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When a Gifted Child Flounders in School: One Mother’s Story

Updated on March 12, 2009

Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether or not a child is gifted, especially when teachers are treating your little genius as a problem child. Since I started writing about gifted kids and how to identify them, I’ve received several messages from parents looking for advice. I got permission to share this one because it’s a great example of what a lot of people go through.

Dear Lela,

I'm having problems with my child's school. My son goes to the local American/international school, as I barely speak the local language. He has just turned 5, is in kindergarten, and had, until recently been doing well. he started school at a Montessori at age 2, speaks the 3 languages we use at home quite well, and is learning another in school (he thinks he's also learning a fifth - the jury's still out on that one).

He reads on a fairly basic level, but is beginning to resist reading. He's gone from writing well to making mistakes in his name at school. He's also no longer working independently at all (in school, at home he asks for "homework" and happily completes it). He works well with numbers, at a level above what he gets in school - but will barely work at school.

Faced with all this, plus the fact that he is younger than the other kids, his teacher is pretty much insisting that he repeat kindergarten. He has told me (in his own words) that he is frustrated at school, but gives different reasons for this. I'm increasingly convinced that this will be disastrous for him, as he is already bored with his work there. The teacher's attitude is "if he does the work at home, it's not my problem, i never saw him do it at school".

There is some suggestion of ADHD, but there is no counselor or psychologist available (apart from me, but I got the degrees and never went to work in the field) to test him. He does concentrate exceedingly well when interested in the task, and is socially pretty good, so I mostly discount that. Sorry about the long narrative, but I'm looking for alternatives, for anything I can do to help out my little guy and avoid fostering the kind of frustration that would disgust him with learning for life. Can you please give me any ideas that come to mind?

· There are a lot points in this scenario I want to point out:

· The child speaks multiple languages (yes, this family lives abroad, but still).

· He reads and writes, and seems to enjoy this more at home than at school.

· There’s conflict at school because the child won’t simply ‘follow the rules’.

· Attention problems have been suggested.

· The child can concentrate for extended periods when he feels like it.

· He socializes well.

· The parent is worried about turning the child off education forever.

Certainly this is not the case with all gifted children, but many do follow this pattern in the early school years. I’m not an educational or psychological expert, but just a parent who has been in the same situation. I point out what this parent is facing because I know how easy it is to worry there’s something wrong with your child. Now I know that all they really need is a great teacher who understands them, and the right services tailored to their ‘special needs’.

Keep the faith! And keep advocating for your gifted children.

Image Credit: Pingu1963, Flickr


Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    Bill Beavers 

    9 years ago

    Wow, what an informative hub. So much information packed in here. Well done. Let me close by simply saying "Indigo Children".


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