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Gifted Children/10 month old daughter very interested in books

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QUESTION: My daughter is 10 and a half months old. She has always been ahead on her milestones, and now is right about with her 14-15 month friends. Some examples are, she has been walking since 7 and a half months, using her thumb and finger to hold things since 5-6 months, said her first word at about 4 and a half-5 months, and now can crawl up stairs, and says 8 words, 6 of which are clear to most people. She has always been very alert and active, never required a lot of sleep, very persistent, and a long attention span. We've realized she is advanced, but just assumed it was all within the "normal" range for her age.
She has always been very interested in books, and we are starting to realize this may be very different from other children. I've been noticing this interest increase drastically, especially over the last month. Today I kept track and we logged over 4 hours of me reading to her, all of which was initiated by her. When she did sit by herself to read, she just pointed and said something like "da dis?" (what's this?) until I gave her an answer, and then continued on to the next page. She doesn't seem to get bored, frustrated, or upset by reading. She just seems very concentrated and thoughtful.
She takes small "breaks" and plays with other toys, but only for short times (5-20 minutes), and just goes back to her books.
I love that she has such an interest, but I don't know if this is normal? Could this be a sign that there is something more going on, that she could be gifted? Is there something more we should be doing with her?

Thank you for your time.

ANSWER: Dear Bridgett,

You could be describing my daughter!  It is an extraordinary blessing to have a child who loves books.  Yes, it is possible she is gifted; I would go so far as to say probable.  Your awareness, manner of communicating and observations tell me that you are probably of higher intellectual ability, and probably your daughter's abilities are influenced genetically.

It's so much fun to have a gifted child that sometimes you can hardly stand it! It's so challenging to raise a gifted child that sometimes you can hardly stand it!  Gifted kids take an extra measure of energy, time and thinking than do alot of kids. There's an infinite number of ways to create mischief and extra verbal ability to talk their way out of it.  It may not be intentional, but requires shaping anyway.

"Discipline" often is confused with the word "punishment"; they are not the same.  Discipline is better thought of as methods to shape the child's behavior and to teach responsibility and accountability.  THAT IS KEY!  Kids with advanced intellectual ability are often seen as mature beyond their years. EMOTIONAL MATURITY IS A CLOSER MATCH WITH AGE. IT'S CRITICAL TO BE MINDFUL OF THAT DISTINCTION because there's such a strong pull to see a child as having advanced emotional maturity.  It's called "asynchronous development" - and it can be the most significant challenge or stumbling block for parents raising gifted children.  Your daughter is still very young, meaning you get to start young with these things in mind.  

It's easy to put so much emphasis on intellect and academics that other maturation doesn't get the attention needed.  It's critical to teach "people skills" such as respect for self and others, good manners, communication, cooperation, tolerance, gratitude, and others.  No matter how smart a child is, success and fulfillment are elusive or impossible if they can't get along with people.  The home, from parents, is where kids start to learn people skills. Kids raised with a balance of work, play, structure and free time will do better academically than a child who gets too much emphasis on academics.  It's good that your daughter interacts with other children.

There are countless, often expensive, products, programs and Internet sites that make ridiculous promises about their positive influence on children.  Be very wary of those; many are preying on concerned parents who want to give their children the brightest future possible.  I'm very cautious about recommending anything unless I'm very sure it's genuine and responsible with information. I trust these:

1. familydoctor.org with the American Academy of Family Physicians as a general health, disease, development and behavior resource.  What's especially good about familydoctor.org is that there's information for all ages.

2. healthychildren.org with the American Academy of Pediatrics, also is a general resource, but pertains to children only.

3. Free Spirit Publishing has carefully selected resources about giftedness and many different learning styles, from birth, as well as material about the "people skills" mentioned earlier.  Their games are fun for everyone and make good family activities.

4. "Children: the Challenge" by Rudulf Dreikurs, MD and Vicki Soltz, RN.  It's an old classic which teaches effective discipline in beautifully simple and encouraging ways.

5. "Parenting by Design" is a contemporary resource, (books, on-line learning) which includes important recognition of the spiritual elements of discipline. It's also encouraging in style.

Public libraries can be excellent sources of books, DVDs, toys and children's programming; many have a children's librarian to help with selection.  

