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    #210431 - 02/07/15 10:48 PM Cannot demonstrate what he knows
    Paige Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 10/30/14
    Posts: 9
    DS5 is half a year into the Kindergarten program in a small private school. The school is flexible and understanding, and is willing to work with him on whatever level he shows mastery in. The trouble is DS seems to be a completely different person in class from who he is at home. His verbal output is minimal, and participates little in classroom discussions. The teachers tried to tease more out of him by sitting down with him one-on-one to do some grade 1-level problems, but the only things he did well on were arithmetics and spelling; he could not do any of the math word problems, could not re-tell a story he just read, freezes when given open-ended questions, e.g. "tell me something you like about the story".

    The thing is, at home, he can do all of the above with ease. He is a mathy kid and is constantly making observations and connections. He rips through the Grade2/3 Singapore math workbooks and is eager to start on Grade 4. He can articulate well to me why he chooses which arithmetic operations for each of the word problems and seldom makes mistakes. For reading, his decoding skill is way ahead of comprehension, yet he just finished reading "James and the Giant Peach", and had no problem telling me what happens in the story, which parts he likes and which he does not. He is happy, chatty, curious, a whirlwind of energy.

    So, what's going on here?

    We are looking into getting a therapist who might help us understand his problems better and help him cope. We suspect some unhealthy perfectionism and anxiety are at play. There also seems to be a big gap between his social/emotional maturity and intellectually maturity.

    For now the school and us have decided not to make any change to his education setting, and simply give him more time to get more comfortable with the environment (though we have already given this half a year...) It hurts me a bit that he seems to be spending a good part of the day feeling anxious and not learning much. The consolation is that he seems to be pretty resilient, and is still our happy little boy outside of the classroom.

    Has any one been there or had any further insight?

    #210493 - 02/09/15 08:47 AM Re: Cannot demonstrate what he knows [Re: Paige]
    indigo Offline

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 5189
    This could be many things, because children may respond very differently.

    It could be that a higher academic challenge is needed to help him feel at ease in the school setting as he is at home.

    You mentioned social skills. You may have read this elsewhere on the forums: resources such as Gifted Kid's Survival Guide, The Unwritten Rules of Friendship, You are a Social Detective, and social thinking (perspective taking) may be helpful.

    You mentioned perfectionism/anxiety. Perfectionistic tendencies may be a sign of developing a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. One aspect or application is that gifted kids may stop taking appropriate risks in order to always be "right" or always be "smart" or never be "wrong", and this may work against them. The concept is nicely summarized in these youtube videos:
    Ashley Merryman & Po Bronson: The Myth of Praise (link-
    Teaching a Growth Mindset (link-

    Parents may wish to read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck for tips on promoting a growth mindset.

    A book which seems to understand perfectionism very well and which many find supportive is What To Do When Good Enough Isn't Good Enough. Another book you might like is Perfectionism: What's Bad About Being Too Good. While insightful, these are written gently for kids, in a style that is fun and engaging. With any of these books it may be wise for a parent to pre-read and decide if it seems to be a helpful tool to use in guiding their child.

    A child considering "worst case scenario" and finding various work-arounds to keep moving forward may in some cases help reduce anxiety and add an element of self-confidence, even a sense of looking forward to taking on the challenge.

    The article, 10 Steps for Parents and Kids to Tame the Worry Monster Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D. on Huff Post Parents, discusses anxiety. Interested readers can sign up to receive updates from the author.

    The book, Make Your Worrier a Warrior, (2013, Great Potential Press) authored by Daniel Peters Ph.D. lends expert insight to understanding what a child may be experiencing. For example, pages 44-45 suggest that parents may wish to think of acting out as
    a variation of the "fight or flight" response... children couldn't articulate their fears... they were reacting behaviorally because their amygdala, or their emotional brain, was overriding their thinking brain... kids often do not have the emotional vocabulary and/or insight to tell you what is going on...
    Armed with this knowledge, working on helping a child understand nuances of feelings and vocabulary to express their interpretation of what they are experiencing, may prove helpful.

