made a whole lot of assumptions, the most startlingly silly one being that wanting to learn was the same as wanting to be taught. Gifted kids tend to loathe the whole chalk-and-talk routine unless it's a subject about which they're already passionate- generally, they like to find things out for themselves. If I'd taken him to the pool and asked him "How do you think people stop themselves from sinking down to the bottom in the water?", he probably would have worked out how to swim himself in time.

And gifted children just Do Not Respond to the authority figure. They need relationship. No relationship to the swimming teacher = no willingness to do what the swimming teacher said.

Sure, every child needs relationship- but what I'm saying is, without relationship with the teacher, many gifted children simply won't cooperate at all. Some you can't even frighten them into submission (god forbid that a teacher would even try that, but I've seen it happen).

In my defence, I wasn't completely ignorant of my son's education needs. I had suggested to his dad that Montessori or Steiner schooling would be a good learning path for our son, and I'd been shouted down.

"You can't take him out of the mainstream, he's got to learn to be part of a normal group. He'll never blend back in," his dad had protested.

Knowing what I know now, the first thing I'd do differently would be that I'd be stronger about that. I'd insist. I might even have stopped work and home-schooled for the early years, rather than sending him to a school where he wasn't understood or catered for.

Gifted children are not mainstream, and they never will be mainstream. They are neither 'normal' nor 'average', and as their parents we need to acknowledge that. We also need to advocate for them to other people, including perhaps their teachers, who don't understand or acknowledge that. We owe it to them to give them the learning environment they need if we possibly can, not the generic one that our society offers.

Gifted children are equally entitled to appropriate learning environments. They will not 'be okay because they're clever'. Without appropriate learning environments they will teach themselves things we don't want them to know, such as how to stir up trouble for the teacher amongst their peers, how to rest on their laurels intellectually (or hide their light completely to blend in) and how to challenge authority to their own detriment (rather than constructively). We need to try to give them a better learning environment, where they can learn constructive things in the best way for their own learning style.

But we're not all rich. We can't all send our gifted kids to Montessori, or Steiner, or an academically selective school.

If I didn't have the luxury of an income that allowed me to choose non-mainstream or selective schooling, I would spent a lot more time developing a positive relationship with my son's teachers. I would take the risk of being called pushy. I would plead for the teachers to try to get inside my child's head, and see things from his point of view. I'd beg for them to encourage his interests and allow him to teach himself.

It's hard to take that risk. Nobody wants to be called pushy. Nobody wants to have to fight against the argument that children have to 'learn to fit in', when what they're actually arguing for is nothing to do with that, but concerns their child's right to appropriate stimulation.

Be careful with the words you use to your child's teachers. Remember, they are tired, stressed, overburdened with expectation already. Try to be kind, but be strong too. And get your facts straight. Don't pretend your child is ready for advancement to 6th grade at age 5 if he's still falling over his feet physically; you will consign him to social misery, and that matters. Accept that some aspects are going to be difficult, whatever you do.

I was lucky in the end. By the early primary years my son hit a sequence of good teachers who understood him better, and the school started to provide enrichment classes in English (though I fear they never managed to get ahead of where my boy was- again, they were catering for the crowd rather than the individual). The only real advantage of this was that it made the years pass less painfully, because both I and my son were able to form relationships with his teachers which were non-confrontational, and the enrichment gave his poor teacher a break while he played around with words (a favourite occupation).

He still didn't do any written work. But thanks to a teacher who actually asked him why, we got this explanation when he was in 3rd class (about 7 years old):

"My hand's going along like this..." (moves his hand right to left across the desk as if writing) "...and suddenly my brain shoots around the corner..." (his hand flies up to the top of the desk and along the opposite side) "...and my hand can't keep up."

Thus did my little boy explain to us- finally, when someone in relationship with him bothered to ask- that his ability to write frustrated him to death by lagging so far behind the speed of his thoughts. And so he gave up trying to write, and just talked.

(I've seen that problem over and over again in gifted boys.)

And so my fear that my son would never try was diminished, once he could explain the problem. His handwriting as an adult is still pretty dreadful, but in this age of computers, who cares? He can now get his thoughts down fast enough.

A lot of the things I was so worried about when he started school have proved to be paper tigers. He doesn't need maths, which he hated from the start. It didn't matter that he didn't do his homework. It didn't matter that he never practised his cello.

