Giftedness disappearing?? Anyone else experienced this at 6yo?

(151 Posts)
Pearlington Sat 15-Jun-13 20:05:20

Apologies for the length, but I feel I need to give some background to convey the problem. Dd was scary pretty much from birth. But now, age six, I find it seeming to disappear. It's so odd. Ill give some examples of milestones and intellectual prowess for context...

First speech 6 m
Picked out letters spontaneously 11 m
Sentence speech 13 m
Knew all alphabet letters - names and sounds - 14 m
Naming dozens of plants in Latin 16 m
Drawing recognisable faces 19 m
Asking philosophical, science and maths questions 20 m
Writing name 21 m
Reading 26 m

By 2.5 she spoke like an adult, read non fiction obsessively and had incredible insight and unending spontaneous deductive reasoning particularly in science and philosophy.

She was identified as gifted when she started a highly selective pre-prep nursery at 3 and was given Year 2 homework. In reception, the teacher said she may need to skip a year in a couple of years time and her stock phrase was, ?It must be so exhausting to be her. I?ve never seen a young brain active like that. She never stops experimenting with concepts, deducing how things work, analysing everything around her. It?s tiring listening to it and keeping up with it.? The head of pre-prep and school head jointly decided DD should have her own curriculum put in place from Year 2 on. However, starting Year 2, her new teacher told us the other kids had probably caught up over the summer so DD wouldn't need extension work.

Now, she remembers little of what she taught herself then and seems to have lost the endless thirst. She taught herself the names of all the bones in the body, how the organs worked, today she does not seem interested. The eternal incisive questioning has stopped and if I offer to explain something she says it?s boring and she doesn't want to know. If I ask her about things she used to love to discuss, she looks blank or gives a fairly thoughtless (or perhaps more age-appropriate) answer. If something looks challenging, she avoids it. Her brain never seems to get into gear.

She still says amazing things occasionally and about two months ago, I found her in the kitchen trying to extract DNA from her saliva - she'd found instructions in a book and got the whole experiment together on her own. Her reading age at 6 is pretty much adult. But all the burning curiosity and drive has weakened or even gone.

I've never pushed her but responded to her interests. Now I feel a little lost and confused as to what's gone on. I feel like I'm parenting a changeling. I asked her today if science still interested her and she said, "not like it used to. I'd like to know a bit more about cells.""What would you like to know about them?""I dunno". That was it. She has a Brian cox app and watches a lot on space. The only other relevant info I can think of is that I?m currently pregnant and have been seriously ill with my pregnancy and she seems to be suffering enormous self-esteem problems and keeps telling me she is stupid, a bad person and ? today ? a loser.

Does anyone have any thoughts? Has anyone else experienced this? Thanks so much in anticipation.

Prozacbear Wed 17-Jul-13 15:55:14

To me, it sounds like a self-esteem/wanting to fit in issue. Particularly the mood swings, the 'I dunno', the high level of self-criticism.

I was a little bit the same as your DD - not into science at all, it was books - although I say that and do remember asking my mum to buy me a pig's heart (at the age of 7...) as I'd found a biology book and wanted to do a dissection. I have no idea why she humoured me, but I had an excellent afternoon.

The point of that anecdote is that very bright and inquisitive children can seem intense, and their interests bizarre and a bit creepy (really!) to others - people wonder what sort of troubled child I was, doing dissections!

It makes you very very self critical (I still present as incredibly hard on myself on personality assessments) and prone to self-analysis. I think nipping that in the bud is the key - whether that's a counselor or a supportive teacher, or something else ... focus on her unhappiness as the issue, because if that changes, it's likely the rest will too.

totallyopera Mon 08-Jul-13 17:00:54

Mr Gove is a disaster for education!

Acinonyx Mon 08-Jul-13 11:24:07

Pearl - I really worry that dd will not learn to make a consistent effort at anything. I was like that - school was easy, university was easy. Having a job where you actually had to actually work *every day* was quite disastrous and still not my strong suit, decades later.

Music and sport has been great this year for dd - she's just not naturally good at sports and she doesn't have a particularly good musical ear - she really works at it. I had to explain to her several times that it is normal to practice a piece of music - even concert pianists learn a piece and practice it and don't just sit and play it perfectly. Like pp says though - I've found we can only fit a couple of things/week that need lessons and practice.

