Catering for Needs of the Gifted Children
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My son is just over six-years old and my husband and I have
always found him very intense and challenging.
He skipped crawling and went straight to walking by 9
months, never slept much (still doesn't as he wakes up at 5
am) and was constantly following people with his eyes before
he could move around, has always been extremely curious, was
very articulate from a young age, speaks two languages, has
high interest and ability for reading, has an incredible
memory, and is a master builder. He seems a lot more
comfortable with adults.
Since he's been in school he has been way ahead in some
areas (reading, computer skills, comprehension, ability to
understand and create abstract concepts) and lagging behind
in others (maths, writing). The problem is he can do the
maths perfectly sometimes and other times he just won't even
bother with it. Lately, he says that school is boring.
His teachers have asked us if he could be tested for
autistic tendencies because he flaps his hands when excited
and he doesn't always respect other people's personal space.
He also gets up sometimes and dances for a few minutes, as
if to expand energy, then comes back to his table. We don't
think he has more than possibly mild autistic tendencies
because he is very friendly, funny, sensitive to other
people's facial expressions and moods.
He's a very loveable child but it's very hard to know what
to do with him since things change everyday. One day he'll
do great in everything at school and the next day, he'll
just sit there and refuse to work.
He fits almost all of the characteristics you list for
giftedness. Is he gifted? How can we know? We just want to
understand him and help him.
A: Your son does appear to have
characteristic distinct to gifted children. From your
description, he does not clearly appear to be autistic,
especially as you indicated that he is sensitive to others
and friendly. However, this is best checked by a
professional to rule out any need for intervention since
some of his behaviors appear to display autistic tendencies.
Then again, he may just be a kinaesthetic learner!
Lagging behind in writing sometimes is a concern with gifted
children since they probably do much more reading than
writing which may affect their fine motor skills. Another
concern may be a condition known as dysgraphia, a disorder
where the child has extreme difficulties with writing. A
child with such condition may get tired after writing only a
page and unable to write and think at the same time. This
results in written work that does not reflect the depth of
the child's thoughts. For Maths, I really feel that since he
is able to do it perfectly well at times, it may be a
problem of boredom more than anything else. Perhaps he is
not getting the stimulation he needs for such work. Gifted
children need to find their work meaningful to be interested
in doing it. Otherwise, they either do it because they have
to or just ignore it completely – which may be the case for
When he says that school is boring, this is definitely a
sign that he may burn out if school does not challenge him.
What he needs now is support and accommodation for his
needs, be it giftedness or special needs. If his writing
problem is getting from bad to worse compared to his age
mates, he may need occupational therapy and treated as soon
as possible. Perhaps an IQ test may be helpful if you want
to convince the school for an individualized educational
program for your son. You need to discuss his condition with
the relevant authorities in his school and suggest for
subject acceleration for the ones that he is good at. This
is important for him to enjoy subjects that interest him at
his own pace. He may also need extra help in Maths, perhaps
a tutor after school to instill and maintain the interest
and explore more stimulating and advanced Maths if he
completes one level.
At home, keep stimulating him which activities that are
varied and of interest to him. Additionally, allow him some
free time to explore and discover his capabilities. You need
to monitor him to see if there are other issues of concern.
You have a very special child who needs some help but does
not know how to ask, therefore, you need make that extra
effort to understand him and make sure his needs are catered
for. Good luck!