It did matter that he had a good relationship with me, and felt that I was on his side. Hold that thought.

He's found his passion and his career in the humanities. He's had strong relationships with his teachers through senior school and university and so has learned from them, though he's always invited them to learn along with him by challenging their established views. There is a happy ending for gifted kids, if they have a strong advocate somewhere in their life and if they're not pushed too far in the wrong direction.

I have much, much more to say about this, but that's enough for now. Forewarned is forearmed. School will provide some challenges for a gifted child- be ready!


  1. Great timing writing this Aunt Annie. My oldest child starts school next year and for many of the above reasons, I'm starting to fret! I thought this new phase as a parent would be an exciting time but the more I learn about my daughter, the more I realise the mismatch that exists between her and what will be on offer. Your insight about what you would do differently-build strong relationships with teachers-is a take away message for me that I hope will help. And as for the swimming lesson anecdote? It gave my husband and I a good giggle, we are currently having dramas with our middle child (our only boy) doing the same thing! If there isn't intrinsic motivation or a strong relationship spurring him on, he doesn't care less!

    1. Forewarned is forearmed, Anon. The very best of luck to you as you enter this trying phase, and remember you can get personal advice from me if you 'like' my Facebook page and PM me. Cheers!

  2. This made me think a lot about my own school experience. I was the least gifted in a gifted family (or most neglected, I'm beginning to think) and I truly thought I was stupid. I have always been very shy and withdrawn, even with members of my own family. I was terrified of speaking up and being told I was silly or wrong, terrified of being compared to my genius older brother.

    I was four years old when I had to see an out of town doctor because I needed stitches; he was a friendly man who explained each little thing he was doing and why as he went along. We chatted about how I wanted to be an architect when I grew up, and what that meant. Truly, I was in love with the word "architect"; I loved the way it sounded when I pronounced it, I loved the way it looked when written, I especially loved that tricky ch that made a K sound. I thought of him often when I was in school; he was one of the few adults who made a real effort to hear me.

    Then I started Kindergarten (in the US) when I was 4, and was so shy and socially awkward that the teacher told my mother (in front of me) that she thought I was retarded (my mother knew better, but we didn't switch teachers until we moved and I went to a new school). In first grade I was playing with a globe (I was obsessed with maps at the time, I thought they were beautiful and the concept of scale was fascinating) and figured out that the continents could fit together like a puzzle. I asked my teacher about it and her dismissal of it ended my map fascination, because I couldn't look at a map after that without feeling that embarrassment again.

    Being dismissed once by a teacher was enough to make me completely withdraw and refuse to speak to anyone in class for the rest of the school year. I realized the things I'd expressed that had been dismissed were usually covered somewhere later in the curriculum, sometimes grades later. That's when I gave up on school completely and disappeared into books. I would do class work as fast as I could and then sit reading. I'd never do any homework because I was hiding in my room reading.

    All I did was take the tests, and until high school, acing those tests was all I needed to do to get good grades and move on. Once I got to high school and homework became as much of the grade as tests, I started failing. I failed math, I failed social studies, I even failed English. I received a lot of lectures about the importance of my school career and I felt a lot of guilt for disappointing my parents, but it didn't help me become engaged in a system I didn't respect.

    Finally I was put into a "necessary small school" for my senior year, and there I thrived. I was able to create relationships with my peers and my teachers, and I was able to work on what I wanted, when I wanted, at my own pace, and keep to myself when I needed to. I was able to bring an idea to one of the teachers, and rather than it being dismissed because they hadn't come to it yet on the curriculum, I was given resources to explore it on my own or invited to participate in a class on the subject. Once or twice I was even asked to teach a class on a subject for others. I was able to make up credit for all the classes in all the years that I had failed. I deeply wished that I'd been in school like this all along; I truly believe that I would have graduated early in an environment like this if I'd been exposed to it earlier.

    Sorry for such a long comment. These are things I've never really discussed with anyone, so, naturally, I've got a lot to say. Thanks for being here and writing what you write.

    1. That is such a sad story. My heart is really hurting for you. And don't think twice about the long comment- I'm just so glad you've had a chance to tell your story.

