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Gifted Children/Can you be gifted but not advanced in speech?

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QUESTION: Hi Faith,

My son is 25 months old. He is has good cognitive skills for his age, but his speech is not advanced. He has average receptive skills and slow expressive skills (not delayed, just bottom 30%). It seems that his fine motor skills are developing 2-3 months behind average too, and based on lots of consults, he probably can't speak very well due to immaturity of his speech apparatus/fine motor skills.

At the same time, he seems to be very strong visual learner. For example, he could recognize every letter of the alphabet (phonics, not rot memory), and numbers to 10 by 20 months. He started to match things by size, color, texture by 20 months. He can do puzzles with 20 pieces.He is also able to understand abstract concepts such as: he was 18 months and pointed towards "Apple symbol on our laptop" and said apple. Or I can make a circle with a dot, and a tale, and he will say Fish.

He is extremely curious, very active, very emotional and quite intense child. He is also a sensory seeker, but has no other sensory issues.

We have tested for ASD spectrums, but he has great social skills and joint attention.

My question is: is it possible to have slow talker who is gifted/very intelligent, or does speech typically correlates to giftedness.
My husband and I are high achievers, he is an engineer in large software company, and I am a CPA. We participated in physics olympics and math competitions during our school years. We are not geniuses, but definitely in the gifted range. This is why it is a little strange that our toddler is slow to speak. I have lost some sleepless nights wondering whether there is something unusual.

ANSWER: You don't need to lose any more sleep about your son's speech development. Speech tends to develop later in boys than in girls. Gifted children may seem to have speech delay, then all of a sudden start speaking skillfully. Many gifted children don't like to try a developing skill until they feel some mastery of it - they can be their own worst critics about imperfections. It's important, too, that concerns don't become self-fulfilling prophesies. Although I don't know your son, nothing you've said indicates to me that he is slow to speak or that his speech development is strange or inconsistent with you and his dad being gifted.

Giftedness is an infinitely variable phenomenon. A child can be gifted in many ways, one, or a few ways. Giftedness can be present with learning disabilities. Two gifted parents may or may not have gifted children. If the children are gifted, it may be evident in ways very different from the parents. I encourage you to become familiar with Free Spirit Publishing, www.freespirit.com, a real treasure of a resource for learning about learning and development.

Very often, gifted children need their parents more to teach them about relationships and "people skills" - communication, boundaries, respect for self and others, conflict resolution, etc. It's rare for a child to lack intellectual stimulation. No matter how smart a person is, though, success and fulfilling relationships are elusive if a person lacks people skills.

You may also enjoy material from the Critical Thinking Company, www.criticalthinking.com, and a good resource for all things kids is the site sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, www.healthychildren.com.

As I tell all parents, the number one thing you can do for your child(ren) is to make your marriage high priority. The number two thing is to have lots of family fun; make memories.

I hope this response is helpful. You're welcome to return to this site anytime. Your feedback is important.

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

QUESTION: Yes, I am sorry, i guess my question sounded as if I am complaining that my son is not advanced and gifted :) That is not the case. It is more so that I sometimes worry because he is very active, and intense, and has unusual visual strengths. You can guess where I am heading I am sure...I have worried about subtle social issues, or hyperactivity, or hyperactivity. I met a child psychologist, who took a good look at my story, and concluded that my child is probably fine, but maybe gifted, and that "gifted kids are very intense". So I guess I am really hoping that "giftedness" is the answer rather than something else. I guess if the speech was advanced, I would have nothing to worry...but when the slow talking comes in the picture, there is nagging anxiety for the parents.

Thank you for your response. I will certainly read the suggested materials.

Answer
You speak of needing the "answer". I'm not sure that there is a problem about your son. It sounds like your son is your first child, so being a parent is new to you. In such a thoroughly new and such a life-changing experience as being a parent it's easy for our internal compasses, our frames of reference, and our patterns of response to be challenged. I'm responding to you and your feelings and concerns as a mother who's lived the experience, including the "is he gifted or isn't he?" consternation, as much as I'm responding as an expert on gifted children.

It sounds like you're a woman who uses information as one of your more-prevalent tools for learning and coping, as gifted people do. Free Spirit Publishing will be an asset throughout your child's upbringing. When you look at the site it will be hard not to buy everything, it's so interesting and exciting. Don't feel compelled to devour all the information at once; it would be overwhelmimg. It will also be reassuring, and very comforting - many people feel very alone with their concerns. If that's true for you, know you're not alone. That feeling of aloneness can be hard to bear.

I know that you love your son so much that you'll take care of his mother. I want you to know that you deserve enormous credit for asking questions, recognizing that none of us have all the answers, and being humble enough to own that. Not all parents get that.

The most important message I want you to take from this answer today is to have lots of fun, even if it's just injecting a bit of silliness into what you say or do (there are even books with suggestions). A child/family who has plenty of fun also does better academically than children who have excessive focus on intellect and academics.

There's a previous answer from me at 2/18/2012, "10 month old very interested in books." Although your son is older, the information there will be valuable to you.

You can always return to this site. Your feedback is important.

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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