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Slowing Down of Above-average Children

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I have a 27 month old son that my husband and I have always wondered since he was just a few months old if he was a genius. He have been around a lot of babies in our time, but we noticed that ours was always quick and super picky with the way he wanted to be fed to what toys he wanted and what he didn't. We at times have thought that he had ADHD because of the high level of energy, but his activities are not random.

He has picked up on numbers and colors very quick. We noticed he is
very inclined to music as a new born we caught him tapping to the beat of the music and we would change faster or slower music and he would tap accordingly. Now he will even tells us when he likes a song and when he wants the radio station to be changed.

Recently, he is making humming songs that we have never heard and it sounds like he might be creating his own beats. Everyone has always commented on how smart he is and how we need to help him build on his education. We have noticed a change in his behavior. He is slowing down a little bit now and seems to be bored. We wonder if he is above the average in intelligence for his age and we are not doing enough to keep him challenged. Does it sound like that might be the case and if so what can we do to help him since he is still so small?

A: He does sound above average from your description and his music inclination is rather amazing for his age. Creating new humming sounds as a toddler is not very common and there is a chance for him to be musically gifted. It is hard to tell if you are doing enough to stimulate him as you have not indicated any teaching on your part but I assume that you are doing pretty much what most concerned parents do.

It is not uncommon for children to slow down a little bit now and then; you must be concerned if the slow becomes habitual and for a rather long period of time. Firstly, you need to rule out any medical condition that he may be going through. See a pediatrician to confirm this. Secondly, monitor his activities. Is he slowing down in all his activities or are there certain activities that he shows more lack of interest than others? If there are just certain activities that he is getting bored with, perhaps he needs more stimulation and challenges than he is currently getting.

You may want to try out structured activities, such as shape/color-sorting toys, to help him work on his matching and sorting skills or measurement tools (beach play set) to help him learn the concept of more and less in terms of measurement, and other educational toys that may teach him how to organize objects accordingly. Apart from being fun for children, it also improves other skills such as motor skills and is a start for calculation/Mathematics skills.

You can structure these activities to the extent of making available the materials, after which you need to let him head off in whatever direction he chooses (too much involvement may kill his need for exploration, so you need not manage his play). Even if you feel that he may not be getting the slot right for the sorting toy, as an example, it is best to allow him to find out himself as children use play to better understand concepts and ideas that they find interesting. They are most likely to be the best judge on how they should be playing, therefore, any interference from adults my get them frustrated and eventually they may just give up (which causes slow down).

In this case, since he appears to be interested in music, you may want to use other objects that can create sounds (rather than straight forward toy musical instrument which I am sure he may have already) made up of pots and pans, cans, etc. (make sure they are safe and he needs to be supervised) to introduce him to the concept of sound. This is very interesting for a child who will soon learn that sounds can be made from most objects and being musically inclined, he may be able to create music from these objects after some time!

It has been researched that children can start formal music training as early as age 3, when brain circuits for learning music mature. However, since your son is showing tremendous talent in this area, you may want to get him a head start. Especially since music lessons can increase a child's brainpower. There are many music schools for the very young such as "Kindermusik" which focuses on fostering a love of music, rhythm, and self-expression. Nevertheless, it must be noted here that if a child is forced into something he may not be very keen at a very young age, it may well kill any interest he may have in that area. Therefore, the best way is to expose children to different learning environments to find the ones that are most suitable and meet his needs.

Having said that, you may want to be cautious about your teaching goals for your son. He may or may not turn out to be a musical genius, and this should not be your goal, however good he may be. On the other hand, your goal should be to help him with his passion and encourage his love for music. Mozart who wrote his first symphony at age 8, may be rare, but not impossible. Best of luck to a wonderful journey!


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