Friday, November 11, 2011

A Gifted Symposium

Much to my amazement....I discovered that a group called Cognition New Zealand was running Symposiums throughout the country for people involved with gifted children and one was being held in Wanganui. So naturally I toddled along - completely freaked lol. I don't do well in crowds - I get so nervous that I talk at a hundred miles an hour. Anyway it was very enlightening and I had the chance to talk to a clinical psychologist who not only specialised in gifted children but was a parent as well.

Talking to her was truly comforting. You talk to so many people while you're looking for a bit of help and guidance, in the early years, and you get so many....'you have got to be crazy!' looks...that you start to doubt what you saw! She also touched briefly on the Aspergers question and it seemed to me that she also thinks that its more likely that some of the behaviours observed common in the gifted (such as being 'over-sensitive') are not any kind of syndrome - it's just the flip-side of their gift. Certainly there have been some interesting studies that suggest an actual physical difference in the way the gifted brain is wired. Along similar lines is an idea that talks about it being related to the flight or fight mechanism. It makes sense to me.....a brain that is wired for flight will naturally be more sensitive - able to utilise human sensing abilities to a higher degree and to act on that information in time. Could it be that the higher the gift - the higher the sensitivities?

What also struck me was the number of times we'd managed to come up (by accident) with different ways to deal with certain characteristics - like the perfectionism. One parent expressed concern on this issue and how it could become psychologically dangerous. The question on earth can you help them with this? My husband has always played word games with Sophia....turning common words into nonsense words and deliberatly mis-pronouncing things. She still gets pretty crazy about pronunciation but she is relatively flexible now because we made it a game.

Friday, October 21, 2011

And next....?

Little girl is sitting in the car the other day and announces out of the blue,
"Konichiwa means hello!"
I said, "You're right it does - well done sweetie, do you know what language it is from?"
"That is from Japan"
"Ahhh!" I said, "Right again....can you tell me what hello is in Chinese?"
Pause.....pause......."Nee How"

She bowls me over most days - the only time I remember talking about different greetings was a couple of months ago. We also went over a little Spanish and a couple of other languages - most of which she got right - some she didn't know. The other day I woke up to her jumping up on the bed yelling, "Arriba up!" and then jumping down and saying, "Abajo, down". Thank you Dora!

So.........I'm thinking she likes language in general. Hmmmm :)

It's speeding up.....

Sophia is ready for school in her doubt about it. Her behaviour patterns and her language is changing and she's getting extremely active throughout the day. I'd swear she's craving the company of other children too. Her play seems to have gotten more complex.....we're into hosts of imaginary friends at the moment. I'm told there's someone at the door on a regular basis and when we go to open the door, there can be anywhere between 1 and 6 'friends' coming to visit. Most are from movies or programs she has seen. Often they are coming to 'tea' or a picnic and we've then got to go about finding them all chairs and getting them food and drink! She also likes to play 'school' where I have to give her schoolwork and call 'recess' from time to time. Her paintings are still quite simple most of the time but the subjects are interesting - I have no idea what a Miafologis is for example! Yesterday she did one she called, 'Human Body Selections' and made me label what everything was haha!

The really good thing is that she seems to be getting the hang of conflict resolution. She had an incident where a boy pushed her over at preschool last week. She started to meltdown a bit when her favourite teacher asked her what was wrong and could she help. Much to our surprise, she snapped out of it and told the teacher who then asked her, "What would you like to happen?"

Well, up go her fists onto her hips and her right toe starts tapping furiously (something we've seen her do only once or twice) and she announced very clearly - "I would like an apology!" This wonderful teacher went to the transgressor and asked him to tell Sophia he was sorry - which he did thankfully - and Sophia just lit up and all was forgiven, just like that. It made her day. Now in the last two months, she's been bitten, kicked, punched and pushed and finally when she was given the chance to communicate what she wanted - she took it and was clear about it and it was resolved. I never thought I'd see it. Just Magic!

A different kind of teacher to spot and avoid!

Came across another type of primary school teacher this week. And I think I may have gotten a glimpse at why some gifted children 'dumb themselves down' and by 8, they are developing academically along with their peers.

This teacher suggested that the way she likes to 'handle' gifted children is to encourage them to help the teacher out with their slower classmates, particularly with reading and maths. Now initially this sounds like a good idea - to keep the gifted child busy in the classroom after they've finished their work early. BUT....make no mistake folks - I definitely don't approve.

You see.........while the child is acting as a free teachers aid/assistant - they are not developing any further than their peers at all. They are forced to learn at the same pace. And the justification for it? "We have 30 children in a class - there just isn't time to deal with the needs of one child."

Honestly? I'm appalled. It makes me madder still to know that this particular teacher works in remedial reading. She's got all the patience and time in the world if a child can't read at all. The truth is....that teacher never has to research extra material or locate extra resources or deal with any paperwork to accelerate a gifted child.

