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Uneven Development of the Gifted

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I'm contacting you with regard to my 18 month old daughter. Since she was born she has been highly alert and gave her first smile at two weeks old. At this stage she has approximately 150 words and is highly communicative. She applies many of these words to associated objects. For example she calls the grater, cheese and all human form sculptures are called Buddha. She also connects many words to make her point, e.g. every morning she says Molly, dirty, bath, bubbles then throws a towel over her shoulder and goes to the bathroom.

She also responds accurately to complex requests and seems to understand most conversation. She comes from a long line of extremely bright people including my brother who has highest IQ ever recorded in Ireland. Unfortunately his life was very difficult because of his brightness.

My question is do you think my daughter might be similar and if so what action do we need to take about it? Your advice is greatly appreciated.

A: Chances are that your daughter may be above average and this is not surprising with the family history on IQ that you have indicated. I can understand the difficulties that your brother had gone through, especially then when there was so little awareness on giftedness.

You daughter may turn out to be similar in terms of her IQ but that does not translate to life being difficult for her. The myths surrounding highly gifted children may have been so due to the lack of research, understanding, knowledge and awareness of the distinct characteristics of these children. The most important educational aspect for a gifted child is recognition and provision for appropriate learning based on ability, not chronological age. This may see some highly gifted children accelerating very quickly and perhaps being the youngest in class, or a few grades younger in terms of age.

The problem that may come about here is uneven development between advanced intellectual development and development of physical and social skills. Studies have indicated that intellectually gifted children's performance in the physical domain may only be advanced to the extent that the physical tasks involve cognitive organization. Even though these children tend to possess some advanced social-cognitive skills due to their giftedness, they may not necessarily demonstrate those skills in their social behavior. In simple terms, they may understand and be able to relate to how to solve social conflicts and interact cooperatively, but not know how to translate their understanding into concrete behavior. This in turn can be extremely frustrating leading to acts of giving up or throwing tantrums. It is here that they require adult guidance in developing coping strategies.

As a parent, it is crucial to understand the unique developmental patterns often present in gifted children. Today, the education has changed so much and in most advanced countries giftedness is recognized and given appropriate attention. With a highly gifted child, the journey may not be a bed of roses, but with the right guidance it can lead to very favorable results. For parents, support is important to understand your child so you may want to join gifted associations or support groups. The following link may be helpful. Good luck!

Irish Association for Gifted Children
Carmichael House, 4 North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7.


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