      Your tale is a good reminder that the super-sensitivity which often accompanies giftedness can extend to the emotions as well as to external stimuli like noise etc. Some gifted kids are very strong and assertive; others are as delicate as blossoms and can be so easily blown off the tree by insensitive treatment. It's wonderful that you did eventually find an environment where your ability could flower.

      I'd love to hear more about your experiences any time you want to vent. You're welcome to send me a PM over on my Aunt Annie's Childcare Facebook page.

  3. I have tears in my eyes reading the last comment- I remember so much from my school days. I was given so many opportunities to get into 'gifted and talented' classes, but my mother thought it would interfere with my 'socialization' and so she left me where I was. I later quit the International Baccalaureate program because I was socially awkward and had been placed in high school classes as a middle schooler. When I was in high school and my mother went to my counselor to find out why I was not excelling, he had no idea that I had an exceptional bone in my body and assumed that my mother had an erroneous view of my abilities...

    Oh Well- now I am trying so hard not to make the same mistakes with my son, who turned 5 one day short of the deadline but was put in kindergarten anyways- He did fine but socially he just is having the hardest time. I decided to keep him is K again this coming school year to give him a chance to develop socially (does this sound familiar?), but I am concerned he may grow bored. OH Auntie- what am I doing? What do I do??? He is so smart, and defies authority every chance he gets ( Even ME! ). I have him in therapy- just so that he has someone to talk to about 'stuff'.
    I do not know what it is that I do not know and I want so much for him to have a positive school experience, and friends!!!

    Please offer a word of advise, or even encouragement. Please!

    1. Hi Gwennie! First of all, you need one of these:

      *HUG!!!!!* (((( eeeek )))) (That's you inside the hug saying 'eeeek', BTW!) You are NOT alone!!!

      Alright. Step one. Ask your son what he wants. Remember, it's his intellect that's advanced, and socially he has a relationship with you, so you are his perfect bridge to the world and he can try to answer that question honestly. LISTEN to him! Does he want to repeat, or does he want to move on?

      For what it's worth- and I don't know your son, you are the expert here- I don't see that repeating kindy with an even younger cohort, so that as well as struggling socially he's bored socially AND academically, is going to do it for him. The pull of 'doing what our parents did' is very strong, but in this case I think it might be pulling you off track. The desire for approval from others around us (teachers, other parents) is very strong too, and tall poppy syndrome abounds out there- we just want our kids to blend in; we want our parenting to be approved of, so we do what everyone else is doing.

      RESIST. Think of what it felt like for you, not being able to be with other kids who had similar abilities. Be an advocate for your son's needs.

      Does he like the therapy and the therapist? Is it working for him? Ask him! Talk to him! The more he feels like he has some agency in what happens to him, the less bolshie he will be. If it's working for him, that's great. Does the therapist 'get' gifted kids? (If not, it's a waste of money, because this isn't your average kid and the mental boundaries the therapist puts up will be inappropriate.)

      There is no magic wand to allow him to have 'friends' at this stage. Agonising, isn't it? Been there. TIME was the only thing that fixed it- time, and finding a cohort where he felt like he fitted in, which for my son took about 6 years. Deep breaths! This is a marathon, not the 100 metres sprint!

      Your relationship with your son is everything to his happiness. Others want to doubt his ability? Tough luck for them; YOU must be on his side and stand up for him and risk feeling like a pushy mum now and then. Use the 20 indicators in my post about gifted preschoolers, tick off the ones that fit him, shove it under the teachers' noses (politely of course) and tell them to go figure (politely of course). When you talk to the teacher, let your son come too and put in his oar if he wants. (That's how I found out about why my son wasn't doing any written work- light bulb moment.)

      As for him defying you and others- normal behaviour from a gifted kid!!!- go back to my post on gifted toddlers and start being the calm CEO who gives unemotional, clear boundaries and is the adult when he chucks a mental about it. Explain everything. Know before you open your mouth where your boundary is. Resort to "my job as your mother is to help you to be a happy person when you grow up. This behaviour will not make you a happy person later on, and so I won't let you do that." Give details. Explain the emotional and social consequences of his behaviour. The only real difference in giving appropriate behaviour boundaries to gifted kids is that you can (and must!) use bigger words and more complex explanations.