Grrrrrr!!! If a teacher isn't prepared to help the gifted child in their class, they should at least be handing their care onto someone who is - not crippling them just because they can't be bothered.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Further notes on education

Had a really 'interesting' moment at Sophia's pre-school yesterday which gave me a little insight on educator attitudes. One of the teachers had taken the kids across to the park to have a bit of fun with a home-made rocket. I'm not entirely sure what they were doing - it can't have been too advanced or crazy because the kids are only four but they were asked to draw about their experience afterwards. Sophia starts to do the scribbly thing she often likes to do...just toddler kind of stuff really. The teacher says to her, 'no, no sweetie -- why don't you draw the rocket.' So Sophia then does the other type of drawing she likes (it's almost split-personality-ish) which is fairly accurate kind of stuff. She draws the rocket with the windows and the sun and the teacher with all her fingers and toes etc.....and the teacher just couldn't believe what she was seeing.

But this is what a parent of a gifted child means when they say, 'they just need a little encouragement.' That little bit of encouragement just to think a little differently can achieve vastly different results. I suspect this is the difference that occurs when they get to school. Teachers that leave the gifted to just do what they do because (being very bright) these kids don't need assistance.....are cheating that child of their potential.

When Sophia was three we decided it was time for her to go to kindergarten for social purposes and because it was a learning environment that might help to keep her little mind stimulated. When we observed one of the teachers telling her off for smudging letters on the board when she was trying to read them, we called a meeting with the teachers and we told them of her abilities. We said that she 'just needs a little encouragement'. I think they heard....'I want you to help me get my kid into university when they're 8'. They were instantly intimidated and kept saying....'children need to play at that age'. We took her out of there because of the number of times we observed Sophia being left to her own devices. They weren't even bothering to encourage her to socialise with the other kids in the end.

Attitude changes when it's a gifted child involved in discussion between educators and parents. The reaction from the educator is either keen curiosity or fear. When a child does things outside the expected outcomes for their age group, the accusation that we are cheating our kids of their childhood by pushing them to learn things they don't need to know yet is often soon to follow. That comes from the idea that 'this is a child that doesn't fit 'the box' and I've got to fix it! These parents must be shown the error of their terrible ways!'

Here's a pearl of insight for that type of educator......gifted kids don't need 'pushing'. They initiate the subject they're interested in themselves. And with a little encouragement, they can fly where ever they want to go.

Children need to play at every age, at any level of development. Where is it written that learning can't be play? Play is learning - is it any different if you're playing with words or playdough? Or both!  Why is it that if a child is three or four....any 'learning' isn't perceived as play? When a child initiates learning about a subject, why discourage them because of their age? Aside from having to restrict age appropriate material, why discourage a passion for learning?.

Some would say let the teachers find out for themselves and then they'll change their attitude. I don't believe that attitude ever changes. What happens instead is that teacher ends up with too much time to damage the passion a child can have for learning before you, as a parent, can find out.

Attitude is everything in my book and doubly important for a gifted child from the very start. I'm still saying...cut to the chase...use the words we're all uncomfortable with and ask your child's teacher straight out - 'what's your attitude to gifted children'. You'll know inside of 30 seconds whether or not they are going to have a chance at meeting your child's educational needs. And when you say, 'they just need a little encouragement', make sure that's exactly what the teacher understands.


Oh Dinosaur!

Here's a little gem to put a smile on your dial! Sophia (4yrs) and I were sitting in bed this morning, talking about dinosaurs. She tells me she is a Tyrannosaurus Rex and I am a Stegasaurus. Good good...she often  talks about these things....loves the whole herbivore, carnivore and omnivore thing as well..... just never know what these kids are absorbing :) We get up and we're walking through the kitchen when she informs me that I'm a quadriped and she is a biped!

So curious to know how much she's discovered because this information wasn't in our earlier discussion, I enquire, "Whats a quadraped then?"
"It walks on four legs and is quite slow," she says.
"So what's a biped then?"
"It uses two legs and is very very fast!"

Ahahahah! Delightful!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dramatic Play

No problems there....she's right into at the moment....and where she gets the stuff - I'm not entirely sure. Yesterday we both had to be Masterchefs (her words) and in the afternoon, she was a tattoo artist-teake (and that one has got me mystified). And this is every day at the moment. She's also very keen to imitate the movement of programs and movies - even when they are not inactive. It's pretty funny to watch her dancing away with Silvermist and then falling into 'the pond' at the end. Everything copied to the letter.

She'll also put on shows and spend some time working out a costume and setting up the books in the lounge to make a 'stage' with 'lights'. If I could just get her to pretend to be a stagehand and put it all away afterwards, we'll be sweet!