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Are sudden leaps in brain development normal around the age of 8?

(7 Posts)
TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 19-Jun-15 13:04:28

We're currently dealing with some complex problems with 8yo ds which I have posted about elsewhere.

The reason I'm asking is that as well as the difficult stuff (suicidality, frequent meltdowns at school) his brain seems to have suddenly jumped to a new level of abstract reasoning. He's always been bright and thoughtful (never formally assessed but teachers at his previous and new school have always referred to him as gifted). However, now his brain seems to be running at 90mph in a way it never did before. He's asking a lot more questions about science, philosophy etc, and is picking up and reading adult science magazines, which even three months ago we couldn't have imagined him doing. In short he's coming across like the stereotype of a gifted child in a way that he really didn't until recently.

The negative side of this is that he has had various episodes where he has become worried we're not who we say we are - the first time this happened he thought I might be his sister in disguise, and he has also worried that we are ghosts pretending to be his parents. These don't seem to be actual true delusions so much as philosophical crises, as if his thoughts are running ahead of him and causing him to lose touch with reality.

He has been assessed by CAMHS as having nothing wrong and has been referred for an autism assessment (though he doesn't really seem to fit this), school is waiting for a referral from a child psychologist, and I'm just trying to make sense of it all. So I'm wondering if one possibility is rapid brain development and whether anyone else has noticed this thing where their child suddenly seems to jump to a different stage of thinking very rapidly? (And if so, did it settle down?!)

SocietyClowns Fri 19-Jun-15 13:40:09

Didn't want to read and run flowers. My dd has just turned 8 and it does seem to me as if she has suddenly woken up and takes a lot more interest in the world around her. So there may be something happening at this age re brain development.

PiqueABoo Fri 19-Jun-15 13:53:33

I'm no expert, but in principle the peak of brain development relating to language and speech occurs around the age of eight.

It's when DD's reading for pleasure really took off. It's when she first indicated that she wasn't taking adult praise at face value: "You're only saying that because you're my [Mum | Dad]". It's also when we got the first outbreaks of sorroricidal 'Queen Bee' playground stuff with little cliques turfing out and shunning members etc.

So maybe. Amongst girls at least.

getinthesea Fri 19-Jun-15 14:04:02

Interesting question - and sorry to hear that your DS is having such a difficult time with his brain. Someone once described being a highly gifted child as 'having to learn to drive using a Ferrari' and that seems particularly true for him.

DD is also 8 and while we haven't seen that kind of leap, what has happened is that a lot of her challenges, particularly to do with organisation, melted away quite soon after her 8th birthday, so she could go upstairs on an errand and come back without getting distracted and disappearing for half an hour. Or more. So, yes, there have definitely been changes, and school have noticed to.

FWIW, I read somewhere (I think it was something that Deborah Orr linked to in the Grauniad) that parts of the brain develop more slowly in gifted children than usual. Which may also play into this.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 19-Jun-15 14:31:16

Thank you very much, everyone.

The 'learn to drive using a Ferrari' analogy is brilliant - that's exactly how it seems to be - overpowered and getting away from him, and he's scared and wants to get out.

The CAMHS lady commented that he came across as very much younger than his actual age - about 6 rather than 8. To be fair, he was regressing and hiding behind his stuffed rabbit due to the situation, and sometimes he seems much older, but the idea that his emotional brain hasn't caught up with his mental one rings very true.

getinthesea Fri 19-Jun-15 14:34:26

This is the Deborah Orr article. Having gone back to it to get the link, I think the whole thing sounds as though it's right up your street. If I remember rightly one of her sons is gifted but also has ADHD.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Fri 19-Jun-15 15:07:08

Oh, that's great, thank you! I will tell ds he probably has a very plastic cortex - he loves all that brain stuff.

The overexcitability theory matches him very well - he is highly imaginative and has a few physical oversensitivities but the emotional overexcitability is the main thing causing trouble.

And this line is brilliant: 'A gifted child is an independent learner already, but is still expected to sit in class for 15 years being coaxed into thinking for herself.'

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