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A Late Bloomer

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I was wondering if giftedness is clarified to come at a later stage. My child, now 15 years old, has somehow just sprung into life in terms of academia. There has always been something about the way she acts, she has always had rational and logical thoughts, and has a repetition to be quite upheld about her views on things, taking no care what others say unless they prove they know better. She has also been diagnosed with mild obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it is clear to both the family and to her peers and teachers at school that she has always had overwhelming thoughts which provoke her to have a certain way in a situation.

The thing that strikes me most is how much she seems to worry, about everything, and cannot miss an opportunity to hint at a possible worst-case scenario, even at the slightest and most moderate things. From a very young age she has seemed to write these thoughts down on paper, and draw the images in her mind to store the situations she has been in. As well as this, she has always had an ability to solve mental mathematics, and understand scientific and humanitarian problems and issues and this was clear in primary school. Despite this, she has never seemed to pay attention to others or in class, and often failed tests in her early years simply out of rebellion and lack of focus. This had put her in a bad state up until recently, when something has sparked into her mind, a light switch has been flicked on and it's like she has never thought differently. She has acted out of free will by organizing meetings with senior staff and asked to move accordingly, as she believed that if she was going to start attempting to achieve in school then it was never going to happen in the classes she was in at that point.

Over the space of the next 3 months, she had re-sat every modular exam at GCSE level, and had been noticed by teachers to have astonishing talent in all areas of school, moving from C predicted to straight A* predicted for the results series this August. She constantly works at home, and finds any free time useful to do 'fun' Maths as she calls it, or speculate over the both the worlds governmental, religious and environmental state. She has been certified to study at college under a gifted program, but is still not recognized to be gifted at high school simply due to past assessments.

I would love for you to be able to respond and comment on her situation. Thanks.

A: This is indeed a very interesting case. It is obvious that she showed her abilities late but it is also obvious that she had them all along, just waiting for a trigger. Unfortunately, ability is viewed as a static property determined by the genes and should be activated immediately at birth. As simple as it may seem, this is not really the case. It is true that in most cases gifted children demonstrate abilities at a very early age, at the same time, for some people, ability may take time to develop. Genetic contribution takes time to unfold and it does so differently with every individual.

Intelligence in fact changes across the lifespan as some genes are automatically turned on and some turned off. It is a play and interaction of certain genes that determine intelligence. Abilities such as leadership and creativity are only seen and appreciated later on in life, and is an attribute of success – as opposed to the kid who read at 3, who may even average out by 10 when other kids are reading just as well! Child prodigies (e.g., in mathematics, music chess, etc) draw on relatively delimited knowledge and skills.

You did notice that your girl has been a little different and thinks differently, and especially her advanced thoughts in knowledge and her heightened sensitivity proves that she has been a gifted child all along. Regardless of whether she is in a gifted program, something must have triggered her – something within her I believe and she has decided what she wants to do and is doing just that. This could not have happened if she were forced to do it. She had the abilities all along, just never had a reason to bring it to surface.

I totally understand about late bloomers as I was one myself, was dyslexic but never knew till I went on to graduate school! School was tough initially; especially the primary years when I was so far behind everyone else and totally unaware that I had a learning disability. However, parental support and encouragement changed everything. Therefore, keep encouraging her and sharing her ideas and opinions and providing her the mental stimulation she needs. Allow her to make decisions for herself with some guidance from adults and help her find purpose in life. I foresee a young lady flourishing and achieving great heights.

An interesting quote: "I made a decision that I wanted to be world class at something at a very young age; I just had to find that one thing that made me realize this is my arena, this is where I want to play," says Chris Gardner, founder and CEO of the stock brokerage Gardner Rich & Co.

My very best to both of you!


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