Remember that YOU are the parents, the decision makers and rule-enforcers and, whether or not our children like that, they NEED it. If you can't read for long periods of time,  or you have errands, household duties, etc. you teach the kids to fit into the needs of daily living.  Gifted kids do better with a little lead time, letting them know they will be changing activities shortly.

Children thrive in an environment in which parents make their marriage high-priority. All of you have plenty of fun, the sillier the better; make family memories.

I'm in Michigan.  If you're comfortable telling me what region you're in, I may be able to suggest specific resources. Thank you for letting me serve you. Your feedback is important. Please return to this site anytime.

Faith A. Coleman MD

Addendum: Bridgett, as I reread my answer I thought I might not have been as specific as you'd like about what you can do. I'll add these comments, some above, for that purpose. Get basic material, (a book or audio-visual) from Free Spirit Publishing to familiarize yourselves with giftedness. That, along with "Children: the Challenge" are a good beginning.

It's good that you let your daughter lead the way with her interests. Often, parents of gifted children are worried about offering enough stimulation.  I'd be more concerned about overstimulation.  At your daughter's age, everything, everyone, everywhere are all stimulating learning experiences.  You couldn't slow down her learning if you tried.  If your activities start to feel like more work than fun, it's time to "just be."  You'll sense when your energy and your daughter's are replenished.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Your advice was very helpful. The websites you suggested are very great. We were able to read a short pdf book from Free Spirit Publishing that gave a great overview about what being gifted means, for our daughter, and for us as her parents.

There were a few questions I forgot to ask. My husband and I are wondering the best way to approach telling people. We've already noticed that when we tell people about our daughter's milestones, they tend to have unexpected reactions. It was actually one of the things that made us suspect she may be advanced out of the typical range. A few give the usual "Yay! That's great!" response, but more and more we are starting to get silence and disbelief, and even the occasional negative comment. We are proud when she does something, and we want her to be proud of her accomplishments as well, but clearly it's something that causes other parents to feel like we are saying our child is better than others.
This also goes along with other people treating her older than she is. My in-laws often say to her "You're too big for that!" They don't see her more than once or twice a month, so for right now we just ignore it, but am I right in being concerned that it could affect our daughter negatively later on?
Lastly, my husband really wants me to share her great accomplishments just this week. She is now saying 13 words, identifies 4 body parts, and makes 3 animal sounds. While sitting with her, I said a line from one of her books, and she got down, walked over to her books (she has about 40-50), found that book, found that page, and brought the book to me. I thought it was just because she has had that book for months, so I did it with a book we bought this week, and have only read maybe four or five times total. Again, she found the correct book, the correct page, and brought it to me. The actual line was "I like chewing this fuzzy slipper." I had said "The puppy chewed the fuzzy blue slipper." In general, I'm starting to realize she learns things with very little repetition or even explanation. She received a new set of blocks, but only had a chance to play with them once. The next day, I said "let's show grandma your new blocks" and before I had a chance to get up, she had went over, picked up the bag and dumped them out. Neither my husband or I recall even mentioning the word "blocks," but we must have said it. She also made a connection from a black and white stamp of a bee that she had never seen before, to the sound "bzzz" which she had only heard maybe five times, to a cartoon picture of bees from a book she has only had a few days, and only read a few times. When I saw the stamp and said "there's a bee" she said "bzzz" and crawled away. I thought "wow, that's neat she made that connection,"" and started doing something else. A few minutes later she brought me the book, opened to the page, pointed to the bees, and said "bzzz." I was completely stunned by this, and I can't believe my tiny 10 month old can make such connections!

Also, we are in South Western Michigan, the Kalamazoo area to be more specific.

Again, thank you for your time. We are grateful for the information and resources, and it is already helping us feel much more confident that we are guiding our daughter in a positive way and meeting her needs.

ANSWER: Bridgett,

I so appreciate your detailed response.  It's important to me to know that I'm serving you effectively.  Before I respond in depth, I'd like to know if your family has a spiritual belief system, Christian, Jewish, etc?

Faith

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: As a family, we do not have any specific spiritual belief system. We certainly aren't offended or opposed to any, either. I hope that answers your question.

Answer
Bridgett,

Yes, it does answer my question and I appreciate your open-mindedness.  Many character traits can be seen as spiritual, and the deliberate nurturing of those is good for any child.  In gifted kids, cultivating those (kindness, gentleness, patience, tolerance, etc.) will lead your daughter to understand and use her gifts in ways fulfilling to her and often in the very-gratifying service of others.

