Previously Advanced Child Not Performing in Formal School
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Hi, I'm a mother of two children, my son is 7 and daughter is 3. My son
showed some strange signs before he turned one, he was able to count,
could complete puzzles very easily and knew different colours and had a
very strong sense of direction by the age of three he could tell where
which road will take you where and we even used to call him a navigator.
When he started pre school at three the teacher used to tell us how
bright bright he was and that he was far ahead of his peers. The teacher
also mentioned that he was able to learn passively while he was busy
going up and down in the class which was kind of strange.
But things just suddenly changed when he was 5 and we moved to another province. We
put him in another school and he refused to do any formal work in class
according to the teacher. At the beginning of the next year we moved him
to another school and things didn't get any better as the teacher gave
us a bad report all the time that he's a busy body and disruptive and
and doesn't finish his work. He's currently in grade 1 and not doing
well. The teacher says he's got some commutation problems and is is
unable to express himself. We took him to an educational psychologist
and his assessment was inconclusive as the result were inconsistent. He
is strongly attracted to music. Please help as this is really
frustrating on our side.
Based on your description of your son's previous performance, it does
appear that he has been advanced until you moved. There are many reasons
that can be contributed here.
Preschools are almost always more fun because there is less rigour in
academic and more play - which is how advanced children prefer to learn.
Your son may have been enjoying the unstructured learning in preschool
and suddenly in Grade 1, formal learning begins. Some children take time
to adjust. This could be a phase but the teacher makes a difference as
The fact that his preschool teacher recognises his advanced ability
probably made him feel comfortable with her. He could also be a
kinaesthetic learner - children who learn better with movement. At grade
school, this is probably not allowed as the syllabus is more structured
and children are expected to stay put and listen to the teacher. The
teacher is probably not helping much as there are many other children in
the classroom and personalised attention that he could be used to is
just not there. Some children learn quickly but it could be that your
son is lacking attention in the classroom, so to get attention from the
teacher, he manifests in behaviours that gets him some attention.
Another reason could be that he is already advanced and the class is
holding him back. If he is learning stuff that he has already mastered,
it could be a very dull classroom for him. To keep his mind occupied, he
disrupts his peers. If this is the case, suggest that the teacher give
him more challenging work especially if she realised that he completes
his work very quickly. If he is not completing is work, check if it is
too difficult, too easy or too boring. You would probably know if he
already knows the work he is doing. Check if he is also daydreaming in
It also appears that the sudden change was after his baby sister was
born. Without realising, parents tend to pay a lot of attention to a new
born or younger sibling; which is quite normal because the attention and
care is required for the youngest in the family. However, if your son is
highly sensitive, at his tender age he may feel left out or neglected.
One of the reasons children misbehave is the to get attention of others
which is manifested in unwanted behaviour. This could also be a reason
so perhaps if he is made to feel important and wanted, things may
gradually change both at home and in school. Try to include him in
everything and show him how important he is - he is so young, he needs
to be shown love. Hug a lot, say nice things, see his baby pictures
together and make time for him alone – any activity that makes the bond
stronger will help him.
Last but not least, speak to his teachers and do not just take word for
his behaviour – get them to explain when and how he misbehaves. You know
your child best so you may be able to help them understand him. Hope
that helps. Best of luck to you!