Gifted Child hiding Abilities to "Fit In"
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
I have a 4yrs old son. I think he may be gifted (he is
exceptionally bright for sure). He matches most of the
characteristics of giftedness. For example: he was running
by 9months, he started reading before 2yrs of age as well as
telling the time.
He knows his times tables up to multiplication of 12. His
reading age is at least of an 8yrs old.
Currently he is in reception class. I am very concerned and
feel he is 'regressing' as he has learnt to hide his
abilities so as to 'fit in'. I have tried several times to
speak to his class teacher and other members of staff for
'accelerated learning' to no avail.
I would be very grateful for any advice/tips on how to go
about the best way to maximize his potential. Is testing
necessary? I think the only option is to do home schooling
as I am so frustrated with the school since they do not
understand nor appreciate it especially as my son does not
'perform' in class. I would really appreciate any
comments and or advice on the above.
A: If your son is indeed hiding
his abilities to fit in, this is surely a shame as from your
description, he does appear to have advanced skills,
especially in reading which is in fact one of the main
indicators for giftedness. As Dr Silverman mentioned "They
fit in by pretending to be less capable than they really
are, disappearing into the crowd."
He is young for now, but if this problem persists, he may
just be very comfortable hiding his gifted and would
eventually average out and be like the rest, not wanting to
move away from his comfort zone. Acceptance is important for
a child - though I find him too young to be aware that he is
actually performing less than his potential. There are some
above average children, as your son, who joins preschool
with academic skills far beyond those of their age mates. It
is possible for such children to master the academic content
of preschools when they are 3 years old.
In your son's case, perhaps, his physical and social
development may be similar to that of other 4 year-olds,
which is why the teachers may not be too thrilled with the
idea of an accelerated placement. It is crucial to
understand the importance in early socialization. This
involves a child's feeling that s/he is accepted by others;
in this case the teachers and age mates. Hence, it is
possible that his teacher may not validate a your boy's
advanced abilities and intellectual interests by using "one
size fits all" curriculum. This may cause him to
experience feelings of unacceptance from the teacher. Now,
when this happens, which is quite likely in your son's case,
he may realize that he is quite different from most of his
friends at school.
Perhaps, even communication can be extremely difficult
because of differences in vocabulary and modes of expression
that are characteristical of above average children, which
in turn makes them lose peer acceptance as well. Eventually,
it would be natural that he learns to hide his abilities, in
order to "fit in" better with his age mates. And this may
also be the reason he is not performing in class – develop
behavioral problems as he may start to dislike school.
Of course, the best program for your son would be one where
he is encouraged to progress at his own pace, (e.g., subject
matter acceleration - if he is advanced in reading, this
should be advanced). Home schooling is an option, provided
the program for him is broadly based, with planned
opportunities for development of social (this is highly
important for home schooled children), physical, and
cognitive skills. There are many websites that promote home
schooling and even have weekly lessons for guiding parents.
For more advice on home schooling, please read my answers on
home schooling in previous issues (I lined out the
advantages and disadvantages of home schooling, concluding
that a balance schooling system would serve the best instead
of total home schooling). Your son needs a program that has
activities which are open-ended and flexible, with definite
opportunities for advanced activities that will allow him to
rise to the best of his abilities.