I'm not at all sure though, that she will ever make the effort with school subjects that she does with other stuff.

inthesark Mon 08-Jul-13 11:05:43

It is a great list, but the problem is fitting it all in around school. I'm always trying to balance giving DD some challenge, with just letting her hang out and play.

My ideal solution would be to take her out one day a week to do extension stuff - even with tutors - but Mr Gove has just banjaxed that totally.

goldrunner Sun 07-Jul-13 23:39:45

Musicmake - that sounds like brilliant advice - sports are the thing for restoring concentration levels

goldrunner Sun 07-Jul-13 23:38:17

Totally relate to your complaint about the school, Prissy, but actually i sounds like you've got a much better school than our ds.
We don't do homework - we get in too late - so any questions about lack of progress are instantly challenged with 'well he doesn't do his homework' as if that 15 minutes held the key to top grades in everything and the hours in school mean nothing! Now that everything has become my fault through 'bad parenting' (no homework), we are having to take him out of the school because they put me down in front of him! Thats not such a bad thing, though.

Pearlington - sounds like she's bored which is pulling down her self-esteem.

Computers can be a disaster for bright children because they are getting so much instant easy stimulus but its like junk food - addictive and not nutritious. So I reckon they develop brain-malnutrition looking for a quick fix at school and finding it all frustratingly slow.
Losing focus, curiosity and concentration can be a sign of that rot beginning.
I fight to keep mine off them and if I had a choice (e.g. no older dc's) would lock them away from my ds altogether. If googling needed, encyclopaedias still work like they used to, (but we have a good library nearby so that's an option, not everyone has).

Don't worry about this but sometimes 'high-functioning autism' can be worth looking into as that pulls down self-esteem if not spotted young enough.

She sounds like my nephew, though, (it was trains with him) and he went downhill at this age but then picked up later got lots of scholarships and is now highly talented successful musician.

The right school - she should get a scholarship - will be so important. Do some research on the most academic ones?

MusicMake Tue 02-Jul-13 17:10:13

There are so many areas of human expertise involving our bodies, emotions and senses as well as minds. I would encourage your daughter to develop a range of interests to stimulate her mentally and physically in the widest possible sense and enable her to become resilient to failure and learn to work hard.

Clearly academic work is unlikely to be a big challenge to her at this stage so I wouldn't focus too much on that.

Some ideas are below. Obviously she wouldn't be able to do them all. It might be possible to try some new things out over the summer holidays to see what she liked.

Sport
Tennis - Good exercise you can keep up as an adult. A high level of skill involved. You have to get used to losing and coming back when you are behind.
Gymnastics - Great fun learning to do handstands and cartwheels. A fast way to impress her friends.
Football - Good exercise and good for team work.
Swimming - Good exercise and important life skill. Can be very relaxing too.

Ballet / Dance - Good exercise. Develops musicality and coordination. A good ballet school will also allow performance opportunities which will be fun and develop self confidence.

Music - Some music schools run programs for children where you can start to learn an instrument, perform in a choir, develop general musical awareness and start to learn music theory. Great for a child on lots of levels. Teaches the importance of practice.

Art - Drawing lessons or arts and crafts activities can help to develop a whole new and more visual way of looking at the world as well as being lots of fun and improving coordination. Useful for everything from being a surgeon to an architect.

Foreign Languages - Romance ones are great because they sound lovely and Europe is close enough to visit and practise. People say they are easy. To learn a few words maybe. There is nothing more fun than being fluent in a foreign language and reading novels in it as well. It opens up a whole new part of your mind. Mandarin would also be good. Learning the few thousand characters needed to become literate is a challenge.

Drama - Good for self confidence and fun and appreciation of literature.

toomanyfionas Tue 02-Jul-13 10:15:39

I think she needs other genius friends. It must be lonely being so smart and no one to play chess with/share your fascination of science.

It does sound as though she's a bit unhappy and trying to hide her intelligence which is sad.

ouryve Sun 23-Jun-13 00:31:40

Tangrams are interesting. DS2 is 7, has ASD, is non verbal and needs help to feed and dress himself. He pretty much presents as a large toddler. And he can do tangrams!

They rely on a type of intelligence that is completely independent of verbal skills. They also make fewer demands on his motor skills than, say, lego. He does them on his leapster or on our iPad, so doesn't have to pick up and physically manipulate the pieces, which he finds difficult. He can slide and turn them on the screen, with minimal help.

