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Nurturing the gifted child

Sudha Subramanian, April 26, 2012

When Rohit Vishwanath (name changed), from Thiruvananthapuram, was only three he shocked his parents with his memory. Says his mother, Anuradha Vishwanath, who is a banker, “Rohit speaks in amazing detail. For instance, he can recall an incident that happened a year ago in great detail.” Rohit can even tell you what day of the week a particular date falls on.

In Rohit’s case it was his mother who noticed his giftedness. Many times, children are identified in the school due to their exceptional performance in academics. But it is always wise to have a check-list to know if your child is gifted.

- Most gifted kids are early readers and are widely read . They also have an extensive vocabulary.
- These children can easily understand abstract concepts.
- Gifted children display advanced levels of thinking.  
- They are also highly imaginative and creative. Since they don’t think like their peers they can easily make adult conversations.
- These children can focus or concentrate on a task for a long period of time and thrive on problem solving.
- They are great learners and have an intense quest for learning. They are curious about objects, ideas etc.

Says Shreekala Suresh Kumar, a psychologist, who works as a counsellor in a leading school in Dubai, “Giftedness cannot be defined. In Rohit’s case, it is his memory, but it can be something entirely different like that in the case of Siddharth.” Siddharth’s giftedness is his immense creativity.

At first, Siddharth’s dad, a consultant by profession, approached the school, to check if it could cater to his son, who was reading ‘read aloud books’ by the age of four. The school directed him to Shreekala, the school counsellor. After listening to the parents, Shreekala suggested they introduce Siddharth to music. Since, the parents had no formal knowledge in music they let Siddharth watch some online piano lessons. Siddharth initially started with his toy piano. Within three days, Siddharth was found playing all his nursery rhymes on his piano. Siddharth, now eight, explores a whole new world on his keyboard. He writes poetry and reads at least six books a week.

Challenges

It is a misconception that gifted children have it all easy.
- As they are academically brilliant, they tend to get lethargic easily. Sometimes, gifted children don’t do well later in life because they grow up not having to work towards their studies. Hence it becomes imperative that these children are regularly given something challenging to work on.

- As gifted children don’t usually belong to a peer group they can identify with, they may tend to hold back their talents, thinks Anuradha. They may feel they are different and force themselves to conform.

- Boredom is one of the biggest problems gifted children face in school. Since, these children understand concepts easily and don’t have to ‘work’, they tend to get bored when their friends are still trying to catch up.

- Giftedness may also come with a baggage. Some of these children have other difficulties. For example, Siddharth is still learning the nuances of writing.

- Moreover, as these children think like adults they are always in danger of being treated as one.
“There is an imminent and urgent need to acknowledge these kids in society and in schools and help them perform consistently”, says Shreekala.

Says Anuradha, “It is equally important to create awareness among people and the teaching fraternity that there are such children who need special care and have different learning needs.” According to her, whenever she speaks of Rohit, people assume that she is just a proud mother. “Society is not easy on gifted kids”, she says.

If you have one...

- Most gifted kids are voracious readers. Read up what’s on the bookshelf and expose the child to as many writers as possible.

- Since gifted children know exactly what they want they probably have a way of getting their way. As a parent be alert.

- Sports is an excellent way of expending their collective energy and to enhance motor skills. Encourage the child in a sport he/she likes.

- Gifted children hate to lose. If they find they are not particularly good at some activity, there are chances they may never try it again.

- Since they are aware of their skills it is hard for them not to realise that they are better off than most children. It is perfectly fine. While we should acknowledge this we should also give the child enough opportunities to garner social and presentation skills.

- Shreekala recommends some popular thinking games like chess for these kids. She also encourages playing these games with a peer group. Cubing, solving mazes, crosswords, Soduku, are all very popular among these children. So are construction kits and board games like Monopoly,  Scrabble, and puzzles.

- There are very good books written especially for gifted kids. Rightfully, these books score high on the imagination and introduces many concepts for young brains.


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