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Testing Very Young Children

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Our son, born in July 2008, was able to work an iPhone at 18 months (identifying his apps and locating them); by 2 years was identifying all letters of the alphabet, could write his letters and numbers up to 10 free-hand and upon request; he just turned 3, and is writing up to 20 words correctly, identifies unusual shapes in abstract objects (a diamond shape in the clouds, for example), is completely obsessed with pointing out numbers (identifies up to 100 correctly about 80% of the time), and his fine and gross motor skills are very advanced (has been able to hold a crayon and write as well as throw/kick a ball straight since he was 2).

Most remarkable, is his complete obsession and ability to use an iPhone/iPad without any direct instruction. We are concerned because he still has two full years before he goes to Kindergarten! I am capturing much of his progress on video, so when he does go to school there are no doubts as to his early abilities. We aren't sure if we should have him tested at this point? We live in Manhattan, KS, so our options for private schooling are rather limited. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

A: I am certainly not a fan of testing very young children and I suggest you wait a little longer for more stable results. Your child does show advance abilities and this was indicated in the video link you sent. However, there was no other attempt used apart from the iPhone and the iPad. Though, from your description of this fine motor skills and verbal ability, I believe he has developed ahead of this peers.

Based on the computer skills, it is hard to determine giftedness. These days, most kids who are exposed to the iPhone and the iPad are quite able to quickly master the skills, hence the variety of educational applications for these devices. With these devises handy, you may find that your child is learning their ABCs at the same time they're playing various games. Learning is playing and due to this, there is so much fun learning - which is also very educational and helps the child. These days there are applications to help children with learning problems as well with demonstrated improvement in children.

It is indeed a fact that some children start playing applications earlier than others and because of their varying abilities. An iPad user's ability can vary from child to child. The best part is that there are usually different levels and the child is motivated to go from one level to another more challenging one; which serves the purpose for the advanced child.
The iPad, for instance, has educational applications with a powerful format to teach and grow the child's mind and intelligence. Furthermore, there is really no right or wrong way to hold the iPad and children eventually learn what is meant for them to learn without being disrupted on the right or wrong way to hold a pencil, etc.

I would suggest that you go on with him exploring the devices as he is doing right now, At the same time, make sure he gets involves in other more physical activities that is essential for his development. The problem is that children may get so engrossed in the interactiveness of these devices that they tend to ignore the real world. Expose him to “traditional” toys, puzzles, sand playing, outdoors, sporting activities and other games. He also need to mingle with others in his age group. I am sure you are already doing this, so keep it up and be cautious not to allow him to stay too long on these electronic devices.

Take a step at a time and when he is ready for school, you may need to speak to the teachers about his progress then. For now, enjoy him and try to put off testing till he is a little older. All the best to you!


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