Tag Archives: gifted education

Is Your Gifted Child A “Troublemaker”?

 

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When you hear hoofbeats, maybe you SHOULD think zebras and not horses!

Gifted and talented children are frequently leaders in their schools and communities.  They often have advanced language skills and display an early and intense sense of humor. Gifted children can be the funny, outgoing, energetic kids who have deep empathy and abundant warmth.  Wondering if your young child might be gifted?  Read How To Spot A Gifted Child In Your Preschool Class (Or Your Living Room!).

But being gifted isn’t all rainbows and first place ribbons.  Some aspects of being gifted contribute to styles of interaction with authorities and peers that are not a cause for celebration. Gifted kids can be perceived as causing trouble, creating conflict and disrupting things wherever they go.  Super-bright children might end up with this label for the following common behaviors and characteristics:

  • They resist many rules as limiting and irrelevant.  “Because that’s the way it’s done” is not accepted when a gifted child sees the rule as useless or worse: illogical.
  • Boredom with class material they have already mastered gets expressed as anger or  criticism.
  • Their unique interests mean that they may reject their peer’s play schemes and try to convince their friends to play games their way or else.
  • They talk.  A lot.  At times, they may take over a discussion or attempt to alter a teacher’s presentation to address related issues or get more in-depth about a topic.  They may not be able to let a topic go until they have asked every question and made every point that they find important.
  • The frequent sensitivity of gifted children might make a normal level of noise, light or interaction too stimulating, and younger children especially will react in frustration or even tantrums.
  • Your gifted child may be having difficulty with an area of development that has been masked by their talents.  Gifted and Struggling? Meet the Twice Exceptional Student and How OT Can Help A common example would be the gifted child who is struggling with dyslexia, but has been able to use powerful memory and logic to fill in the blanks in a story.  They may not have read the book, but they are able to recall enough of the teacher’s description or the cover’s blurb to “fake it”.  The resulting failure and frustration, even with high overall test scores, builds their resentment and avoidance.

What can you do to transform a gifted troublemaker into your family’s champion or star?

  • The first step is to recognize where the ‘trouble” is coming from.  Your child’s early developmental skills and rapid acquisition of new information could be fueling their behavior.  Seen through this lens, many of the frustrating reactions and interactions with gifted children become understandable.
  • Explore ways to create a more enriched environment for your child.  It doesn’t have to be classes and microscope sets.  It could be more trips to the library or more craft materials to allow all that creativity to be expressed.  Children that are fulfilled are less crabby, less demanding and less resistant.
  • Be willing to take the time to answer questions and discuss the origins of rules.  A rule that is in place for safety can be accepted if it is explained.  A rule about social behavior, such as allowing everyone to have a turn in order, is an important lesson in navigating a world in which the kids with the fastest brains aren’t always the ones who get the first turn.
  • Consider the possibility that your gifted troublemaker is “twice exceptional”.  There may be issues like dyslexia or sensory processing disorder that need to be addressed.  Other issues don’t have to be cognitive.  Your child may be struggling with anxiety or coordination.  Giftedness doesn’t discriminate or remove all challenges to learning.  But remember that these do not minimize their profound gifts in other areas.  They complicate them.
  • Share your awareness of their gifts with them.  Kids who know that their frustrations and responses have a source other than being a difficult person have higher self esteem.  A gifted kid who thinks badly about themselves?  Yes, it does happen.  Feeling different from their friends, knowing that their ideas aren’t always welcomed, being told to be quiet and go along with the flow.  All of these can make a gifted child question themselves.  When you explain that their brain works differently, and that you will help them navigate situations successfully, your support can make a tremendous difference!

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Gifted and Struggling? Meet the Twice Exceptional Student and How OT Can Help

 

 

rockybeachI work with two amazing children that could be diagnosed as “twice exceptional”.  Both boys, they have amazing intellectual gifts (one verbal, one in math) but they work with me on their handwriting and their behavior.  Neither can write a simple sentence without significant errors in letter placement or formation.  But both can shock me with their mental abilities.  They are very familiar with what happens when your mom gets a note from the teacher.  It usually isn’t because of their giftedness.  Helping them to succeed in school shouldn’t be that difficult if you look at their test scores.  But it is.

Both kids feel that they are failures in school.  They get in trouble more often than their peers, their homework comes back with lots of red-lined comments, and they have no idea why people alternately compliment them on their skills and then make it clear that they are a problem in some way.  Their minds generate lots of ideas; many of them are clever ways to decrease the amount or level of challenge I throw at them in our sessions.

What is going on?  I think that the whole child has to be seen to be understood.  The gifted brain is different, not just high-powered.  Some kids have  wonderful ideas and thoughts they cannot get on paper fast enough.  Some have struggled with emotional or physical sensitivity.  They freeze or run (mentally) almost before they have written anything.  Some were not paying attention to handwriting in preschool, or figured out that the teacher would accept any effort, so they ignored the class instruction in letter formation and placement.  The other children glowed with pride to write their names neatly.  These children were gazing at the stars, quite literally!

Many, many gifted children struggle with motor skill development, and many more just don’t have the patience for practice.  The incidence of learning issues such as dyslexia in the gifted population is not insignificant.  Their cumulative test scores on their achievement tests mask the learning disability too often.  On paper, these kids look average.  They are nothing of the kind.  Look for striking subtest score disparities to identify them.  But then you have to help them.

Occupational therapists are the secret weapon for the twice exceptional student.  OT has a lot to offer these kids.  We can help self-regulation issues, we can adapt seating, listening, and learning environments for these kids.  We have skills to help them deal with anxiety and the performance issues that arise, and we have handwriting instruction and remediation strategies that work well and work fast with bright students.   Twice exceptional kids often don’t get services because they can “game” the evaluations.  Their great visual-perceptual or cognitive skills allow them to get an average score, but if their approach is carefully observed, the OT can see that happening.  The narrative in the evaluation has to highlight the issues, and the parents have to advocate for treatment.

Working with twice exceptional kids is a joy for me.  They are just as deserving of good therapy as the globally delayed children I treat.  I just have to pay attention to issues of global significance and make sure that I can keep up with the conversations they initiate!

Does your twice exceptional child have a stubborn streak a mile wide?  If so, read Is Your Gifted Child Also Your Most Strong Willed Child As Well? for my perspective on why someone so clever can also get stuck defending a position that makes no sense!