Early Childhood Matters' blog
Mimi Wellisch is an early childhood teacher, registered psychologist and parent of adult gifted children. This blog reflects her belief in the importance of early childhood.
Written by Mimi Wellisch Saturday, 06 October 2012 09:21
Many articles have been written by internationally well respected experts about gifted children who ‘hide their light’ in order to be accepted by their peer group. This issue can take place sometime during the school years, and is known as the “forced choice” issue in gifted circles. It describes the nerdy outsider who makes the private and painful choice of abandoning his or her giftedness and intense interests in order to gain friends. Grades at school drop, and the child takes on the interests and behaviours of his or her peer group.
During my time as a gifted consultant I have discovered a seemingly similar problem that occurs much earlier. It involves children who appear to be very bright and pick up things quickly when they are very young, and then lose interest and apparently even ability by the time they are 4 or 5 years old. The stories parents tell me are quite similar. They describe initial excellent memories, curiosity, and interest in a variety of subjects, ability to count to, say, 500, when their peers struggle to recall which number follows 13. I even hear about children who were initially able to work out simple square roots at age 3. These parents come to see me because they are confused: First it appeared that their child was gifted, and now the child refuses to answer any questions about things they previously knew by heart. The child ‘pretends’ to not know something he or she knew well three or six months before, the child is no longer interested in engaging with any teaching and learning at all.
So parents come to find out whether their child is gifted and ‘hiding their light’, or whether it was all an illusion.
There can be several reasons for the sudden change in children, but I will focus on one possible cause I know about intimately and can therefore verify, as I was the mother of this particular child with a similar problem. I was a very (perhaps over-) enthusiastic mum, working as an early childhood teacher, and eager to follow up even the smallest sign of interest in my children. We religiously read stories to the children every night, and gladly read at other times, too, when they requested a particular book.
At the time I was rather smitten by Glen Doman’s Teach Your Baby to Read, so when my son was 11 months old, I made up large flash cards with single words that were familiar to him. Every afternoon I suggested we should read, sat him on my lap, and read up each word on the flash cards. I would then spread them out on the floor and ask him to “read” or point to a particular word. New cards were added as his reading vocabulary grew. We made up a book of all his favourite things labelled with matching words, repeated in a larger version on the flash cards. He would “read” this book with me each day. I was excited about his amazing progress, and often asked him to show his skills to friends and family. At these “show” times, each correct word would be met with enthusiastic clapping and cheering.
Then one day he refused to play along. He did not want to read the words and couldn’t “remember” words he had previously known. Although I was disappointed, I understood that he was tired of this game, and we put away the flash cards and the book for good. Instead we continued to read stories for him, which he loved. We went to the library every week to borrow books, and some of his favourite books were read ad nauseam – thank goodness for older siblings! In despair we recorded his favourite stories and showed him how to replay the tape and when to turn the pages. We took turns recording various characters in the stories, and he enjoyed listening, exclaiming when he heard my voice, “that’s you, mum!”, and with equal amazement each time he heard his own: “That’s me, mum!” He recognised some words in the books, but we never returned to the flash card game.
My son commenced Kindergarten class as a non-reader, but having had a literacy-rich early childhood, he learnt to read effortlessly and fluently in a space of a few months. And when he was tested a few years later, it was confirmed that he was, indeed, gifted.
Monday, 30 May 2011 01:02
I am often asked by parents of young gifted children who want to do what is best for their child where they should send their child to preschool, e.g., what type of preschool would best support their child’s gifted needs. By the time they ask me, they have often already made some inquiries and visited some preschools, and quite frequently they have secretly settled on a Montessori preschool, attracted by its logical academic-style program. So when I advise parents that Montessori preschools may not be the best choice, they can’t really understand why I would have that view.
Monday, 23 May 2011 00:04
The Sydney Morning Herald conducted a long investigation into childcare, which led to a number of articles about the state of childcare in NSW a couple of weeks ago. They were not the type of articles that would bring comfort to a mother who is sending her child to childcare.
Monday, 29 March 2010 23:06
The IQ test has been on the nose for a long while now, although in the not-too-distant past it was held to be the only sure way to assess academic giftedness. One of the issues confronting IQ tests when their respect began to unravel, was that they can only measure academic ability and not other forms of giftedness.
Monday, 29 March 2010 23:03
Research shows that parents are generally correct when they suspect that their child is gifted. Typically these children are great conversationalists, often using sophisticated language that stops you in your track. They are quick at learning, have amazing memories, and thrive on complexities. But some children I have tested turn out not to be academically gifted, and it is not easy to face the parents and give them the bad news.
Monday, 29 March 2010 23:01
It is rare for me to get feed-back on the outcome of recommendations I have made as a psychologist as a result of assessing children for giftedness. But the other day when I was invited to my twin-grandchildren's 'Grandparents Day' I had a really sweet experience, and it had nothing to do with being a grandparent.
Friday, 23 October 2009 23:09
I went to Macquarie University today to listen to a presentation by Professor Michael Keane, a distinguished finance and economics researcher at the University of Technology. As you may have guessed by now, my interests are somewhat removed from the cold world of 'human resources', productivity, and statistics, and the only reason I went to listen to this presentation was the unusual research topic, especially coming from an economist.
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- Useful links for non NSWAGTC Events
- Gifted with Learning Disabilities or Differences
- Seemed gifted when younger, but has lost interest lately…
- October 2012 Newsletter
- New Zealand pulls out of hosting World Gifted Conference in 2013
- Upcoming Events for Parents and Teachers
- 2012 Financial Statement
- Teachers Wanted
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The blogs appearing on the NSWAGTC site are designed to provide colour, news and subjective views about the many issues and concerns facing gifted children and their parents, care-givers and educators.
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