DS1 is hungry to learn, but impossibly to push. He was analysing the price of lego sets in the argos catalogue, today. I suggested he made a bar chart and he gave me that don't be silly, mum, look. He kept a tally, instead.

justaboutalittlefrazzled Sun 23-Jun-13 00:27:13

He's doing very well: we found a new medication which really helped. Now trying to rebuild his physical confidence.

colditz Sun 23-Jun-13 00:11:17

She's probably just catching down.

Pearlington Sun 23-Jun-13 00:01:10

Justabout: how is your son now?

Pearlington Sat 22-Jun-13 23:45:49

Framey McFame, she hasn't been pushed. She just has a particular approach to the world. You couldn't push her if you wanted to. She very much dances to her own beat and I have no idea how to make her do anything. If anything, I've been dragged along behind her mostly!!

Mrs noodle head you just hit my fear on the head. If she coasts through school finding it all ridiculously easy, what happens when eventually something requires actual mental effort. I already see signs she won't be able to cope.

Mathanxiety: it's the open ended problems you need to put your brain in gear for! That feels threatening to her I think. However, on her own, she sets up hypothetical problems to explore or sits thinking quietly and suddenly comes out with something that shows she has been applying herself to a problem she's noticed and worked out a solution. The problem comes if the challenge is not from within. So she can startle us with her thinking through complex problems and pulling information from everywhere to solve it by linking ideas together in really novel ways, but she can't make the leap if someone else challenges her to do it.

I guess that's what I mean by you can't push her. I couldn't ask her to work on something. But if she wants to work on something then I will try to give her the opportunity if I can.

With sums, that's a recent thing. I just think she likes the feeling of performing the calculation in her head. I guess it is just satisfying to work stuff out sometimes.

Oh and I did this:

"The crumpling (emotionally and in terms of academic performance) of really, really bright children who do not have the resilience or the organisational or time management tools to get going when the going gets tough is horribly painful to witness" (as per mathanxiety).

Everyone thought I was so able that I didn't need to work. Senior school was a bit of a shock!

Hi OP. Your daughter sounds amazing!

I was a clever child but nowhere near as bright as yours. My parents thought I was exceptional and at 10 I took a MENSA test which came out at 176. My parents proudly informed the local paper and it became common local knowledge.

I was mortified, and teased not a little bit. The publicity marked a very swift end to my desire to be exceptional and I chose instead to focus on being normal and less threatening to my peers (not that I was, but the MENSA tag made me into something alien).

I think my parents would have reported a similar 'shift' to the one you describe at that point although they didn't understand why for many years.

Your DD is probably too young to feel the need to conform quite so keenly, but I wouldn't be surprised if she were becoming more aware of the differences between herself and her friends and working out whether she wants to stay the course?

FrameyMcFrame Sat 22-Jun-13 22:22:54

Sorry have just read your op. All children go through phases even gifted ones.
In some countries your child would not have even started formal school yet.
Do you think she may have been put off learning by being pushed too early?

justaboutalittlefrazzled Sat 22-Jun-13 22:16:46

I have actually done the opposite with my son: shared with him the fact that he was extremely bright.
The reason was that he has had a terrible pain disorder which left him in a wheelchair for much of the year, and he had to give up sports (which he loves, whilst not being any good at it). He was also aware of his differentness anyway through Aspergers and ADHD. I felt that in the circumstances his confidence needed rebuilding, and I wanted him to find value and dignity through academic depth and accomplishment, at a time when it was about the only pleasure I could still give him apart from telly!

So I think it is not an absolute rule. There are times and places when it is appropriate. But no, you don't start off telling a child how special they are: but I also think you can't hide some kinds of special, and actually giftedness can be a burden that needs acknowledging, just like losing the use of your legs and needing time in a wheelchair.

I therefore think that it's a very individual choice.

pickledsiblings Sat 22-Jun-13 22:14:38

'Likewise, telling your child she is different as if this is a good thing -- the child will understand what you value.' What you value is the child and being open and honest about who they are with them is a good thing.

'Equally, she could become the proverbial party bore and providing facts and figures might be met with rolling of eyes and very hurtful snide remarks.' This is why being open and honest about your child's abilities and teaching them how to 'manage' them is important.

