By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Hi! I am really distraught about my daughter. She is 4 and a
half years old.
She started talking at a very early age. She is very
articulate and talks in complete sentences with vocabularies
which you will hardly hear coming from a regular 4 year old.
She is very observant and points out so many things which
you would ordinarily miss/ not pay attention to. She makes
up a lot of words and is very interested in arts, animals
and dinosaurs. She argues and reasons out in a very advanced
way. Her memory also amazes a lot of people around her.
Presently, she can remember things which occurred to her
ever before the age of 2! She does very well in her
pre-school with regards to her academic skills like math and
language and reading.
My problem is her teacher says she is having difficulty
making friends in school, participating in class activities;
she defies her teacher's instructions and does not follow
them. She also has difficulty cultivating relationships with
her peers. Her teacher says she does not know how to play
"in" the group but she knows however, how to play "with" the
group. Whatever that means! Basically her teacher says she
lacks the social skills to work cooperatively with her
classmates etc. Her report card is so unbalanced with
extreme good grades in academics but very poor marks with
socialization and emotional development skills. Her teacher
also says she has poor attention span except when she does
Can you explain how this is so? I am not sure if she is
gifted although we havenít really had her tested yet, one of
our close friends who is a school guidance counselor said
that she is gifted.
I am distraught as to how I can help her in the coming
school year with regards to her social relationship issues.
If she is indeed gifted, then how can I nurture her gifts?
How do I find out which aspect she is gifted in? What
activities can we participate in to help her develop her
social skills faster to keep up with her intellectual
abilities? Up till what age will this asynchronous
Please help me. I hope you can really find the time to
answer my question even if it is so long. I live in the
Philippines and our healthcare/medical/research system is
years behind. I would appreciate it if you could enlighten
me on this since I think her teacher may not recognize that
she may be gifted that is why she is this way. I fear she
may be branded as a spoiled child who cannot make it in the
traditional educational system. Thank you!
A: She does exhibit signs of
being gifted with your description; but she also appears to
present some of the concerns that are attached to some
gifted children. What needs to be understood here is that
the reason she may be having difficulties with peers is
possibly due to the uneven development (that you very
clearly understood!). Asynchronous development, or uneven
development, develops when advanced cognitive (intellectual)
abilities and heightened intensity combine, and this
combination create inner experiences and awareness that are
in reality qualitatively different from the expected or the
norm. As IQ increases, asynchrony intensifies, due to the
greater discrepancy between the childís mental and
chronological ages. This means that gifted children develop
cognitively at a much faster pace than they would develop
emotionally, socially and even physically. Now, this would
surely pose some problems, as they appear to be different
from the average child.
Your daughter probably has a mental age that is higher than
that of her peers; therefore, they may find it difficult to
relate to her as she is ahead. However, young children are
unaware of this and expect everyone else to be like them.
When a child is a little different (able to perform tasks
that average children cannot), others may view this child as
not the same as themselves and this may result in them
shunning this child. In addition, gifted children may appear
to be bossy due to their heightened sense of awareness and
depth of knowledge, which may be seen as authoritative.
These qualities may put them in a rather difficult position
among their peers. She probably knows how to work better
than her peers do and demands her way, which makes her,
appear less cooperative (as her teacher noted). Her poor
attention span is probably due to work given that she may
not find meaningful and boring. She is obviously interested
in artwork, hence her retained attention. When she does not
find the given to her as engaging, it is natural for her to
defy her teachers.
I can understand how frustrating and confusing this can be
for parents because these children do not always act their
chronological age. With advanced intellectual development,
parents (and other adults) are led to expect more advanced
behavior from these children, which may not be the case all
the time (e.g., able to discuss a world issue using advanced
vocabulary but unable to understand the concept of sharing a
toy with younger sibling). This is because a gifted child
who is years ahead of her/his peers is not always years
ahead emotionally or socially. They are no better in
managing emotions in comparison to any other child.
Unfortunately, this is how some children develop so little
can be done to delay the development (and a bad idea as
well). However, what can be done is for parents to be aware
and understand such development. As a parent you need to
recognize that your daughterís emotional and social
development is not going to always match her intellectual
development. So, before punishing her for emotional tantrums
thrown, remind yourself that she is only four of five and
you have to deal with it in a more age appropriate manner.
You will also need to understand that intellectual
stimulation is essential for such children ad much as
emotional attention. Allow her emotions to grow as anyone
would for a young child regardless of her mental capacity.
Just because she is mentally advanced does not mean she
understands emotion as a older child would. She also may not
get her intellectual, emotional, and social needs met by her
age-mates. This means while she is able to socialize to a
certain degree with her peers in school, you may also need
to provide a platform for her to interact with other gifted
children (if possible), older children, or even adults.
This is not going to be an easy journey but parent and
teachers may need to get very creative in trying to help
these children adjust especially when they are very young.
Perhaps a combination of techniques may be employed, for
e.g., doing more stimulating work in the classroom, moving
children to a higher grade for some lessons, etc. Parents
and teachers will also need to concentrate on their motor
skills and help them fit in socially. Good luck!