      Socially, the most positive thing you can do for him is find an extra-curricular activity where he can be with older kids. THAT is where most gifted kids find their friends- in an older cohort. It doesn't matter what sort of activity it is, as long as he's interested in it and it involves a range of ages above his. Unless he can get into a gifted stream, he's not going to be the boy who brings home his friends from class for a play date.

      This too will pass! Please do feel free to continue to tell me about your journey with him.

    2. Thank you- I will consider what you have to say. I really appreciate that you took the time to reply, and will check out your other posts!

    3. Flash forward- My son has visited the principals office 3 times in the last 2 weeks. The First 2 weeks! Today he pulled the fire alarm and the entire school emptied, and the alarm took 20 minutes to have turned off. He is not even 6 and he was sent home for the rest of the day.
      When I got there he was with the head teacher in the music classroom, and he had told my son that he can play an instrument after he ate his lunch. I was confused, as it seems like a trip to fun land while they are trying to discipline my son. Maybe he was just trying to have peace during his own lunch period, but if so, then why did he seem to want to talk to him about my son right in front of him.
      Earlier in the week they made an appointment time to discuss his behavior but no discussion, just informed that there is now a sticker chart being implemented. Now, after the fire alarm, he is to hold the teachers hand every time they go anywhere, sure that will get old and annoying. Am I answering my own questions, or do I try first to make it work right where he is? They seem to have NO experience with a child like mine, and I don't want him to be marginalized.

      When I got home, I had him sit alone, maybe too long, but I needed him to know I mean business. Afterwards I made him dictate an apology, then had him copy it out on his own paper. I thought it would serve two-fold at school. One, to show his thought process, and two, to show the work he is capable of. At this point it seems he is being 'handled' and the principal already spoke in from of him about whether he wants to go to this school or not. And it is Tuition based! I wonder if they do well enough that they do not need my son in their program. I might mention that as a new parent to the school, I am having a problem feeling as if I belong. I really hoped that a school with a strong academic curriculum is what he need, but I don't know. Should I go a different direction and try Waldorf?

      The teachers aide has dead eyes, and today when he ran out of the classroom to say goodbye one last time (arizona, the classrooms lead to a center courtyard)the assistant teacher put her arm around him to restrain him, and his neck was in the crook of her arm. Made it hard for me to feel comfortable. Like a premonition. He even said he didn't want to go to school this morning. How long before I decide on whether the school is good for us? Is it their willingness to work with us? Is there any place that he will do better? Last year his teacher was like a grandma and he LOVED her. Had few occurrences there, very few.

      Thanks for letting me vent.

    4. Oh Gwennie! I really feel for you. Though I did have to bury a giggle about the fire alarm. I mean, hello, they got an impromptu fire drill out of it, and isn't that the best kind? (Yes, yes, I know kids can't just go around doing that all the time, but the school's reaction in the first two weeks of his schooling seems a little draconian to me.)

      Honestly, this school is sounding like a bad fit for your son. You know that really, don't you? You can't have teachers' aides putting your child in a headlock. That's ridiculous. There is no consistency in the approach to the supposed 'discipline' problem. That's a problem. There's no discussion with the parent about how to make the approach consistent at home and at school. That's a problem.

      You know the answer. Find a school that's a better fit. The grandma teacher worked for him. He will do better in a place where there is more flexibility and where the teachers are prepared to work with the parents.

  4. Hi Annie,

    What did you do about homework for your son? My son is 16 now. I was very surprised when he started prep and I saw his work. "I saw an ambulance." instead if the enormous stories and reflections he would make me write down for him the year before, which he would then read. My favorite story is his grade 3 government standardised test - whatever it was called then or now - he wrote nothing. Not one single word. He sat there at his desk doing nothing for an hour. I thought it hilarious, and quite a powerful act. I laughed but his teacher was horrified and didn't know how she was going to mark him. She marked him absent. The arguments his grade five teacher would have with him over getting him to write anything down. She prepared extra work for him, but wouldn't let him do it until he'd finished the set class work. She couldn't see how ridiculous this was. Now he's aces any oral work, but just scrapes by in his exams. His homework is always late, and forced out of him, and he loses marks each day it's late. Now he says he wants to be a therapist - he would be so great at it, but I can't see how he's going to finish those yr 12 exams. - but that's a year or so away and getting away from my question. What do you do about homework for kids whose brains work faster than their hands?

