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Gifted Children/Gifted 5 yr old boy

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QUESTION: We have a gifted 5 yr old boy who will be entering a major city G&T public school kindergarten in the upcoming Fall semester.  We feel fortunate that we have found a specialized program for him; he is highly inquisitive to the point of sheer parental exhaustion. My question is this: sometimes in an overstimulated situation (play dates or in the presence of visitors to the home), he acts excitedly to the point of loss of control.  We have had him tested and there are no pychoneuological issues.  At nursery school, he was expelled because he challenged the teacher's authority. In a loss of classroom control, he can very quickly become a class "leader" (read: bully).  In entering kindergarten, I am hoping that the school truly understands the challenge that a G&T child presents (after all they specialize in it!). Questions: should I have a discussion in advance with the head teacher... I don't however want to taint him!  Also, in the short few weeks that I have are there any things I can do to him control his behavior better?

ANSWER: I'd like to ask  questions so I can give you a better answer.

You said your son acts excitedly to the point of loss of control. What do you mean? What are the behaviors?

He becomes the class leader - read: bully. I don't know what you mean. Can you explain?

Thank you.

Dr. Coleman

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

QUESTION: Thank you Dr!
1.  He becomes very frazzled, almost like a sense of loss of control (I.e., dumping toy boxes, spinning around purposelessly, not focusing on the group activity or discussion) almost like his brain has become overloaded by the social activity around him.

2. Challenging the teachers: saying the activities are "boring", knocking down other childrens' construction/Legos, especially other boys (not as much girls, with whom generally he has a better relationship because they are more verbal.  Being highly physical with especially "high energy" boys.  Becoming somewhat dominant and bossy with peers.

Generally as to point 2, he is reponsive to "time outs" and behavior can be corrected with a firm approach (ie consequence of a time out, etc.  As to point 1, he seems to enter a mental overloaded state and it is hard to correct him back on "normalized behavior".

Thank you!

Answer
Thank you for your patience.

Giftedness, and how it manifests is infinitely variable. It can give a false impression of maturity, or the expectation that a child is advanced emotionally or in control of their behavior. The most difficult part of raising a gifted child is not providing appropriate intellectual stimulation, it's guiding emotional and behavioral development. A child may be years ahead of calendar age intellectually, and verbally, but emotional development stays close to age. It's called "asynchronous development", and it can be the toughest part of raising a gifted child. The difficult behavior is not a given of giftedness, and can't be explained by giftedness or attributed to it, although gifted kids can be especially intense with their reactions and responses. Your son is a kid first, a gifted kid second.

Giftedness is on a continuum. It can coexist with learning disabilities and behavioral problems, even autism. I am NOT suggesting your son is autistic, I'm just describing how variable and complex child development can be.

It is essential for parents to be especially attentive to a gifted child's emotional development, even more so than the intellectual. The world will treat him with expectations that emotional development is advanced, so parents must not lose sight of the discrepancy between the emotional and intellectual. A child learns "people skills" at home - things like respect for self and others, tolerance, cooperation, patience, gratitude, generosity, and others. No matter how smart someone is, they have little chance for success or fulfilling relationships if they can't get along with others or manage their own behavior.

You said your son challenges authority. At the risk of annoying you, did you notice that you're doing the same thing? You express doubt that the school knows what they're doing. You're even wondering if they have the ability to discern your son's needs and issues appropriately if you tell them of your son's difficult behaviors. Unless they are newly established, it's probably safe to say that your son is not the first child they've worked with who has behavioral issues. Give them a chance. Don't let your son know of your skepticism, or discuss these things with him present. If he knows you lack confidence in them, so will he.  It can be difficult to walk the fine line between confidence and uneasiness about a system, because, of course, parents do have to keep their eyes open to the manner in which an educational system operates.

There is no question that one of the most important contributors to a successful school experience is the parent and the educators communicating and working with each other toward the mutual goal of a successful intellectual and developmental experience. That has been determined in high-quality research. Do talk with them about your son's difficulties. Give yourself the gift of not trying to figure it all out by yourself.

Free Spirit Publishing, www.freespirit.com is a real treasure of a resource for info about gifted kids, behavior issues, and more.

"Parenting with Love and Logic" is an older but terrific book about discipline.

As I tell all parents, the mot important thing you can do for your child, if you're married, is to make your marriage high priority.

Have lots of family fun and make memories.

I hope this is helpful. Thank you for letting me serve you. Please return anytime.

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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