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Helping a Potentially Gifted Toddler Learn

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I was wondering if my 19 month old is gifted. Her doctor has suggested I get her evaluated. By the time she was 12 months old she knew all her letters sounds. Now at 19 months she knows all her letters (capital and lower case), shapes; square, circle, star, diamond, triangle, square, rectangle, octagon, pentagon and heart. She can count into her twenties...pick up objects and count them. She recognizes numbers into the thirties. She knows all basic colors; red, pink, orange, blue, purple, yellow, black, white, grey and even navy blue. I can't tell you how many words she knows cause she repeats everything and speaks in sentences. Every day it's something new. She even takes my iPod touch and picks out the games she wants to play without any help. I want to make sure I get her the help she will need. Thanks so much! 

A: Based on the developmental milestone of a child, your daughter would fit in the gifted range with her advanced development. Though, at this stage, rather than determining how gifted she may be, it is of utmost importance that she be given the right nurturing to help her develop further.

It is not indicated how you may be helping her but I'm sure you are doing the right thing. My advice is to continue nurturing her as best as you can. For this, you need to be aware of her needs as she grows which may be different from her age group. She will surely develop faster and each of her ability would need attention and nurturance.

Try to watch her play and carefully observe her likes and dislikes. If you find that she enjoys number, introduce her to a variety of numbering activities (e.g., counting, measuring, etc). If you find that she enjoys books very much, she should be exposed to them. If she likes music, expose her to songs, music, etc (it doesn't have to be in one language - a variety of languages can be more exciting for them). Bear in mind that for advanced children, mere exposure may burn them out quite quickly. They need guidance and lots of variety in their interest areas. Apart from providing her with books, look for different activities that involves reading in a variety of environment. For example, take her to the library, read the newspaper with her (by showing headlines, pictures or ads), reading her books, reading related games, etc.

You may do the same with her other interests. Variety is the key here as gifted children tend to absorb too quickly and may eventually get bored with the same activity, even if they had once enjoyed it very much. If you find that she may not display abilities (or shows difficulties) in a certain area or perhaps dislikes certain subject matter especially if it is important (e.g. numbers, writing, drawing, etc) you may want to slow down a little there and look for ways to excite her using various approaches and activities to instill interest. Remember, the activities they do need to have meaning to them. If it is not meaningful, they will not sustain interest.

As parents, you would need a lot of energy and patience. Try reading up as much as you can on gifted toddlers (there is a lot of information from internet resources), hook up with parents of other highly able children (join gifted association in your area), subscribe to gifted newsletters to keep track of the latest on giftedness, etc.

Hope you have a wonderful journey of parenting a potentially gifted child.


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