Being a parent is not easy, let alone being a parent of a gifted child (or two). While my husband thinks I am too zen-like about many things (i.e. don’t appear concerned enough), I am probably more like a duck paddling furiously in the water, unseen by the others. I worry about a lot of things.
1. Is my child really gifted or is he just smart?
This must have been the number one concern that I had. When El was young, he started spelling ‘b-u-s’ instead of saying the word. He also wrote down ‘mao’ on a picture of a cat, which I thought was wrong until I realised he had been writing the hanyu pinyin (phonetic symbols of Mandarin words). His paediatrician said he had asynchronous learning, so I was worried about that for a long time.
I read through lots of material on developmental stages online, before stumbling onto gifted materials. I kept looking at the differences between being gifted and smart before finally had an inkling that he should be gifted, but that was just my thoughts in the beginning.
I guess I had become more convinced that he should be gifted after spending a lot of time on Hoagies’ Gifted resources.
2. Is my child being challenged in class?
His nursery teachers had highlighted to me that he must be a ‘genius’, because he was scribbling words on paper while waiting for me to pick him up from school. He has already started reading books, while his peers were still learning the letters. As he progressed to kindergarten, the gap became even more apparent. He was already doing sums, while they were still learning numbers from 1 – 20.
When I asked him what he had learnt from school, he kept quiet. After looking through the materials, I realised he probably really had nothing to say because he had already known the materials.
3. Is my gifted child misbehaving in class due to boredom?
Some gifted children misbehave in class because they are so bored. If you tell a teacher that, he or she might be affronted. I had received complaints that El was hiding at the library corner when the Mandarin teacher was teaching. During his piano lessons, he was slumped over the piano and not putting in any effort. These incidents worried me. Without routine and discipline, he might not be able to succeed in the future.
Other friends with gifted children had mentioned that they had received complaints from their teachers about their children ‘acting up’ in class. The misbehaviour seemed to disappear after they took their children out of class.
4. Is my gifted child being too obsessive with his pet topics?
El is obsessed with dinosaurs. He had devoured many books, videos, and other online materials about dinosaurs. He could correct the books when he spotted errors. He could name the dinosaurs by just looking at the figurines. He also would draw the dinosaurs day in and day out. I get worried whenever he wants to test me on the names or insists on playing word games about them. I had to force myself to read up on topics I am not interested in, just so that I have something to talk to him about, and also that he has someone to share his ideas with.
5. Is my child going to hit a plateau when he is older if he does not have the right study skills now?
Since he is able to coast through lessons now, he may think that there is no need to study. However, I had read that some gifted students drop out of high school or university, because they are finally challenged for the first time. When they discover they cannot get through without putting hard work, some get too demoralised. That is because they had not pick up the right discipline to study in their early years. I am worried about that.
Perhaps that is why I make my child take up piano, so that he will know that some things are hard and we need to practise frequently. He felt demoralised in the beginning and did not want to have practice sessions. It is with much coaxing and stickers before he practises more regularly.
6. Will he have friends?
I worry about him forming friendships. He does not seem to fit in, and he tries. When children ignore him at the playground, he gets upset. I tell him to introduce himself, and sometimes they do not really want him there. I guess some gifted children have problems finding friends because they do not have similar topics. Many of them prefer to be in the company of older children, but some older children do not like to play with younger children. That is why I started to look for intellectual peers, such as having pen pals.
I have also signed him up with Mensa, but I don’t think there have been any activities that I know of.
7. Does he have other learning issues?
As his mental development is faster than his physical development, his gross motor skills are not so developed. I worry whether he has dysgraphia, since his handwriting is bad. He does not capitalise the right letters and he does not have punctuation marks. I guess I just have to be patient.
There had been times when we thought he had other learning issues, such as ADHD, but the psychologist told us to just observe, and it could be that he was just not sufficiently engaged in certain topics.
8. Will there ever be acceleration for gifted children?
I have no idea whether this will ever happen in mainstream schools. After talking about acceleration last month, I am still waiting for the board to get back to me for their approval to accelerate. Much research has been done on the benefits of acceleration, but many people are worried about socio-emotional skills.
