My now-9-year-old daughter spoke her first words when she was 4 months old. She looked up at the sky, pointed to the moon, and said, “Moon.” She was drawing at 9 months and forming complete sentences reflecting her wishes and observations of the world before her first birthday. My daughter was also an intuitive naturalist. The developmental psychologist, Howard Gardner, would easily have grouped her into the “naturalistic” category if he ever met her. She understands relationships in ecology without being told and has caught many a docent and teacher off guard with the depth and breadth of her understanding of nature. She is also very artistic, picking up the cello and painting very quickly. She is Gifted with Multi-Potentiality, meaning she is talented and can excel at many things. But understanding herself and others…that’s a different story.
From an early age, we noticed she behaved more like an anthropologist around other children. She observed interactions in a group. She clung to my leg when kids asked her to join, yet she felt lonely. Finally, this past year my daughter was able to put into words what she was feeling.
“It’s like I need an instruction book on what to do around kids,” she said. And it wasn’t until I attended a two-week-long seminar about gifted children put on by the Cherry Creek Association for Gifted and Talented along with the Cherry Creek Office of Gifted Education and Advanced Learning that I finally understood this mismatch in my daughter’s abilities. She has Asynchronous Development, and she’s not alone in the gifted community. In fact, the higher a child’s IQ, the more asynchronous their development can be.
Asynchronous Development can materialize in many ways in gifted kids. Usually their intellectual ability is the oldest. The child’s social, emotional, physical maturity can fall close to their actual age or even younger. It can be difficult for a parent to understand their child when one moment they are involved in an engaging conversation with their child about String Theory and Quantum Physics, and the next their child is throwing a tantrum over brushing their teeth. In our case, it was difficult for us to help our daughter answer the questions her analytical mind formed as she observed relationships, when in practice her interpersonal skills were lacking. Using her skills of observing relationships in nature, she would observe how some kids follow others and how the groups of kids interact with each other. Yet she wasn’t comfortable joining the groups all the time. And she would be upset to tears if she was in a friendship with someone that was too pushy or dominant. Logically, that relationship didn’t make sense to her.
So what can you do if you notice Asynchronous Development in your gifted child?
Nurture and educate! The best way to nurture the different facets of development in a Gifted child is to encourage diversified peer groups. Find a club of gifted children who share the same passion as your child, like Destination Imagination. And if they’re really passionate about a topic, find a college student who is focusing their attention in that field and pair them up for tutoring sessions! Expose gifted kids to environments with a variety of age groups to allow them to find social and emotional IQ a peer group that fits.
Many opportunities for gifted education of the parent and child also exist. Schools across the nation have classes that address a gifted child’s Asynchronous Development. In our case, we found a Friendship Skills group in Parker run by a child psychologist. Gifted children like my daughter meet weekly and are taught strategies for interpersonal interactions that range from meeting and keeping friends to bullying.
There is also wealth of books available about gifted children. High recommended are Coping for Capable Kids, by Cohen and Frydenberg and The Gifted Kids Survival Guide for Ages 10 and Under by Galbraith.
Finally, the 59th Annual National Association for Gifted Children Convention will be held in Denver from Nov. 15-18, 2012 . A special Parent Day during the Convention will be on Saturday, Nov. 17. To register for the Parent Day and see the Schedule of Events, go to http://coloradogifted.org/.
With understanding and the right education, we as parents can help our gifted kids live up to their fullest potential in all areas of development.
Jennifer Smith-Daigle is a stay-at-home mother of a fourth grade daughter and twin first grade boys. She and her boys are survivors of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, being some of the first 200 people in the United States to be cured by Fetoscopic Laser Ablation surgery. Jennifer’s life before kids included world travel, historic preservation, and archaeology digs. When she’s not busy with a house full of kids and enough mammals to constitute a small zoo, Jennifer finds freedom in freelance writing, martial arts and gardening.