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Special Need Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son will be 4 in Jan 2006 and has mild cerebral palsy. His memory skills, vocabulary, powers of observation and sense of humor are all advanced of his age group. Of course, his motor skills are delayed, specifically walking which he just began to do independently and falls often.

My question is, is he gifted and if so, how do I find programs in my area that will nurture this? Because of his disability, I am afraid that he will be earmarked for "special needs programs" that may not answer all his special needs.

A: For the benefit of other readers, briefly, cerebral palsy (CP) is a condition caused by damage to the brain, usually occurring before, during or shortly following birth. It can range from mild to severe. Most commonly it is characterized by an inability to fully control motor function, which is no surprise when you mentioned that he had just learnt to walk independently.

I am not able to tell if he is gifted for sure, but your description does indicate early signs of above average development, especially when compared to age-peers. You may want to get professional help to evaluate his mental capacity to be able to decide what would work best for him. In schools, unfortunately in most cases, their disabilities often mask their giftedness. In fact, there is chance that these students may never be recognized as gifted.

When diagnosed, naturally early intervention is a key to ultimate success for such cases. In reality, mild CP diagnosis is hard to live with when your child "appears" normal to most people. People often wonder why children with CP are unable to do many physical tasks as well as educational tasks. This is a rather complex situation and many teachers are not well versed in how CP manifests itself in the classroom. Chances are that if there are not enough appropriately trained professionals in his school, he may be marked for special needs program.

Therefore, it may a good idea to get him evaluated to have some form of "proof" of his mental ability; this is of course if the school does not have such facilities. Being diagnosed as having mild CP, he would need treatment that is available only in special programs, and at the same time he would also need to enhance his strength in ability-based program. Find out from his school how they may want to treat him educationally to maximize his potentials. You might also want to get in touch with the local branch of United Cerebral Palsy and ask them for a consultation (you did not indicate where you are from so I am not able to suggest where to go).

However, the following are lists of sites you may want to have a look at on gifted children with disabilities. My very best wishes to you.

Internet Resources (
Gifted But Learning Disabled: A Puzzling Paradox

For parents of gifted students with learning disabilities or other special needs (ADHD, Asperger's, Tourette, etc.)
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Discussion of issues in education for gifted students who may also have learning disabilities
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