    1. The truth? I accepted that not doing his homework was the decision he'd made. I ensured that he understood the possible consequences of not doing his work, and then I gracefully stepped out of the picture.

      Your son will do the work when he discovers something that really matters to him. I know how frustrating it is, believe me! And you will cop some judgement from others, so brace yourself. But it doesn't matter what you do. You can't force any child to do anything really (except perhaps with fear of violence which totally messes up their heads and is 100% immoral in my opinion), and trying to force a gifted child to do anything he doesn't want to do is just a nightmare. Quit now, and work hard on your respectful relationship with your son's real self, as opposed to the self you want him to be.

      Focus on the positive. Does he really want to be a therapist? Find out the entrance requirements and go through them with him. Find out the marks he has to get and the subjects he has to pass, then leave it in his hands. Ask him if there's anything you can do to help him achieve his dream.

      The definition of insanity is to go on doing the same thing and expect a different result. You need to perform a backflip here and take the pressure off so he has nothing to rebel against. Once the emotional loading is taken off his schoolwork, he may just be able to focus on where he wants to go with his life.

      Oh, and BTW my son just had his PhD in History accepted, first time around. He sounds like a CLONE of your son. He did every single thing you describe. But when he discovered History, he flew. He was reading the textbooks for fun within a few months of starting his study. This is what you must hope for with yours!

  5. Also, I was so interested to hear about how your son's relationships with his teachers affecting his learning. This is exactly the same as my son. He even says it. "I don't like her. I'm not going to learn anything from her." Great maths teacher, he wants to study maths at uni. Moved down to the 'b' class with a teacher he doesn't like and he stops trying. I don't know why he's in the 'b' class- poor results I guess. I've given up asking and being the pushy parent who says her son is when smart and how can we help him, when his marks in front of the teacher show otherwise. Years of his teachers saying - a smart child who doesn't do his best, doesn't try, talks too much, needs to work harder, not working to the best of his abilities etc. He's 16 and not fitting into the system, which doesn't seem to bother him, so I've left school up to him now.

    1. Wise move. Many, many gifted children don't respond to mainstream schooling. The plus side is that because they're gifted, they have less trouble catching up and overtaking their peers when they find something that's right for them.

      School is a passing phase, but your relationship with your son is for keeps. Make sure you remain very clearly on his side. He's honestly not doing this to upset you. It's just the way he is. When the teachers complain to you about him not doing the work, smile wryly, shake your head and say "Yes, I know." Don't buy into the guilt trips. At 16, your son has to start taking responsibility for his own life and that includes choosing whether to work hard or not- you can share that thought with the teachers too. Remind them gently that he works best when motivated by excellent teaching and that he doesn't respond to pressure or guilt trips. Put the ball squarely back in their court.

      Keep me posted! I would love to know how he responds to you doing an about face.

  6. I cant tell you how happy i am to stumble upon this. I am in the US with a 2.5 yr old boy who has some obvious signs of being gifted, highly or exceptionally gifted I dont know just as yet but his grasping power, memory, level of concentration and focus, deep interest in reading and disinterest in same age peers coupled with a strong preference for adults are dead give aways. I know school is a few years away but my struggle is with keeping him occupied in preschool years. I started him at a preschool but within months he was miserable, bored and acting out. My other struggle is his uneven development, he is delayed on speech and socially a little behind. Any thoughts on preschool education for him?

    1. The main thing is to find a preschool teacher who can form a relationship with him. The facilities don't matter. The program doesn't matter as much as you might think- a gifted child will learn as well in a play-based or an academic program if they are willing (WILLING) to learn. But they won't be willing to learn unless they like and respect the teacher!

      So your challenge is not to find the right preschool, but the right educator/s. Take your son along to a few preschools with you and see how he responds to the people working there.

      Also, it would probably be helpful, whatever preschool you choose, to print out my blog post on gifted preschoolers, read it yourself and then offer it to the staff- it may give them an idea of what to expect!

