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Lots of people think that raising a gifted child must be
a ride on easy street. I mean what could be hard about having an extra-smart
kid, right? But many gifted kids struggle with other issues that make their
daily lives difficult—and it can be very challenging to navigate the school
years with your gifted child.
So what are some of the struggles they face, and how
can you help?
Your daughter might be able to carry on an intense
conversation about invertebrates with the woman behind you at the grocery
store, but her social experiences with peers might be a different story. There
is often a disconnect between the mental "age" and the social
maturity of a gifted child. These differences can be hard for other people to
understand since the gifted child seems so grown up in terms of language and
Feeling left out of the social scene with peers leaves
many gifted children feeling confused, especially those who are very
black-and-white thinkers. "I was nice to Thomas, why wasn't he nice
back?" It can be gut-wrenching trying to analyze and coach your child's friendships from the sidelines, especially as they move into middle school.
How to help: Try social skills groups, role-playing at home,
organized play dates with a set end time, organized activities like Cub Scouts
or coding. Try to work with your child's strengths and interests, and you will
find like-minded peers more likely to become friends.
Overly sensitive kids also run the risk of being misdiagnosed as having ADHD, bipolar disorder or other issues when they are simply overwhelmed by their emotions.
As with social skills, the emotional maturity of gifted
children often lags behind both their mental and physical age. A nasty comment
or shove on the playground can turn into a huge thing—possibly involving
tears—for a gifted child. Many gifted children just have a harder time dealing
with the intensities and complexities of emotions and emotional interactions. Termed
"asynchronous development" this gap between mental and emotional
abilities can be difficult to overcome. Overly sensitive kids also run the
risk of being misdiagnosed as having ADHD, bipolar disorder or other issues
when they are simply overwhelmed by their emotions.
How to help: Role playing at home can be helpful. Help
your child develop a rating scale for her feelings so that she can learn to
judge her own emotions when you aren't around. Encourage him to feel whatever
emotion he is feeling while helping him see that others might not feel it with
the same intensity that he does.
Wait, how can there be any academic problems when your
child is gifted? Many gifted children also struggle with a learning disability,
a condition often referred to as twice exceptional, or 2e. In addition to a
higher capacity for reasoning and learning these children might also be dealing
with ADHD, dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, sensory issues, Asperger's syndrome
or a host of other challenges. Advocating for your child through IEP meetings,
teacher conferences and calls from the principal's office can become an
all-consuming process. At the heart of it all is a child who needs to learn
just as much as his classmates, but possibly with a few accommodations.
How to help: While it's easy to ignore the academic
challenges when your gifted child is young, it's really important to stay on
top of things so that your child doesn't get lost in the shuffle. If your child
needs accommodations in order to succeed in her school environment, make sure
you have the proper evaluations and pediatrician's recommendations to support her
needs. Stay in close contact with your child's teachers, therapists and other
professionals to ensure that everything your child needs to succeed is in