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Gifted Children/are gifted kids different?

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QUESTION: I really think my son is gifted. He just turned 5. Plus we have gifted family members. His teacher even thinks he is gifted-we both think he could skip a grade but we both think he needs time to mature. When he first started Pre-K he was stil throwing temper tantrums. His teacher said usually it's always when he doesn't get his way. She said they just ignore it and he eventually stops. Right now he is doing really well. She said his temper tantrums are down a lot and he is interacting better with his classmates. So right now he's doing really well in school but the work is extremely easy for him.

The main question I wanted to ask is some of the things my son does doesn't make any sense to me. A couple of examples are when he was in daycare he stopped interacting/eating with the kids. He told me he was scared of their shirts. I said why are you scared of their shirts and he told me that they had faces and eyes on them. I was clueless? Finally I took him to a child psychologist and after a couple of sessions she figured out that he didn't like the faces on the shirts because he didn't think that they belonged on clothing. In his mind faces belong on real people and cartoon characters belong on tv. To this day, he won't wear any shirts with people or characters on them. I also asked him if he wanted to go watch Disney on Ice and he said no those people don't belong in our world. I told him they were just costumes. He still didn't want to go.

That's just a couple of instances. So I guess my question is do gifted people/kids think or view the world differently from everyone else?  Some people have viewed him as "different" and I really don't want him to have a label as being the different kid. I guess I am scared he will be made fun of or bullied in school. He doesn't like the same things as other kids/boys. He would much rather be drawing, building, or making up games instead of playing super heroes.

Thanks for your time, I appreciate any information or thoughts regarding my son!

ANSWER: Thank you for your patience.

With a number of observations from others of your son's intelligence being above average, and having gifted people in the family, I have virtually no doubt that your son is gifted.

A vivid imagination, strong opinions, and unusual ideas are common with gifted children. There seems to be negativity and fear in your son's thinking, which is not as consistent with being gifted.

Unusual ideas and thoughts in a gifted child are not necessarily associated with their giftedness.  Giftedness is on a continuum from slight to extreme, with few to all traits of the child showing giftedness.  What's important to be aware of is that a child's way of being in the world is complex, and its often difficult to figure out the source of a child's behavior, good or bad, average or extreme, etc. A gifted child can also have learning disabilities, even autism. I'm not saying your son is autistic, the point is that giftedness may not be all that's going on.

In answer to your question "Is he different?", Yes he is, as are all children. I understand though, while of course everyone is different, you and others are observant and concerned about his "differentness" being odd, prone to be misunderstood by others in ways that could turn people away, cause concern, may isolate him from peers, and make life difficult for him.

Before I continue with your answer, I'll have you read the above, and please let me know if  I'm understanding your concerns correctly, and I can address your concerns more accurately  I'll be checking back for your response. You are not required to answer, if you prefer not to answer. I won't keep you waiting so long.


Dr. Coleman

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

QUESTION: Yes I do feel there seems to be negativity and fear in my son's thinking. It also happens at bedtime and going to be mother's house. He seems fearful of things that kids shouldn't be fearful of. Like he won't come downstairs when he wakes up. He wants me to come get him. He will cry until I come get him. He also wants me to lay down with him at night because he said he is scared. But he won't tell me what he is scared of. I have trouble with him opening up to me. He just says he doesn't know. He won't sit in the time out chair because he said he is scared of something in the room. Also won't go turn the light on in the bathroom etc.

The bus driver told my son he acted different because he never talked to him when he was spoken to. I told my son when someone speaks to him that he needs to speak back even though he doesn't want to.

But when I took him to the psychologist she ruled out that he was fearful. She said he was a very delightful child and I need to stop worrying about him and enjoy him. They sat down and drew pictures and talked and she said he didn't have any problems that she observed. She said a scared fearful child would not act outgoing like himself. He would be more to himself. This was last year.

You mentioned autism which I thought at first but things I have ruled out is that he likes other kids, has a great imagination, shares ideas and thoughts, doesn't care about routine, doesn't stim or never has, not scared of loud noises etc. The problems I do have with him is listening to me and getting upset easily about simple things.

I really don't know what is going on with him just that it doesn't seem the norm to me. But I do worry about him and don't know what I can do for him.

Thanks so much!

Answer
From what I've learned about your son, I think it's best for him to have what's called a "Neuropsychiatric evaluation." I'm not saying that he has psychiatric illness, that's just what they call the testing. It's a thorough examination of many different things, such as IQ, emotional health, learning disabilities, his senses, and others. Before you can give him the best help, you have to know better the nature of the problems.

Sometimes schools do the testing, but not as thorough as your son needs. Ask your son's doctor to make a referral to what's available in your area. A university with a medical center is a good place. You can also ask the Department of Human Services to suggest how/where you can get testing. Insurance may not cover it, but it's critical for your son.

I'm shocked by the bus driver saying such a thing to your son. It's outrageous! He/she needs to be reported to the management of his bus company and the school. That is so inappropriate, so out-of-bonds, it must be reported. I'm sure he's said things to other kids, and will do so in the future. That has to stop.

I know you meant well, telling your son to always speak if spoken to. That's dangerous. It's different with you and his teacher, yes he should respond, but with strangers or people he doesn't know well or hasn't learned to trust, your son's caution about speaking is a healthy response to his not feeling safe. He may be safe, but he doesn't feel safe. There are dangerous people out there. It's important to have another talk with him.  You can say something like "I made a mistake about...............it's ok not to talk to strangers or people that don't feel safe." A few words is enough.

Free Spirit Publishing, www.freespirit.com has excellent materials to learn about kids of all kinds.

www.healthychildren.org is the information site of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It's a "go-to" source you'll use often.

Please let me know what happens. Let me know if you have trouble finding a place to evaluate him. Thank you for letting me serve you.  

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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