Smart? Gifted? Multiple Questions

Updated on April 23, 2012
K.H. asks from Rochester, MI
17 answers

Good Morning!

I'll try to keep this short and on point, but I have a lot of stuff rambling around in my head so please bear with me.

Some background: My daughter is almost 8 and is finishing up second grade. She is very smart and sensitive and very hard on herself. Her k-2 school only tests up to level 38 using DRA2 - she exceeded that at the beginning of kindergarten. She rarely makes mistakes on any of her work, whether science, math, spelling, etc. My husband and I had talked briefly about moving her up a grade but he is really against it.

Our school district is in an area hit hard by unemployment and school funding cuts. There is nothing remotely resembling a gifted program nor is there a school social worker.

So here are my questions: I really hesitate at the risk of being one of those parents that pushes the gifted label to get attention for themselves. So how do I know if she is or if she's just a smart kid? If she is, how can I advocate for her in a school district that has no resources? I can already see that she is used to understanding things easily and avoids challenges . She calls herself stupid if she gets a mistake marked on homework or misses answering a question. She feels guilt very easily - and more intensely than she should - and is very worried that other people and children are going to laugh at her. She deals with it by pinching herself or biting her cheek when no one's around. She has no problem dancing in front of an auditorium filled with people but is too shy to order food at a restaurant. I have watched my beautiful, sweet daughter in the last five years go from friendly and talkative to extremely introverted and shy and it really disturbs me!! I am obviously going to ask her doctor about this, but if your child has gone through this, how were you able to get him or her to express these feelings in a healthier way? Any suggestions for channeling the perfectionism into a motivating factor rather than a limiting one? Any suggested reading for me and my husband that can give us some insight and strategy?



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answers from Seattle on

Have you read "The Drama of the Gifted Child"? It is intense, so be prepared, but it does offer a different perspective on the parents' role as well.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

Being hard on themselves is one of the characteristics of gifted children because they are usually perfectionists! They are very sensitive children and shyness is usually common. As for testing- talk to her teacher. Most IQ tests are usually administered in 3rd grade, and that is what the label "gifted" is based off of. You might see if she can be tested earlier.
She is at the perfect age for beginning of music instruction. Whether it be piano, violin, guitar, etc., music provides an outlet for all that pent-up creativity and perfectionism, and teaches self-motivation and practice. I cannot stress enough how important music is for children, esp gifted ones. Let her pick the instrument, and go from there. :)
Hope this helps.

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answers from Columbia on

Don't worry about the school district - you'll waste years of your life lobbying and campaigning and whining, and they'll finally have a gifted class when she's a senior.

The cream always rises. Get pro-active - hit the bookstore, hit amazon - get to reading! How to raise a gifted kid - I'm sure that's a book someone has written.

While you're there, get her some science, math, english and social studies work books. Smart kids LIKE learning. It's empowering.

And also get her some regular fiction - reading is the proven best way to increase your vocabulary.

Get off the sidelines of cheerleading the school - you can provide her advantages at home. :)

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answers from Jacksonville on

Ditto Dad on Purpose.
If your school district doesn't have a program in place and is laying off teachers and otherwise cutting, they aren't going to start a program for gifted students now. You will expend TONS of energy for nothing.

Spend that energy instead, on your daughter. Keep her stimulated with all sorts of things. We did that when our daughter was still in private school and they had higher level teaching all around, but no "gifted" program. She had a Spanish class at school, but you could work with her on languages at home. Enroll her in sports and/or music.
Our daughter started taking piano in 2nd grade. She was like a fish to water with it. Still playing, almost 4 years later, and she plays for church our services on Sunday too. She takes martial arts classes and excels there as well. She is very competitive and does every tournament she can enter. She learns forms beyond what she is "supposed" to know (her older brother taught her since he is already a 2nd Degree Black belt, and she is only a year into it). She swims. She roller blades. She uses a daily calendar with Latin vocabulary on it. She does art (even took a summer course in stop-motion photography and claymation). She loves dogs, and likes to read about how to train them, and then try to practice it on our "subject" at home (tee hee--I'm sure our dog loves it!).

There is SO much you can do at home to supplement if you have nothing available at school. Of course, if there IS something available at school, it would be worth giving it a shot. But if there isn't, it isn't the end of the world. My daughter's favorite store in the world (yeah... even beyond a toy store) has ALWAYS been a book store. She's been reading since age 4 and LOVES books.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Both of my children fall into the gifted and/or just-really-smart category. Bottom line, it doesn't matter what label you slap on a kid. If she's getting 100% in everything, she is not challenged enough. Why is your husband against skipping a grade? Here's an article he should read: Bottom line, moving your child ahead a grade may be the best solution and may even help her social issues. Conventional wisdom that shy/young children can't hold their own among older children is simply not true, according to the research. Your daughter may be engaging in excessive navel-gazing (face it, that's what it is - she is obsessing over things that she really shouldn't be) because her mind isn't engaged enough. She needs a challenge.

My younger daughter has been moved forward a grade for the exact reasons you describe - our school district doesn't have a gifted program, and trying to get the district to formulate an Independent Education Plan is nearly impossible - kids who are under-performing (the ones who used to be in Special Ed before that program was axed, too) can get an IEP no problem, but children who over-perform are largely ignored. Really your only option is skipping a grade, if you can't afford a good private school (and who can, these days?).

Our experience with skipping a grade has been nothing but positive, actually. My little one used to be very shy, but since she has spent the last 3 years with kids a year older, she's actually come out of her shell and is now the life of the party. Who knew she had it in her?? Go ahead and push your child. You believe in her, and you can help her achieve what she was meant to achieve. That's the greatest gift you can give her.

