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Got a Little Genius?

How do you tell, and what do you do if she is? A mommy on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has figured it out.

On The Real Houswives of Beverly Hills recently -- no, this mom doesn't watch the wildly popular show much if at all, but this point makes sense here -- one of the sideline characters mentioned how smart her baby was.

Apparently, at 18 months Dana Wilkey's baby genius reads, speaks Thai, is learning from the encylcopedia, and he models -- of course! He is so smart Mama Wilkey doesn't have any idea where to put him in school when he's five.

Kyle, a main character who was meeting Dana for lunch, said later with as much sarcasm as she could muster: "I mean, he counts, he reads, he speaks Thai, he knows the solar system, he takes pilates. This is like, baby genius."

Could be, could be. Lots of seem like geniuses. (Kyle's husband later joked that perhaps what Mama Wilkey thought was Thai was actually just baby gibberish that sounded like it could be Thai, or perhaps any random language.)

But, there are lots of articles out there that suggest exactly what Dana Wilkey is saying: Teach your baby early and you too can Back in May I wrote an article about that.

What do you do if you realize your strategy paid off? How do you even figure out if your preschooler is "gifted?" There you are, sitting on the sofa, and all of suddden your 2-year-old asks you about, umm, say, whether people can live on Mars. Or, they start counting in tens. Or, they remind you of Manny on Modern Family, but a pint-sized version?

We know that many parents think every word that comes out of their child's mouth is a sign that he or she is a genius, but is there a true litmus test for children so young? Most aren't identified until they begin formal school, but there are some that show signs at a very early age.

BabyCenter lists some signs of giftedness in a preschooler on their website. If your 2- to 4-year-old:
1. Has a specific talent, such as artistic ability or an unusual facility for numbers
2. Reaches developmental milestones well ahead of peers
3. Has advanced language development, such as extensive vocabulary of the ability to speak in sentences much earlier than other children their age
4. Is relentlessly curious and never seems to stop asking questions
5. Is unusually active, though not hyperactive
6. Has a vivid imagination; or is able to memorize facts easily and can recall arcane information learned from TV shows, movies, or books.

Austega.com, a website on parenting gifted preschoolers, tells us that keeping good, dated records of your child's development is one of the best ways to realize whether they are gifted. And, the website actually charts out a table with gross motor, fine motor, and language development of the normal developmental milestones, as well as compares it to a child with a 30 percent advanced development. The article also talks about taking the overall pattern of development into account, because all children obviously progress at different rates in stages of development. He also lists some activities for gifted preschoolers.

Although you may really, really want to know if your little one is gifted -- I know I do and Dana Wilkey looks like she might just be in that category -- most children don't need to be tested before entering elementary school. But, if you notice that your child is abnormally bored in school or is showing signs of social problems or emotional problems, it may be appropriate to consult with a mental health professional.

Surprisingly to some, children can be both gifted and learning disabled. (Think the 1988 movie Rain Man.) And, according to Jill Levey of BabyCenter, in most cases the disability is recognized while the giftedness goes undetected.

If you determine your child is gifted or would like more information, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is a great website for parents for information and resources.

Go, Go, Gifted!

Jennifer Silas October 17, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Touchy subject for me. Gifted education is rarely one sized fits all, but that is how they treat it in schools. Schools are mandated to provide for special needs students, but not for gifted students. In public schools today "gifted" is usually how we classify "motivated" kids. The kids who are bright and driven to achieve are labeled as gifted, and put in classes that speed up the curriculum. There needs to be a way that a student can follow their natural curiosity on a subject with out being pushed to move on to the next academic skill so quickly. Gifted education should develop critical thinking and problem solving, not memorizing more data in less time. Both my kids are bright, both are (or were) motivated, both were put into the public school gifted program where they were expected to learn 1 1/2 years worth of math over the course of just one year. Just because a student has learned something well, doesn't mean they are able to learn it fast. Its unfortunate that gifted = accelerated or the alternative choice is boredom.

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