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Acceleration for the Young Gifted

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: We have a gifted 5 year old boy. He is in kindergarten at a private progressive academic school. He taught himself to write at 3 and reads at about 4th grade level and comprehends at 2nd grade. He writes long stories and he is a spelling wizard. He has most math basics under his belt. Most of this stuff is self taught. He spends his free time writing his versions of Harry Potter. He is a little withdrawn socially but has progress a long way since entering Kindergarten. He is still however spinning his wheels in Kindergarten. He has mastered all the basics and is not really challenged.

He is physically a tall skinny boy who looks about 7. He is quiet but very mature and well behaved and he has a composure and inner control that strangers are always commenting on. We have just asked the school to consider putting him in 2nd grade and now I am nervous about it. Are we going to damage him?

It is a small school of 170 kids in k-8 and everyone knows everyone. I am worried what people will say. Will he adjust to seeing his peers still in 1st grade? I am so confused. We spoke to him and he would love it but he has a very special buddy and he is worried about missing him. This boy has helped him develop confidence but this boy is also a little bit of a pill.

This little boy is a year older than him and of the same intellect but he is physically small and immature. I just feel that the school is costing us a fortune and they seem to only accept advanced children and gifted children and therefore I feel they need to do more. Any input would be helpful.

A: You son definitely needs to be in advance class for is intellectual development but I at the same time; I can understand your concerns, especially in terms of his socio-emotional well being. What you may need to keep in mind is that your son will naturally enter puberty later than his classmates, which, while difficult for any child for that matter, can be overcome with supportive school staff and parents. Many factors have to be taken into consideration here, for e.g., his maturity, social environment (ability to socialize? many friends?), independence, physical appearance (looks too young? physic?), etc. These are not academic concerns but may affect her socio-emotional well-being.

You did mention that he has been a little withdrawn socially but has progressed, so you may want to make sure that he will be fine with a new circle of friends. He is also physically skinny, but his height surely makes up for his physic. It's not surprising that his close friend is someone physically small and immature, which probably gives him the confidence of the upper hand.

Since he shows evidence of social maturity now, appears matured and composed, it is recommended that he be allowed to skip grades. Therefore, you really need to discuss this with his teachers and if they feel he should be skipping grades, it usually means that they recognize the special ability and uniqueness in him and are trying to offer him the best the school can offer. As you mentioned that his school only accepts advanced children, they would surely be able to advise you as to what they feel would be educationally best for him. Especially if you are paying a fortune for his schooling, the school should deliver.

Worrying what others may say should not be much of a concern as it usually dies off after a while. Most importantly, he appears to be fine with the idea of having to move ahead. You may need to help him to settle in with his new friends and get help from his teachers as well as perhaps some parents with children in the same class. I personally do not think holding him back is a good idea. Home stimulation and support of interests are vital to the development of your son's abilities. If he is not given the appropriate challenges, he may burn-out. Do also get in touch with parents support groups from your area; a gifted association would be ideal. You would be surprised that just sharing experiences with other parents can go a long way. Best wishes!


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