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answers from Chicago on

My 8 year old has many of these qualities and we have seen some improvement as this year in 3rd grade has progressed but we still have melt downs when she gets something wrong. For instance last night during a practice spelling test she missed unconscious and total meltdown for 10 minutes with crying and calling herself stupid. She bites her nails instead of pinching, but she always does this in stressful situations.

I think part of it is that my daughter is very intelligent (I don't think gifted) but that she is not quiet mature enough yet. That will come with time and how she learns to deal with things. She gets all of this from me. I am very introverted until I am comfortable with things. I still hate to call and order pizza or food on the phone and usually make my husband do it. I also HATED driving and would rarely do it unless forced to. I have gotten better as I get older, but it takes time for me to get comfortable doing things.

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answers from Miami on

Hi Karen,

I would still try to get an IEP put in place for your daughter if she is indeed gifted. I went on the Troy School District website and found that they have all IEP work within Special Services. Honestly, that is not unusual. They should still be able to do the needed testing to see if your daughter is actually gifted. Contact your board if you have to - they have phone numbers listed there and demand testing (while MI could be different in FL, it is a requirement that the testing for gifted be free). An IEP for a gifted child, much like an IEP for a learning disabled child, can be implemented by a classroom teacher with direction.

I wish you the best. Here is the contact info for special services:


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answers from Minneapolis on

I recommend reading the book "Nurtureshock". It addressses the issues your daughter is having with being hard on herself and what you can do to help her. It also explains the recent scientific research on children's brain development that says that it is too early to label any child as "gifted" before third grade.

I am also an introvert, with an introverted daughter who was labeled as "gifted" in third grade after having some academic struggles in some subjects earlier. I would suggest reading up on what introversion is and isn't. "The Introvert Advantage" is one that's recommended often. There are others that are aimed at children, but I haven't read them, so can't make a specific recommendation. I would search on Amazon and read the reviews.

There are many things you can do at home to encourage a smart/gifted child to be interested in learning. We go to the science museum often, she chooses educational books from the library or book store, we do projects at home based on her interests (chemistry, building things, pets, etc.), she takes piano lessons and theater classes.

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answers from Dallas on

You might enjoy reading Living with Intensity. It's about the emotional traits of gifted children. I teach AP English, and many of my students are gifted (many are very intelligent, but not gifted), and I use this book as a reference sometimes.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Ditto Dad on Purpose and Victoria W!

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answers from Dallas on

It is so hard to watch your child go through that. You said you have talked about possibly moving her up. If she is that shy and insecure I feel that would get worse if you move her up cause she will not be with her friends.

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answers from New York on

Yes, Nurtureshock is a really great book. There is a great chapter on praising effort and hard work rather than performance or "being smart." My kids are younger still but your daughter sounds a bit like me and my sister when we were kids. We were both in the gifted program at our school. I was more shy and my sister was more the perfectionist (and still is). I think being smarter than average but not so gifted you can't relate to most people is almost ideal. Good academic skills and good emotional intelligence is usually a very successful combination. I suggest you help her find learning opportunities outside school so she can enjoy learning without any performance aspect being there. Reading, art and music are all great activities. I also strongly recommend putting her in Girl Scouts (even if you have to be the leader). I was in scouting for 20 years and there were so many things we did that built confidence by learning to do different activities. Girl Scouting is very inclusive and many times we had a range of kids from gifted to special needs in one troop. But it worked because the emphasis was one teaching leadership skills and having each person do their best. Usually the older or more able girls would help and teach the others and it really worked (many of my friends from scouting and camp are still my friends 20+ years later). It was very different from being in a mixed ability class that is taught to the average and the smarter kids get bored.

You might enjoy and get some ideas from reading the book Emotional Intelligence. Also, kids frequently develop unevenly and it can be more obvious in children who excel in one area. (This was me in elementary school--in the top reading group and bottom spelling group at the same time. No one is good at everything and being able to laugh at yourself goes a long way toward keeping things in perspective!)



answers from St. Louis on

does the school have a counselor? I know you said that there isn't a school social that the same thing? If the school does not have resources, ask the teacher....then the principal....& then take your ? to the administration. Approach it from the angle of needing ideas & resources....& they should be able to direct you.

My heart goes out to you. I have seen this phenomenon in many children. The key is to keep them active & social. Does your DD participate in any groups, organizations, or sports? That would really help her!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Have you looked into private schools in your area that might offer scholarships? I know our Montessori offers need based scholarships. You may be eligible. I would strongly consider having her skipped if there is not a gifted program in place. Both my brother and I skipped a year and it was wonderful for us - academically and socially. I would also take a look at Po Bronson's Nurtureshock. Praising and rewarding children has the direct effect of making them less likely to be adventurous learners and more likely to avoid trying new tasks at which they might fail.



answers from Detroit on

Regarding the gifted part, my son took an IQ test through a child psychologist that gave me a quality assessment of his strengths and weaknesses. I would speak with her teachers, principals, other parents to see what your options are and if you all could work together to bring in additional activities for other gifted students.
Educationally, she may be ready for more advanced work but emotionally and socially she may not be ready. When my son was in his 1st grade, his teacher suggested double promoting him. He is already the youngest in his class, in the long run this would not be the best idea for him. My son would have been 16 during his freshman year in college, and I don't think that's an age that you are ready for that level of independence. As an alternative, I had to seek out a school of choice with a more challenging curriculum from his previous school. And it is a Detroit Public School. He also began to play chess and participates in a Pre-College Engineering Program.

I hope that you all are able to find resources to help your daughter.

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