I have friends in Singapore who have decided to homeschool their gifted children, just so that they can really meet their children’s needs. Apparently, this is a growing community.
Just to show I will worry about anything possible, if he does get acceleration, my next concern is he is too small in size! Would his classmates pick on him? I do have to thank his nursery teachers, who taught him how to stand up for himself if his classmates disturbed him.
9. Should I tell his teachers my son is gifted?
I do not feel as close to his current school teachers compared to his previous school teachers. Perhaps it is because I used to pick him up from school, so I had more opportunities to talk to his teachers. His K1 teacher did not mention anything, so I did not say anything. However, I decided to be an advocate for him, so I wrote down on his back-to-school form this year that he had been identified as gifted after taking the Stanford Binet V test, so I hope that they could challenge him and stretch him if possible. I had not seen any accommodations being done, and they did not contact me at all.
When he goes to primary school, I suppose the Gifted Education Branch would have set up a plan for him, regardless of whether they let him accelerate or not. Some people do not like to be tracked, while others wish to be. I do not know whether I am doing the right thing, but I will need to advocate for him.
10. What if you have more than one gifted child?
Right now, I suspect my younger son, who is turning three, is gifted too. He started crawling, walking and climbing much earlier than El. He was able to fix puzzles meant for older children before two. He could read Chinese characters (from his Mandarin enrichment class), but not English words. He memorised stories from Eric Carle. He could pronounce some of the more unusual dinosaur names too, and tell me they ate meat or veggies, after learning from his brother.
There is a high possibility that the IQ of siblings is just about 10 points apart, so it is likely that I have another gifted child here. It is going to be exhausting. Perhaps the elder one could teach him, as long as the younger one does not turn violent on him. Already I cannot cope with his obsession over yellow colour. He wants almost everything in yellow. He only wants to eat T-rex pasta and not just dino pasta. Whatever his elder brother is doing, he wants to do it too even though he is not ready. He wants to play the piano, he wants to paint a T-rex and a dragon, he wants to play Minecraft, and also Wild Kratts mathematics and other games that his elder brother had done.
11. Do my gifted children have overexcitabilities?
The elder one hates scratchy labels. He complains the radio is noisy. He has a great imagination, and recently said he has an imaginary friend because he is bored. The younger one needs to jump and loves to hang on to pull up bars. He needs to have yellow things. He listens closely to the tone when adults are speaking, so whenever we raise our voices a little, either due to excitement or disagreement, he would jump up and try to ‘stop the fight’. When he was younger, he would actually hit my father because my father speaks loudly when he is impatient, or sometimes just trying to get his point across to my mother. He used to bite people when he was frustrated and nobody understood him. He gets frightened of thunderstorms. All these are overexcitabilities and I have to anticipate problems in advance. I also have to teach them how to cope with these issues.
When we watched dramas or movies, sometimes there would be bloodshed. My elder son was so frightened! I had to tell him that these were just actors acting.
In the beginning, we were afraid that he would stop eating meat (he already does not eat much food at all) because he was reading about animals. In the end, he understood food cycles, so he took all these information in his stride.
Some gifted children are such advanced readers, their parents have to find suitable books for them.
12. Do others think I am bragging about my gifted child?
Parents love to share what their children are good at and what they have achieve. I am genuinely happy for them. When I started sharing what my children did when they were much younger, people were amazed. Soon, there was this uncomfortable silence as the children grow older, and friends with children the same age start comparing. I worry whether I have spoken too much. I do not blame them.
I have mentioned before that life is too short to worry about what others think. In fact, after reflection, I feel that I am doing the right thing in sharing, because friends have come up to me to tell me they do not feel alone anymore, and they are glad that they are not the only ones facing similar issues. Readers have also written to me, and shared stories about their children with me. Some even seek my advice. I really hope that people can be more aware about issues that gifted children face.
Perhaps I just need to relax a bit more and not get overly anxious.
This is part of a blog hop by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page on Anxiety. Check out other blogs!