Gifted children, a mother's heartache

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)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Gifted children, a mother's heartache'. Subscribe