'calling attention to appearance just leaves small girls lost for words in my experience', - when I tell my small girl and boys that they are beautiful they tell me that I'm beautiful too smile.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 22:01:02

she could be a fabulous asset to her friends with lots of facts and figures at her disposal. All talents should be celebrated.

Equally, she could become the proverbial party bore and providing facts and figures might be met with rolling of eyes and very hurtful snide remarks.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 21:57:41

I absolutely avoid telling my DDs (and DS) they are beautiful or pretty or good looking. I had someone in my life when I was young who had bulimia and comments on appearance were her stock in trade. Always compliments mind you -- but they showed her focus on outward appearance and her preference for thinness without ever saying anything negative about weight. There was no mistaking what she valued.

Likewise, telling your child she is different as if this is a good thing -- the child will understand what you value.

If I mentioned appearance at all when the DCs were young (and actually not that interested in their looks) it was to make sure their teeth were brushed or hair neat and clean, nails in clean condition. There was also the question of whether their choice of clothes and footwear was appropriate for weather or the occasion. When they hit the teen years I let them shave their legs and use makeup, do their hair whatever way they wanted, and choose their own style of clothing. As long as they were happy with it that was fine with me. I had rules about tattoos and piercing apart from soft tissue in the ear before age 18 but outside of that their appearance was their own business. My DSIS gave DD1 a book called 'Teenage Beauty' by Bobbi Brown that focused on health and beauty, good habits and being happy in your own skin, plus how to make the most of your natural looks that I thought very positive. For the facts of life they all read 'The Care and Keeping of You' by American Girl Press, focusing in again on health, practical questions of hygiene and self care. We all like looking at fashion magazines together and discussing styles, whether they would be flattering, etc., plus the inanity of the magazines. I think butting in with assurance about how beautiful they were would have been met with puzzlement.

They have all managed to look good and as they have got older and as their self image has become firmer I have told them they are looking nice imo. It hasn't hurt that DD1 and DD3 tend to be approached by modelling agency scouts when they are out. They have been flattered but have lives that are full enough and their future is promising enough via school/university that they have not taken anyone up on their offer (yet). Both are redheads and that has brought its own challenges even though they were not brought up in a country that sees red hair as disgusting. But people make remarks and again, no matter how complimentary, calling attention to appearance just leaves small girls lost for words in my experience -- giving them ideas for responses to unsolicited comments has been part of their socialisation process.

Being proud of the confidence to stand up and sing and do a song justice is different from being proud of the voice. You can tell a child you are proud she works hard to develop her singing voice (especially if that involves sacrificing something she would prefer to be doing), but to praise the voice itself is misguided.

pickledsiblings Sat 22-Jun-13 20:58:52

"nothing in telling the child she is different in a good way from her peers would accomplish that"

But Math, you don't tell her that she is different in a good way, just that she is 'different' or in the 'minority' or at the tail end of the bell-shaped curve of IQ. I tell my children they are beautiful, I want them to like what they see when they look in the mirror. I don't tell them they are more beautiful than x,y or z or that they are lucky to be beautiful, I tell them it is important for their self esteem to like what they see when they look in the mirror.

OP, if your child had a beautiful singing voice you would be proud to hear it on show I'm sure but mostly you would be proud that she had the confidence to stand up and sing and that she enjoyed the experience of bringing pleasure to others. Her giftedness is a talent that should be nurtured and shared in the same way - she could be a fabulous asset to her friends with lots of facts and figures at her disposal. All talents should be celebrated.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 20:52:41

Pearlington I am nodding in complete agreement with your thoughts on good qualities to encourage there.

Do you encourage her to investigate maths related games, or games that are visual but challenging and open ended or versatile as to the challenges she could choose? Tangrams are another area where she could give her brain a workout. I wonder about the focus she seems to have on sums where an answer can be right or wrong. I would try to encourage engagement with more open ended activities that require thought.

mathanxiety Sat 22-Jun-13 20:40:48

I would steer well clear of setting up any distinction between this child and her peers based on brain power. It's as bad and as pointless as telling her she is pretty, or that she has a fine muscular pair of legs -- use those legs or they won't stay strong.

Knowing a bunch of stuff isn't the be all and end all of inquiry. It's how you put those facts together, the links you make between maths and art or music, or some book you read with history that matter. And of course how you get along with others -- nothing in telling the child she is different in a good way from her peers would accomplish that.

