Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Holy Crap, This Kid Is Smart. Now What??

Took Thing One to the neurodevelopmental pediatrician this morning.

He'd been having difficulty staying focused in class last year.  Difficulty keeping himself organized and remembering to bring the correct stuff home in his backpack.  Difficulty remembering to take the time to check his work and go through tests slowly and carefully.  Several of his fourth-grade teachers independently raised the red flag with me: not that he was having any trouble academically, but it looked to them like he was coasting on raw brainpower.  They wanted us to see if he had any ADD-like issues going on so we could do something about it proactively, without his grades having to crash first: the concern being that his disorganization and lack of focus would eventually--as his coursework gets harder--put him in situations that brainpower alone wouldn't get him out of (assignments left at school, forgetting to check his work, etc.)

Called his regular pediatrician first, the one who's known him since he was an infant.  That doctor told us that the kid might well have ADD, but could also just be bored.  Rather than simply throwing meds at Thing One, he suggested that we take him to the same neurodevelopmental pediatrician that Thing Two sees to get her opinion.  

She talked to us, then talked to Thing One alone, then had him complete a battery of tests.  The results were illuminating.  She does see some ADD-like behavior.  She also sees some performance-related anxiety, which was mostly news to us.  Apparently he is more driven than we thought he was.  What was really surprising, though, were his test scores.  She assessed his language arts skills two different ways and also evaluated his spelling and math abilities.  The lowest of those results (math, the most dependent on what kids have actually been taught) came in at close to tenth-grade level.  The two language arts and the spelling scores were tenth-grade, eleventh-grade, and twelfth-grade level respectively.  This for a rising fifth-grader who just turned 10.  We knew he was bright, but those numbers were a lot higher than we expected.

So what do we do now??  Socially, he's right where he belongs.  There's no way in hell he's moving up any grades.  I can go in and ask that the school make a point of challenging him, but I'm not sure what they can or will do.  I have no idea what to do about the focusing issue, since the doctor didn't think that the ADD symptoms were near the level that requires medication.  I can help him to get himself organized, and I can talk to his homeroom teacher about that too.  But I am at a dead loss for how to intellectually challenge a 10 year-old who is operating at the high-school level.  We did find the Khan Academy website and are going to sign him up so that he can watch their class videos online.  Any other suggestions??

Nice problem to have, I guess, but we've been thrown for a loop.




  1. When I was in middle school the gifted/talented classes had first started and I hated them. I informed my teachers that they needed to challenge me instead. And bless 'em, they mostly did. Of course a lot of it was just up to me - when they assigned a project, I'd always make it harder. The books I read for book reports were far beyond my classmates. When we were supposed to identify examples of five local plants, I made a whole display of all of our conifers. When my earth science teacher made a reading assignment, I'd go to his source college textbooks and learn from them instead. I was so bored in school all the time, but my parents told me that was my problem to deal with, and I did. I was always the top of everything academic. Not because I worked particularly hard, but because I like to learn and I hate being bored.

    Not all kids can do that, and I had to modify a number of different ways. One thing I really liked to do was group work and teaching the smarty-pants kids that they really didn't know everything. Their pot-smoking gang-banging classmate actually really great ideas about life, even if he couldn't spell.

    I think it gets easier in high school, with more choices and such. Non-academic courses are important too, like music and the like. And learning non-academic skills are critically important - far more than academic success. Organization, follow-through, working with others, all that. Plenty of challenges.

    You can have IEPs for GT kids too, to meet with all the teachers about particular areas that need to be challenged. Not sure how really successful they are. Trying to talk to teachers individually is probably more than at the school level. Like when I had a 7th grader who was easily reading at graduate school level, I didn't make her do the stupid reading log assignments - she would devour many books a month, so why slow her down when her writing was already extraordinarily good. (Best in the school district, actually - that year her essay was scored highest by all teachers.) God she was such a great kid, and super metacognitive about her gaps and willing to work on them. That's maybe one of the most important things to help Thing One do - to be metacognitive and challenge himself.

    I think that boredom is a cop-out for a kid. Not that Thing One is using it, I just mean when I've heard that excuse before. If you're bored with something, then exceed it.

  2. I think you're right about high school offering more opportunities. Our district's K-8 school is small and there is only so much that it can offer, but the high school is a large regional one and offers courses like Introduction to Nuclear Engineering. No joke. Can't wait to see what he finds to excite him when he gets there.

    What to do in the meantime is more of a question. When I have the doc's report in hand, I will go and talk to his homeroom teacher (who is also his math teacher) and the G&T teacher. I can't say that I'm a fan of G&T, at least how this school runs it, but he wants to be in it and so far the class pullout for it doesn't seem to be hurting him. We have a standard curriculum for G&T, which as I understand it is absolutely antithetical to the best practices (how I hate that phrase!) for G&T. We'll see if anything changes with that this year.

    The most remarkable thing about your note was how motivated you must have been as a kid to have gone so far above and beyond routinely of your own volition. I did the same sort of thing as a kid, as did my husband, but we are Type A and Type A-er, you pick 'em. Thing One just isn't, and I don't think he has the maturity yet to recognize that challenging himself is part of the answer to his problems, even if it does result in more and/or harder work. Hoping that will come as maturity comes, but in the meantime it will likely be more something that we and his teachers have to drive externally. You must have been a teacher's delight as a kid!!


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