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He’s not as smart as his brother… March 4, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, older son, younger son.
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been living with an illusion for the past six years that was pretty much shattered recently.  Having an illusion or misconception shatter is both good and terrifying.

Older boy and younger boy are, in terms of personality, like night and day.  The older boy likes to say he broke the mold.  The younger boy once was very puzzled by this, responding, “There’s no mold inside MY body!”

The older boy is the quiet, isolated, brilliant, and frustrated type.  I think he’s an artist at heart, and though we try, there’s so much depth, I doubt I’ll ever understand entirely how he’s feeling or what he’s thinking.  The younger boy is the social, loving, empathetic, athletic type.  He wears his heart on his sleeve, and usually that heart is joyful.

Both were IQ tested.  The older boy showed up at a level I call “scary smart”, but at least he wasn’t “terrifyingly smart”.  These terms are not supposed to mean the kids are scary, but that parenting a kid like this can be scary.  And it’s worse when you throw learning disabilities into the mix.

Given the huge number of difficulties we had with the older boy even before school, I was so relieved to get the younger boy’s IQ test back.  One of my first thoughts was, “Thank goodness he’s not as smart as his brother.”

It was pretty naive of me to think this.  But there were other differences.  He had never really had serious problems getting along with other kids.  His daycare and preschool providers always talked about him as a sweet, sensitive boy.  This was a huge contrast to what his brother went through, so I kept thinking that he was going to be my “easy kid”.

Maybe even normal.

And he is my easy kid, but even easy kids have problems.  I shouldn’t have been so complacent: starting elementary school caused all of the difficulties to start coming to the surface.  How many stories have I read about gifted children starting school, and *BAM!*  the formerly pleasant, bright child turns into a puddle of tears?

To be fair, I was aware it was happening.  When you wake up a child in the morning, and the first thing he does is cry because he has to go to school, you know there’s a problem.  Or when he says his teachers don’t like him.  Or that school is too hard.

I kept trying to discuss the issue with the school principal and the oft unavailable teacher.  When my husband hit his breaking point, she finally told us that he had shut down and was pretty much refusing to talk with her.

I’m sitting here, puzzled why she didn’t tell us this when it first started.  I got comments like, “He’s wandering around the room, not working.”  I was never told that he was flat out refusing.  And I can’t figure out why she would wait weeks or months until teacher conferences to tell us that.

The breaking point was the comment: “Your son probably needs special ed or to be diagnosed with something.”  There is nothing that will make a parent see red faster than that statement, especially when they know their kid inside and out, when one of them is an educator, when they’ve dealt with a whole slew of doctors and diagnoses because of a previous child.  And when they are absolutely certain that the one and only thing that is wrong is the child’s very low self-concept.

It has been obvious that the younger child was a perfectionist from day one.  We have tried very hard to reassure him that we really just want him to try.  At four years old, he would fly into howling fits because he couldn’t manipulate Legos the same way his significantly older brother could.  He sometimes dreads going to his favorite athletic activity because there is one single exercise he couldn’t do well.  He refused to read books to anyone but me because, in his words, “I can’t read.”

It’s typical for a kid who suffers from asynchronous development.  A kid whose mind is, even at this young age, a few years ahead of his body is going to be easily frustrated because of his awareness of what he can’t do.  The fact that he is very capable for his age isn’t even on his radar.  It’s even worse that he idolizes his brother, who is nearly a decade older than him.  He thinks he should be able to do everything as well as his brother, which is completely unrealistic but which he’s too young to really understand.

A child like this needs encouragement to just try, to be recognized for effort, not for achievement.  Unfortunately, his teacher apparently didn’t understand that.  She would complain about half-finished work, wouldn’t accept anything unless it was done, would seldom give him positive comments unless it was…you guessed it…perfect.

Putting him with that teacher was like water on an electrical fire.

So I’m facing that fact that my “easy kid” may still be easy relative to his brother at this age, but that he’s still different enough to have problems that the average or even average gifted kid will not.  He’s going to be a handful for a teacher who is not used to dealing with his issues.  I think that he will still be easier than his brother because the biggest issue will be finding a teacher who has the right kind of nurturing personality.  But, like his brother, he broke the mold.


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