Highly Able Child with Communication Disorder
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My 8 year old son is diagnosed with communication disorders. High
functioning child learning in a regular class. Third grade. Since early
childhood he showed up sighs of high abilities such as:
6-7 months he liked particular TV program teaching young children
colours, shapes and so on.. At first I thought he was just
watching...without understanding. I quickly realized that he started to
learned to say numbers, letters, colours...at age of 6-7 months!! and
identify it on the screen! I thought I was dreaming but it was reality!
At age 1 he knew all numbers, letters, colours, shapes (all of them) to
count and and many amazing things! He was amazing!! But still he had
Now he's 8 years old, has sever behaviour problems, getting emotional
medication treatment. Also, (to our big surprised) he was diagnosed with
learning disabilities as well as communication problems. Showed symptoms
of high functioning communication disorders.
He had taken TONI TEST 3 and scored 148 - which is way above average
score to his age group. The average is 100 with standard deviation 15.
They told us that his non-verbal thinking is very high. This matches his
high abilities as an infant In fact I have never seen a baby with such
abilities as as he presented.
Many times we have asked ourselves if he was gifted. Since he is doing
very well in studies and getting high scores without learning at all!
and even though he has learning disabilities. Last year they took gifted
& talnted test in school. In our country it is a mass test. Not
individual. To our BIG surprise he didn't pass! Even though he has such
We were noted that is not gifted nor talented and do not deserve to
participate in special programs. This is shock to us since we know he is
not average. Also when he was 4 years he took IQ test as a developmental
assessment and he scored above average! Now we are confused. I do not
know what went wrong. I think we will appeal.
Last year he received relaxing medications which discovered later that
they put him slow and asleep during the day (NEULEPTIL DROPS). He has
stopped using it!!
Before the test, I gave him I few drops. Maybe this medication slowed
him down. We are confused. Thanks for good advise!
There are a lot of questions in mind regarding what you have written. I
would require much more details to be able to advise here but I would
try my best with what is described. From your letter, I am able to
determine that your son is indeed highly advanced and possibly twice
exceptional (gifted with a disability). His abilities as an infant are
very advanced especially if it is self-learnt.
His score on the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, Third Edition (TONI-3 -
a language-free assessment of nonverbal intelligence and reasoning
abilities) is very high. You did not indicate when this test was taken.
If it was taken when he was 6 (the earliest this test can be taken), and
the gifted and talented test a year later, could it be that items apart
from nonverbal ones interfered with the overall results? Or it worsened
with no intervention over the year? This test is used for children aged
6 or older when there are speech or language problems (as in your son's
case) or when English is not the child's native language. Rather than
using the TONI-3, the WISC and the Stanford-Binet (SB) tests are better
indicators for use in gifted programme placements but may not be
suitable for your son since he has communication disorder.
On his communication problem, it is deficits in his ability to exchange
information with others. A communication disorder can occur in language,
speech, and/or hearing which you have not indicated exactly which one is
the main concern. Within that spectrum, language problems include spoken
language, reading and/or writing difficulties. Speech encompasses areas
such as the ability to speak clearly and be intelligible, fluency of
language spoken (in terms of stuttering), and voice. Hearing
difficulties may also encompass speech problems and/or language
problems. Hearing impairments include deafness and hearing loss. Does he
have difficulty following directions, attending to a conversation,
pronouncing words, perceiving what was said, expressing oneself, or
being understood? When his communication disorder was diagnosed and are
there any interventions since? The good news is that most communication
concerns can be improved by therapy. Even if the cure is not 100%,
children can learn strategies to overcome their difficulties and some
may even overcome them as they grow older especially for mild language
It is also noted that (for some unknown reason) boys are diagnosed with
communication disorders more often than girls. Furthermore, children
with communication disorders tend to have other disorders as well. In
your son's case it may be behavioural problems as you have mentioned.
Has he been diagnosed for ADHD or any learning difficulties?
Additionally, there is a strong relationship between communication and
academic achievement. Language proficiency and academic success does
depend on whether or not the child is able to match their communication
to the teaching and learning style in a classroom. In cases of children
with communication disorder, academic success will be only be possible
if they learn and understand the classroom's social, language, and
learning patterns. This would need a lot of intervention and specialised
attention from the teachers. It is unclear if your son is receiving any
intervention from teachers and speech-language pathologists. The focus
should be in attending to their classroom interactions and the language
and communications used in the school to help children learn to
communicate in these environments.
You also mentioned neuleptil drops - this is quite strong and may
interfere with his ability to do well in exams. You really need to speak
to a counsellor in the school and have him tested based on his
condition. It is not fair for him to be tested in a group - he is a
special child and he needs differentiation learning for him to fulfil
his potential. Please also see a child psychologist to determine if he
has any other disorder as if there is, intervention is very necessary in
order to get to the root of the problem. Otherwise, he would just sink
Early detection and intervention can address the developmental needs and
academic difficulties to improve the quality of life experienced by
children with communication disorders. Please speak to the school for a
re-evaluation on his learning needs and possibly a counsellor for a
referral to a good psychologist. Wishing you all the best.