Wrt the intellect, I would only draw attention to other qualities she has that enable that intellect to be productive -- persistence when something appears hard at first, ability to investigate for herself, drive to learn more, good time management and care of materials. I would keep my mouth firmly shut otherwise. The child is bound to encounter someone just as 'clever' as she is or moreso as she progresses through school and while in school she is going to need friends - not easy to find them if she ever blurts out how much smarter than her peers she is or that they are less intelligent than she is. Moreover, she is going to need the qualities that make a good brain a useful tool more and more as she goes through school -- being organised, not being a procrastinator or perfectionist to the extent that work doesn't get handed in, ability to find a reward in mastery of some subject and not doing it for the approval of others -- will all stand her in good stead for a lifetime of learning. These are the qualities that give the Rolls Royce brain the engine of a Rolls Royce and not a Citroen 2CV (though I like very much the Citroen 2CV and it will get you from point A to point B, a RR needs a RR engine).

I think it's the children who have been 'too precious children' who end up miserable or at least under performing as adults. 'The Too Precious Child' by Leanne H. Williams MD and others explores the pitfalls of 'super-parenting' and its effects on the children whose parents are micro-focused on them. This book is not strictly about parenting gifted children -- it's a book aimed at parents in general that asks them to examine what they are doing (and for whose benefit). Children who show signs of being very bright and whose parents have the time and energy to devote to encouraging that often fall into the category of the 'too precious child' because the child will reward a parent endlessly with quick results once information is inputted.

You don't ever want to give your child the impression that their intellect is what you value about them. You don't want to give her the impression that she will automatically and without effort be tops at everything (or that this is what counts). The crumpling (emotionally and in terms of academic performance) of really, really bright children who do not have the resilience or the organisational or time management tools to get going when the going gets tough is horribly painful to witness.

I have a niece who imploded at age 16 and has not yet recovered at age 25. There is no word as bitter to her parents' ears as 'potential'.

Pearlington Sat 22-Jun-13 20:36:05

Isthisagoodidea: totally agree that gift is a misnomer. It's not any kind of advantage and definitely a worry and headache. The word gives the instant idea of superiority and i personally just think these kids are simply developmentally different and very hard work. To me, the ingredients for success are not starting life like dd but a heady combination of determination, interpersonal skill/emotional intelligence, ability to deal with failure, work ethic and some basic intellectual capacity. That's why I'm more into her socialisation and helping her learn to face and handle failure and disinterested in getting her pushed ahead academically.

At the same time, I know a lot of ppl who had comparable early development and have been very successful and happy as adults so I really don't get that idea of spelling disaster.

But honestly, if she had been happy all switched off, I wouldn't have started this post. She was anything but!!

And she does lead. Today she said she was bored and couldnt think what to do so I gave her the choice of dressing some cut out dolls, Lego, board games, piano, reading, drawing or doing aqua beads. She said no, can we do sums please, but I want really hard ones, I want to multiply big numbers. So we did and she was in her element. Later on it was sonic hedgehog. Then it was mandarin. Then piano. Then sums again. Then pick up sticks. She's been happy as larry all day. Right now, we're watching a program she'd been looking forward to all day and I just realised she's nose in her new mandarin book, practising pronunciation and ignoring the screen. I told her she's missing her program and she said ok but she's still reading. This is how she is.

pickledsiblings Sat 22-Jun-13 19:56:57

OP, your child is not 'normal' in terms of her intellect and I don't see the problem in sharing that information with her (using the computer analogy/processing power perhaps). I would also share that school caters primarily for children of a lower intellect as that encompasses most of the population so there will be many things taught at school that she will already know. They will be taught in a methodical way that may or may not be the same way that she learnt them and the pace will be a lot slower than 'her' pace. However, there is more to school that learning facts/concepts, it is about getting along with people, team work, setting and achieving her own personal targets etc.

Is there evidence to show that doing so (telling gifted children that they are gifted) is harmful to gifted children? She is not a 'better' person than anyone because she is 'cleverer' than them but to hold back from her just how clever she is is bound to cause problems with her self esteem as self esteem is all about marrying up how you see yourself vs how other people see you. I can't see with problem with her seeing herself as 'gifted', not 'lucky' to be so but just 'gifted', a bit like having brown/blonde/hair - just a part of who she is.

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