Adopted Gifted Child
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
I have a foster child who has been with me for 5 years
since age 6. He came from an abusive and neglected
At age 6 he battled to talk properly, couldn't hold a pen to
write or draw, couldn't even open a simple sweet wrapper. I
was originally told by the social worker that he is
However, I noticed that he was learning things very quickly
so I had him retested and was told he is very intelligent,
but never taught the basics in his most informative years.
He is in a special education school for children with above
average IQs but with learning disabilities and is now in
He learns things like spelling, phonics, etc very well but
he is really battling with mathematics and also seems to
have problems with actually comprehending things. I find he
also gets confused between months and years and also with
understanding differences between cities and countries, etc.
He also seems to be very good at work avoidance, both at
home and at school, to such an extent that he is failing as
he just does not apply himself. He works very hard ... at
trying to get out of work!
He also gets very frustrated very easily and often storms
out the class or looses his temper with his teacher and / or
the other children. He battles socially with some of the
other children and they really enjoy making him angry. His
friends' parents however state when he is with them he is
wonderful. At home and at school he is also getting really
disrespectful to his teacher and to me. He seems to spend a
lot of time in detention at school as well.
This child has a heart of gold but, I suspect, due to his
past, gets hurt and frustrated very quickly. He seems to
feel a lot more comfortable around animals and loves them
with a passion. He also loves to play on the computer at
home which I only allow as a reward, not a right.
I have tried various rewards, punishments, etc but none of
them seem to have an effect on this child. I have tried
speaking to him about the consequences of his behavior,
tried grounding (which is automatic if he has detention). I
have even told him how much it hurts me AND him when he
doesn't just try to do better.
I am single. I love this child so very, very much and would
give him the world if I could. I can't get him to really
open up except about trivial things. He has more love each
day then he ever had before. I want to adopt him as soon as
the social workers get motivated.
How do I get through to this special young man who has so
much potential in him? How do I motivate him to at least
try? How do I teach him about responsibilities? I know he
can succeed if only he tries. He is very clever.
The doctor did try him on Ritilin but it seemed to have the
opposite effect. Please help!
A: I am so sorry to hear the
issues you are going through. I think you may need some
constant help professionally in bringing up this precious
child. It is hard to advise without seeing and talking to
him in person so I will try to guide you a little.
What you need to be aware of is that most gifted children
tend to be emotionally quite sensitive; in your case perhaps
he is highly sensitive and emotional. It is very natural
that your boy may take things seriously and get extremely
upset by what others may say or do. This may be the reason
he loses his temper and gets frustrated easily. Sometimes
frustration is most easily vented upon those we love the
most (you!) – perhaps, that is why he throws tantrums. At
11, he may be going through developmental changes as well
that may be beyond his understanding, coupled with all the
other issues; hence the temper and frustration.
To help him cope with these intense emotions, please read
the following articles at
On Preparing to Parent the Adopted Child, this article may
He is also going through uneven (asynchronous) development
with the gifts and learning challenges he has. His past may
also be affecting him in ways he may not be aware of. All
these could easily frustrate an adult and he is just a young
boy. What you definitely need to do is to see a psychologist
by recommendation and have him evaluated. He probably needs
proper and constant counseling with therapy. You may want
to act really soon as the longer you wait, the deeper the
damage. My very best wishes to you.