Gifted Kid? Unsure Kid Being Gifted
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
I am a mother of four children. My oldest was identified by
our school board as highly gifted. It came as no surprise
considering his development. My youngest (twins) are five
now and are also displaying certain behaviors such as
advanced vocabulary and reasoning ability, unusual creative
and musical abilities. My question concerns my eight year
old daughter. She is an above average student who appears in
school to be your typical left-brained child. Her teachers
love her. However at home she is extremely difficult,
sensitive to the point of completely disturbing the family
dynamics of the home and causing a great deal of stress.
Since she was born she has been an emotionally difficult
child to deal with (tantrums, extreme stubbornness,
impulsive and easily bored). She is very creative and has
produced drawings with detail that most adults don't
produce, learns to play the violin well after only a year
and half of lessons and is physically talented at any
activity she focuses on.
However she has no advanced vocabulary, reads at her age
level with no real motivation to read at all. This in itself
is fine but I am trying to understand how to cope with and
help her cope with her intensities at home.
I am very confused about the definition of gifted behavior
and because she is "sandwiched" between children who more
clearly meet school board definitions of giftedness. I am
unsure how to proceed with my daughter. The school does not
see her as potentially gifted because they don't see the
side of her we see at home.
My son is already in a special program and I strongly
suspect her younger sisters will be in this program once
they are of age. Clearly, there is a potential problem for
self-esteem issues here where my daughter is concerned.
Does my daughter's situation warrant further investigation
on giftedness or not? I am concerned my daughter will miss
out on opportunities that may benefit her in the long run
but I am unsure if her traits meet the criteria for testing.
I would appreciate any advice you may have. Thank you.
A: Usually when one sibling is
in the gifted category, there is a high chance for other
siblings in the family to be gifted as well, especially
since the younger ones are displaying such potential too. In
this case, if you feel that your daughter is gifted, then
she probably is as parents are the best people to see gifts
in their children. If the school does not recognize her
gifts (somehow this is quite tricky as only children who
fall in the gifted category as deemed by the school are
selected), then it really is up to you to nurture her
Heightened sensitivity is quite a common characteristic of
gifted individuals. Since your daughter is very sensitive,
this affects her perception of expectations from her parents
or other family members. In addition, this may also be
accompanied by heightened vulnerability to criticism,
suggestions, and emotional appeals from others which leads
to much frustration in the family and it can be very
stressful. Having said that, regardless of her emotional
oversensitivity, at eight, she may not be emotionally
mature, this is sometimes expected of her. Perhaps, you may
be comparing her with your son unconsciously.
Gifted children are usually avid reader, but there are of
course exceptions, depending of the type of learner your
daughter may be. As long as she is not reading below
average, you can rule out some of the learning disabilities.
She may not be a visual learner, so she may need to learn in
other ways (audio or kinesthetic). She may also be bored at
home, since she is fine at school. Or perhaps she feels
sidelined by the attention given to her brother, so being
disruptive gets her the attention she feels she is lacking.
The best thing for you to do is perhaps see a child
psychologist who would be able to study her behavior in
detail and may recommend some kind of diagnostic test to get
to the root of the problem. As for matters on self-esteem,
chances are that if all her siblings are in the gifted
program, with her heightened sensitivity, it may pose as a
problem. If this happens, you need to be honest with her.
Explain that admission into the gifted program is not at all
a simple, let alone a perfect process. The school decides
who may do well in such programs and those who are not in
are assumed to do better in other programs. She needs to be
reassured and this has to be done at family level with
everyone involved. But, bear in mind that too much attention
may look like sympathy, which may have reversed effects.
Perhaps, it would be a good idea to talk to her and ask her
if she wants to do an activity after school that excites
her. Channel her energy elsewhere so that she may be too
tired to vent out her frustrations at home. Moreover, you
may want to plan out activities which the both of you can do
together. This will create a stronger bond and would help
you understand her better. Best wishes to you.