The negative reactions are common.  I don't detect any negative arrogance or grandiosity in you; you just want to share the joy and wonder of your child.  Unfortunately, many, if not most, people will hear your news as bragging.  That's inside them, you can't change it, no matter how diplomatic you are. It's one of the challenges parents of gifted kids will encounter. I encourage you to have your husband, with or without you, speak to your in-laws about their critical comments.  That may or may not change how they speak to your child. If you can, diplomatically state your viewpoint, such as, "We're ok with that."  You love your child so much that you have the strength and willingness to speak up for her in a tone and with words that are non-threatening and not offensive, or speak to her later about inappropriate remarks.  You don't have to worry about their remarks affecting her negatively because you're going to use those as opportunities to teach your daughter about handling herself in the world with all kinds of different people.

It may be best to use words or descriptions other than "gifted" when speaking to people with whom you may not be close.  I used the word "probable", even though we all know that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, it just might be a duck.  Tests for determining intelligence become reliable at 4-5 years of age.  That's usually when the word "gifted" is applied, treating it as one of many learning differences. Unlike many of the known learning differences, which we see as undesirable, giftedness is a welcome learning difference.  Many people lack the maturity to enjoy the accomplishments or good fortune of others.  Many people get very competitive about their children, which is very unfair to the children.

Giftedness is a trait, not an identity.  It should be put into the context of the whole child. Gifted kids can be their own worst critics, especially when they are seeing the trait as an identity. They may feel flawed or fear disappointing their parents if they aren't perfect.  That's coming from inside them, at themselves, even though the parents have never criticized their child or expressed disappointment.  That can be avoided or lessened by trying to keep a balance as you help your daughter form her identity.  For example, my gifted son was good at sports, and generous toward others.  I'd say things like "Wow, you're a fast runner!" or "You have a good heart, I saw you put some of your allowance in the red bucket."

Avoid using the words "good" and "bad". To my son I might say "I bet you had a lot of fun putting together your Legos rocket"; to my daughter I'd say things like "I like those bright colors you used in your drawing."  We're so used to using "good" and "bad" that it can take some creative thinking to find comments such as I suggested, but it gets easier.

One of the best examples you're setting, which serves both you and your daughter well, is the mature ability to admit that you don't have all the answers and aren't afraid to ask questions.  

Gifted Children

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Faith A. Coleman MD

Expertise

No questions are off-limits. My strengths are understanding what questioners are really trying to ask, knowing the right questions to get to useful answers, and putting complicated, subject-specific words and concepts into language accessible to lay-persons. The topic is fascinating and can be surprising, the opposite of what might logically seem expected of giftedness. I am skilled in identifying giftedness at any age, including very early in life.

Experience

Children constitute about one-third of the patients in a Family Medicine practice. I was Director of Children's and Women's Public Health Education Programs with the Northeast Texas Public Health District. I have two highly gifted children, one of whom attended Roeper School, listed first in this site's Sponsored Links. I was the health expert for Roeper's board of directors; I maintain contacts there. I'm on the board of directors of several organizations of which I'm a member. I spent a summer as the Medical Director of a camp for kids with ADD, ADHD, and psychiatric disorders. Editor, Medical Economics Publishing Co. licensure to teach K-12 in Oklahoma, with added qualification in Journalism

Organizations
Champions for Children: Advocacy, resources, quality assessment, for early childhood daycare (Board of Directors). American Academy of Family Physicians. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. READ: Advocacy, education, resources for teaching and encouraging literacy in adults. East Texas Network for Children (Planning Board).

Publications
Journals: Medical Economics, Contemporary OB/Gyn, Diagnostic Medicine. Albuquerque Journal Daily, Tyler Daily News, New Mexico Daily Lobo, New Citizen Weekly, Alpena News, daily.

Education/Credentials
BA, Journalism MD University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Internship, Detroit Medical Center. Family Practice Residency, Top-100 Hospital - Beaumont. Clinical Faculty appointments to three medical schools. Faculty, Family Practice Residency, Detroit area.

Awards and Honors
Two official commendations awarded by United States Army for service and contributions to young soldiers and families. Publishing Internship, Medical Economics Publishing Company. Research Internship, Hastings Institute of Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences. Woman Medical Student of the Year. Numerous others.

Past/Present Clients
As above in experiences, publications and awards. Many thousands of patient/family encounters.

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