    Wishing you all the best.

    #210510 - 02/09/15 11:14 AM Re: Cannot demonstrate what he knows [Re: Paige]
    bluemagic Offline

    Registered: 03/29/13
    Posts: 1489
    Sounds like anxiety to me as well. But that is just based on my own experience.

    I have a child who acted in a similar way as a young child and has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder. When my son was this age I was mostly patient and hopeful that he would grow out of it. He did to some extent but we eventually needed to intervene with therapy.

    #210517 - 02/09/15 01:12 PM Re: Cannot demonstrate what he knows [Re: Paige]
    Paige Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 10/30/14
    Posts: 9
    Thank you everyone for your reply. I appreciate the wealth of knowledge and support here. I will definitely check out the resources recommended.

    Yes, anxiety definitely seems to be the big issue here.

    Interesting point about the speech part too. DS is much more into the analytical side of languages rather than actually using it. He is exceptional in decoding, spelling, identifying word origins, etc., but his everyday speech is no more advanced than an average Kindergartener. He memorizes maps, the periodic table, but is not as into stories. Most of the time I chalk this up to asynchronous development ("some boys develop their verbal abilities later"), but sometimes do wonder if there is a deficit somewhere which he is trying to compensate by going so far into the other end.

    One more question: in looking into therapists, how important it is to find one who is familiar with gifted children?

    #210563 - 02/10/15 10:52 AM Re: Cannot demonstrate what he knows [Re: Paige]
    ConnectingDots Offline

    Registered: 09/06/13
    Posts: 848
    Is this his first foray into a group environment? If not, how did he do in preschool or another group of children his age? Even in situations like birthday parties or the playground, there may be other clues.

    What is his take on his school experience?

    From our experience, it can be really important to find a therapist who understands gifted children. We wasted several sessions with a therapist who never picked up on what the learning environment was doing to our kid.

    Edited by ConnectingDots (02/10/15 10:54 AM)

    #210568 - 02/10/15 12:10 PM Re: Cannot demonstrate what he knows [Re: Paige]
    indigo Offline

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 5189
    One more question: in looking into therapists, how important it is to find one who is familiar with gifted children?
    Someone not familiar with the gifted may not affirm your child's intellectual gifts or see them as strengths but try to ameliorate them.

    #210570 - 02/10/15 12:21 PM Re: Cannot demonstrate what he knows [Re: Paige]
    Platypus101 Offline

    Registered: 10/01/14
    Posts: 675
    Loc: Canada
    Originally Posted By: Paige
    One more question: in looking into therapists, how important it is to find one who is familiar with gifted children?

    In our experience, very. The giftedness can both cause as well as mask challenges. Particularly if you think there might be some kind of underlying issue, it's important to work with someone who (a) understands normal in the gifted context, and (b) is able to still detect a disability when heavily compensated by giftedness.

    #210575 - 02/10/15 12:50 PM Re: Cannot demonstrate what he knows [Re: Portia]
    Ivy Offline

    Registered: 02/08/14
    Posts: 337
    Another vote for a therapist who specializes in giftedness. It's not important... it's CRITICAL.

    #210717 - 02/11/15 07:00 PM Re: Cannot demonstrate what he knows [Re: Paige]
    Paige Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 10/30/14
    Posts: 9
    Thank you all for your inputs. We managed to find a therapist specialized in gifted/2E children in our area, so hopefully she will help us sort things out.

    ConnectingDots: Yes, DS was in a play-based preschool for two years prior to entering Kindergarten Socially, he is definitely shy and slow to warm up to new environments. However, he plays well with other children once he gets to know them better, so preschool was actually a pretty good experience. It's only now when there is some (minimal) demand that he needs to express himself in front of teachers that his problem seems exacerbated.


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