      Also here is a link to the links with my other blogs concerning gifted preschoolers:

      I hope this helps! :)

  7. This does help, thanks! I agree, the teacher is key and its hard with the staff turnover at schools and the appalling teacher student ratio! When 10-12 2 year olds are in the care of one teacher its such a challenge. Sometimes I think it would be easier to keep him home, but he wants me to read to him all the time or interact one on one pretty much all day and its really tiring. He made me read every sign at the mall today and wanted to know details like $/% etc on sale signs. Sigh. He's only 2 and I fear for my sanity :) Please tell me this will get better!

    1. Hah. I won't tell you it'll get better soon, that's for sure, but it will eventually pass.

      Another idea: try to find some sort of care arrangement where your son can integrate with older children. Some in-home carers take a small group of children of different ages. However do make sure you check the credentials of the carer before committing, check that your child likes the carer, and every so often drop in unexpectedly!

  8. Thanks again, I am truly appreciative of your insights and its just great to know I am not alone. When I noticed his giftedness early on I was excited but as time has progressed, I have only gotten more and more nervous as I realize there is very little understanding in the outside world of these children and what they need to thrive. People like you are a gift to the gifted!

  9. Aunt Annie,
    Not to keep bothering you so please let me know if you prefer a personal message and if so, how I can do that. I meant to ask you your thoughts on the uneven/asynchronous development of gifted children. Does it even out at a later age? Do they get to a stage where they are intellectually and socially at a balanced spot?
    I took my 2.5 yr old son to my friends place this morning, expectedly he ignored her toddler. Will he ever be able to form a relationship with same age peers?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. It's okay, Malvi- I don't mind answering here, or you can message me on my Facebook page

      Even out? Generally speaking, not really in terms of the highly gifted child- they will often grow up to become adults who tolerate fools badly, not gladly, and have a certain amount of trouble talking to people who won't or can't address issues that interest them. However, that doesn't mean they'll be unhappy, especially if they find like-minded friends. My son settled right down at school once I was able to send him to an extremely selective academic private school, where he could no longer rest on his laurels and was stimulated by both his peers and his teachers; he started to develop friendships with peers then.

      Some gifted kids will become a sort of mentor for their less gifted peers, but that's relatively rare, and isn't really a basis for a true friendship either. Your son will flourish if he can be with either older children or children with similar abilities. He needs to be on equal intellectual terms to form a friendship.

      I wouldn't stress too much about him forming relationships at 2 and a half, mind you- it's not really an age-appropriate expectation. At that age kids tend to play alongside each other rather than with each other anyway. :)

  10. Thanks, that makes sense. You are right, no point in stressing over his friendship or lack of at this point! :)

  11. Hi Aunt Annie,
    I need your advice one more time. My now 2 yr 8 month old has developed deep interests in a few things that provide intellectual feed and wont venture out of those. Its usually books, ipad edu apps (6-7 yr old level), musical instruments/musical toys, and going outdoors when weather permits. Thats it. He wont do anything else and most certainly avoids activities with fine motor skills like writing, coloring,stickers, playdoh or even puzzles for that matter. He knows which piece goes where in the puzzle but hates the physical task of putting it in place. I am not worried about his interests as much as I fear for lack of fine motor development and issues when he is in school with handwriting. How can I encourage him without a battle? he is sooo stubborn.

    1. Look, honestly, Rule One is actually let him be. He's learning what he wants to learn right now, and the more you promote other things, the more he'll react against them. Outdoors is a wonderful learning environment and provides many opportunities for fine motor activities, such as picking up small items he might collect and arranging them. If he's not into puzzles, maybe the puzzles are too easy or not based on subjects he's interested in? Or he's just not into that right now.

      Musical activities are wonderful for fine motor too- is he interested enough for you to investigate early childhood music lessons? At this age they would be group lessons; genuinely interested children can start Suzuki method on an instrument at 3 years.

      There's actually not a lot you can do to encourage the specific handwriting skills except for encouraging large, loose arm movements when he's running around outside. Making loops in the air with a loose arm, writing in the air... maybe you could start a game where you write a word in the air and he has to read it? That might spur him into having a go to try to 'trick' you with a word.

      Stubborn children... I hear you... you Must Not Push or they get worse. Try to go with the flow and back off anything you've been trying to get him to do without success. Interests can change, and he clearly isn't ready for 'curriculum' learning, BUT HE IS LEARNING. Remember that.

      My son still has dreadful handwriting. Nothing I could do. But he is an academic success. :)


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