Monday, 6 July 2015

Gifted children, a mother's heartache

There is a new editor at Straits Times Forum page

I have not been keeping up with news in Singapore for some time for various reasons. Something struck a chord with the recent debate on IQ testing. I asked my son if he wanted to write a piece on 'the heartache of a gifted child'. No. So I wrote 'the heartache of a gifted  child mum' instead.

The editor was very good and gracious and let me look at her edits before running it.

I am amazed at the lack of reports in Singapore on how difficult it is to parent a gifted child. Am I the only one with this problem? So it was good that after this letter was published, another parent shared how it has not been a smooth-sailing journey for him and his son either.

It is a myth that when children are gifted they would be able to sort themselves out. No, they are still children and parents must be there for these children.

Also in my experience, the last thing a parent needed to worry about is 'enrichment' in terms of doing more (piano, drama, sport, foreign language, martial art, etc). Some of what I read about 'kiasu parents' made me feel really inadequate.

Like the other parent mentioned, it is the emotional stability that I needed to worry about.

(24th June 2015) (this link is a bit wonky)

THERE has been much debate among readers on gifted children.

But be prepared for lots of tears if your child is gifted.

Giftedness can be defined as having extraordinary prowess in one or more areas of life. It is not limited to academic giftedness.

In my ideal world, we would support every child who shows giftedness in sport, music, drama and so forth. But Singaporean parents and politicians seem to be fixated on the academically gifted.

Giftedness can be a curse. A gifted child may be very advanced in a narrow area of ability. They are better at maths, say, than most of their peers, because they grasp the concept the first time.

But these peers will catch up eventually, should they choose to do so.

Meanwhile the gifted child is out at sea, lonely and bored, waiting for the slowest learner in class to catch up, so that he can move on to something fresh and challenging.

Frustration sets in for the gifted child when his mental development is not in sync with his physical, social, emotional or psychological development.

Such children may have a huge vocabulary. They may be able to think long, flowing sentences. But they may not be able to write quickly enough to "catch" those thoughts in a legible script. They look at the scribbled page and they tear it up. Again and again.

Gifted children need challenges within a loving context.

They will face many obstacles and fall because of their asynchronous development.

The good news is they do eventually learn to get on with life as a normal(ish) person.

We, parents, must be there to pick them up.

I have "been there, done that", and am still anticipating my son's next big obstacle. He was nearly expelled from school at age six. It turned out that he had a very high IQ for his age.

I have shed lots of tears coming to terms with his "special education needs" which necessitated giving up an academic career.

An intelligent child who does not fit in with his age mates can make life difficult for the family.

Lee Siew Peng (Dr)

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