Developmentally Advanced Child
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Q: I have a two questions: whether my child
is potentially gifted, and what activities I should be doing with him,
that won't isolate him (and me) from our peers.
My baby is now nearly 15 months old, and has been very alert from birth.
As he has grown I have regularly checked his development, only to find
that he was sometimes meeting his milestones very early. I am aware that
there is a lot of variation among babies and children with milestones,
and although I am sure my son is bright, I am not convinced either way
about giftedness. His doctor said that he was 'neurodevelopmentally
advanced', whatever that means, but his development has not been
predictable. From my experience with other people's children, most of
his milestones seem average, with the exception of some early ones, so I
can't really tell if he is just good at some things, or whether he is
actually gifted. Some of his milestones are as follows, according to the
chart posted elsewhere on this site:
He never really 'rolled'
Sat up alone at 4 months
Stood up and cruised around 7-8 months
Walked well alone by 10 months
Crawled up 10 stairs by 8-9 months, by which time we had
to gate the stairs
Walked up stairs (one foot per stair) at 12 months
Walks backwards at 13 months
Walks on tiptoes at 14 months
Runs at 12 months
Dribbles (kicks) a ball very well at 12 months
Throws a ball well at 12 months (but has been throwing
for a long time)
Turns in circles until he is dizzy at 12 months
Could do a high-five at 7 months, but didn't wave until
Played with a rattle toy frequently from 8 weeks
Had a pincer grip by 7 months
Turns pages of a book and 'reads' by himself at 12
Scribbled at 9-10 months, and enjoys scribbling now as
he says 'draw'
Can use a shape sorter at 11 months
Pushes buttons and light switches from 8 months
Can feed himself with a spoon from 10 months, but still
mostly eats with his hands (his left hand, though he draws with his
Has been babbling since 3 months or earlier
Said 'hello' at 3-4 months
Says or has said about 30 words (and some sounds, like
'woof' by 13 months
Says many two- and three-word combinations e.g. 'up
stairs', 'what is it' by 13 months
Could differentiate between two toys when asked at 6
Understands and (mostly) complies with all instructions
we give him by 12 months
Might sit down and cry when told not to do/touch
something, but will not defy us
'Sings' and dances to music at 8 months when cruising
Sorts/groups objects including food at 14 months
Additionally, he has always slept poorly, and despite showing extreme
tired signs when he was very small, he was extremely difficult to
settle. He would be very shaky at times, and people often wondered
whether there was something 'wrong' with him. He has always had
difficulty controlling his temperature and is very sensitive to heat.
My second question is, what activities should I be doing with him? I am
very against hot-housing, but I don't want him to be bored and
frustrated either, or end up with social problems because he is unhappy.
I take him to a few baby classes, and he has always moved up to levels
beyond his age group because of his physical ability, but this means
there aren't many babies his age there. I often feel isolated, and
actually get a bit of attitude from other mothers who are always asking
me how old he is, and almost seem offended that he is able to kick a
ball etc when they know how old he is. If he is gifted or bright, I
wonder whether there are some groups or communities I could join where
we might be able to avoid this sort of thing?
Thank you for your time.
From your description, it does appear that your son is as mentioned by
your doctor, 'neurodevelopmentally advanced'. This refers to brain
function that affects emotion, learning ability, self-control and memory
and that unfolds as the individual grows. This term is more commonly
used for those with disorders of the brain function. In short, your son
is developing at a faster pace looking at his developmental milestone.
Most of the description you mentioned is physical so it is hard to
determine signs of giftedness. Having said that, due to the advanced
development he is able to move on to higher levels of play that requires
quick learning, which is one of the distinct traits of giftedness. He
may be potentially gifted but it is hard to tell at this stage without
more all round description and observation.
Regardless, you should take notice of his interests and follow his
leads. Whether a child is identified as gifted or average, the
activities are pretty similar for children at this stage, just that the
speed of performing activities may differ; hence the jump to more
difficult activities would be faster (as in your son's case). The most
important thing at this stage is to make sure that learning should be
stimulating, varied, accelerated and above all, meaningful. You can
involve him in any activity, with the following practical guidelines in
understanding your child at the back of your mind.
For gifted children, they have two main needs; feeling comfortable with
themselves and their differences with other children and developing
their potential to the maximum. As parents, it is important to keep in
mind that whatever activity they indulge in should not be forced upon
and not necessarily intended for parents to make long term goals for
children (e.g., pushing a child to master a game/sport/music to compete
for fame). Whatever activity your child may indulge in, the long term
goal should be to help enable the child to be a comfortable adult who is
able to use her/his gifts productively.
Observe what he enjoys. For a 15 month old, before going to play school,
you may want to stay attuned to his differences (compared to his age
group) and meet his needs as you observe him. This would allow him to be
different and treated as normal, especially as the gap becomes larger.
For e.g., if at 2, he prefers to play with toys designed for a 4 year
old, then let it be. If it appears that he enjoys reading, introduce
books to him (you can start now as well), and ones of his choice. If you
find that he has a large and sophisticated vocabulary, enhance it by
using such vocabulary yourself.
To develop closeness, you can also constantly talk, read or sing to your
child. Talk to him about daily events. Ask him about play school or any
enrichment (if he starts one), perhaps repeating some activities he did
or re-enacting scenes. Children love this kind of play, especially when
adults join in. Read him stories in a way that encourages him to
participate by answering questions, pointing to what he sees in a book
or by repeating certain rhymes.
Do not forget to encourage exploration and play (provided it is safe).
Children learn best through playing. For e.g., blocks, art and pretend
play help children develop curiosity, problem-solving skills, language,
Make sure you keep in track of the progress he is making. This will
enable you to gauge his performance. Above all, regardless of the
activity, as a parent you need to be warm, caring and responsive as much
as possible. It has been researched and found that children, regardless
of gifted or average, with care giving such as touching, talking in a
warm tone and smiling, get along better with other children and perform
better in school than children who are less securely attached. At this
stage, as it is too soon to determine giftedness, it is also too soon to
worry about concerns associated with giftedness. In fact, being aware of
your child's needs is more important than anything else. I suggest you
enjoy your child and follow his leads in learning for now. Surf the
Internet for associations and support group for gifted children in your
area. All the best in your journey!