Originally Posted by MomofSev
I'm sure it is me that is to blame. My son has so much potential. He is 5 and ( I won't bore you with the details of what he's done before now, we'll just say he was very well ahead and still is) I believe he is already underachieving. I feel like this is my fault as I have listened to others who have told me to "let him be a kid." Obviously we do not have a like-minded (literally) support group and he plays with ...regular/normal/average (I feel horrible saying that!) kids, generally younger than he is. One child is a year older and reads at a lower level, doesn't do the same level of math, which brings about a competitive atmosphere from her mother who is constantly comparing her to my child when people comment on how advanced DS is. I have not had him tested, but I do know that he seems greatly disinterested in a lot of educational material that he found interesting just last year/early this year. I'm starting to question whether I was wrong about giftedness. He won't be tested until next January at school, since they don't allow outside testing to get into their Highly Capable program. I'm afraid he won't get in due to him being silly or disregarding the test as important. I don't know if there is anything I can do to encourage him to reach his potential and grow. I'm not even sure this post makes sense! Sorry if it is jumbled and doesn't.
Any advice on a young underachiever being inspired to reach his/her potential again?
First, he is 5. I 'too' think he should be be a kid. Kids- of all cognitive abilities- need to be kids. Giftedness is not going to magically disappear if a child changes from academic to physical/gross motor interests. Just like adults, kids interests wax and wane. At 5- I dont think a child can go wrong with exploring new independence, new interests, social dynamics, gross motor skills, etc. Gifted kids often by nature grow in different areas at different rates.
Second, I would find a new peer group or try to alter the dynamics of the one you have. I dont think GT kids need to be surrounded by only GT kids to grow up to 'their potential'. I think they should play with people of all kinds, types, ages, interests, etc to be well-rounded and tolerant. Purposely, I expose my kids to people of all kinds to see that people have different strengths and talents. I have seen elitism/intellectual snobbery in some circles for kids that involve GT kids and I do not want that for our family at all.
Most kids do gravitate toward a certain 'type' of playmate or many learn to go to adults to talk science, neighbor kid to play bikes/outside,older kids for math games or reading discussions, and classmates for social activities like play yard games or Girl/Boy Scout groups. Playmates of similar cognitive abilities are great and can provide support in a different way than other peers, but also personality comes into play as well.
I think a fellow parent that is constantly comparing skills and age is not one that you really want to spend time with. My kids classroom had age ranges that spanned 18 months, 2+ years academic skills, and probably a wide wide range of interests. There is a wide range of developmentally normal, and a classroom or large group of kids is likely to have a few kiddos that fall outside (on either side!) of normal in different areas (it may be behaviorally, cognitively, socially, physically, etc).
Most kids were older than my DDs and read at a lower level, but they also helped my DDs learn social skills (which they struggle with same-age peers they both prefer much older or much younger people than their age as playmates) and taught them compassion for different talents in a classroom. Good. Yes, at times I had complaints that the school did not challenge DDs enough academically in reading, but I also think it was not to a degree that the cons out weighed the pros at this point in time.
Third, 5 year olds (6,7, etc) are silly and can be difficult to test. Any tester worth their salt knows that. Testing at that age is notoriously fickle and can produce results that are not fully accurate for a wide variety of reasons. Most GT programs will allow multi-entry facets when considering placement in GT programs. And/or you can appeal or retest, etc. I would not stress your DS out too much and try to present testing as a *way to learn how he learns best* and not as you.must.do.well high pressure situation.
A gifted 5 year old that is not reading/doing complex puzzles/obsessing about astronomy/doing mental math for fun does not mean they are 'underachieving', rather their interests are simply focused on other areas. I would not underplay the importance of social skills/gross motor development and just plain 'play' for all kids, including gifted ones. Some gifted kids walk into Kindergarten not reading or doing math, writing, etc and they do just fine and quickly catch up/pass academic expectations for grade. Others have some learning differences that make learning those things in a standard setting more difficult- it does make them less gifted. My own DDs have special needs and are likely (untested) gifted.
My own DDs alternate between laser focus on a certain topic that they explore obsessively and deeply to periods of a broad range of light interests then back to a laser focus on something specific. Many topics have been picked up, dropped, then revisited a year or so later.
It sounds like your DS is doing advanced academics- fine. So it should be healthy for him to explore other areas as well and he may revisit academics later. His personality likely influences his interests, as well and a more laid-back personality may seem to be underperforming, when they are not really- they are just not a classic 'type A'.
Originally Posted by whatsnextmom
There really isn't any hurry. Sure, maybe he could be doing multiplication now but then what? Why spend the time doing it now when he doesn't personally feel a need for it. It WILL easily when he decides it's something useful and entertaining. If he's happy he's doing well. Plus, he may be focusing on other, necessary developments that don't involve academics.
Couldnt agree more here. At 5- learning to ride a bike or making up rules to a game of tag can be just as important as discovering spelling patterns or categorizing dinosaurs.
There is a false assumption out there that all young gifted kids should 'look/act/be doing' certain things. They are not and do not. Each one will look different and focus in on different things. Also many a gifted adult does not/did not have a heavy interest in general academia. It does not make them 'underachieving' at all- they often are very very talented in whatever career they do chose.
As for suggestions- follow his lead and offer, but dont force things, that you think might interest him. Go to the zoo, museums, library, bookstores, street fairs, nature centers, or whatever his interests may be at the time. Most kids will happily let you know what they are interested in and be thrilled to explore it.
If your DS is not in school yet, which is what it sounds like- you may find yourself with new questions once school gets underway. Your son may also find new interests as well. Hopefully, the school will find out what he is capable of and encourage him to succeed.
Edited by KCMichigan - 8/2/12 at 11:00am