By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP
All of our children have unique gifts that God has imparted to them. For the purpose of this discussion we will look at giftedness from the purely-academic viewpoint. One of the most puzzling scenarios that we see in our children is the child who is academically gifted but performing so far below that standard. The temptation is to see the child as having a character problem – we reluctantly come to the conclusion that this child is lazy, sloppy or unmotivated. We use many different strategies to help that child perform better. I want you to consider another possibility: this could be a child who is gifted but still has a learning glitch. Commonly, the child who is gifted with a glitch is the most misunderstood of our children.
Characteristics of Academic Giftedness
The general consensus is that an average IQ is 90-109. One can accomplish much with an average IQ. In general schooling settings, a child is considered for entry into gifted classes if his or her IQ measures 120 or above. However, we home educators often do not have to have our child tested in order to know that he or she is academically gifted: we can see it in so many ways. Dr. Linda Silverman, author of Upside Down Brilliance and founder of the Gifted Development Center in Colorado, agrees with this. Dr. Silverman states that parents are excellent identifiers of giftedness in their children and has found that 85% of the children whose parents say they fit ¾ of the following characteristics score at least 120 (superior range) in an IQ test:
- Reasons well (a good thinker).
- Extensive spoken vocabulary.
- Has strong curiosity.
- Has a great sense of humor.
- Is a keen observer.
- Has a wide range of interests.
- Avid reader (if a reading glitch is not present).
- Concerned with justice and fairness.
- Tends to question authority.
- Often prefers older companions or adults.
You may have recognized these characteristics in your own child but are puzzled because his or her performance does not match his or her IQ. Is this a manifestation of a character issue or a learning glitch?
I went back to teaching after I had finished home schooling my son. I taught children that were identified as Twice Exceptional. I thought of them as gifted with a glitch because they were identified as gifted, which was one exception, while experiencing another exception: their below-average performance in schoolwork. I learned so much working with these wonderful teenagers from helping them overcome their learning glitches so that they were free to do the things that God called them to do.
The most common learning glitch that these children displayed was Dysgraphia. These teenagers had great ability to tell a story orally but when they put the “offending utensil” (otherwise known as a pencil) in their hand, their minds shut down. I had them in my Language Arts class because they were turning in so little written work. Math teachers also reported that they refused to show their work or they made careless math errors because they didn’t line up their numbers correctly, which is another subtle sign of this visual/spatial disorder. Because spelling is usually taught by writing the words multiple times or by filling in worksheets these young people had not memorized many common spelling words, such as “was” to “wus,” “sure” to “shur,” or “what” to “wat”. They continued to misspell the days of the week and months of the year even after we had studied them many times, which made their writing appear very primitive.
When it came to spelling errors, my first goal was to determine whether this child really had not memorized the necessary words or if this child actually knew how to spell the words correctly but wrote them down wrong because of the writing glitch. When the child misspelled a common word, I asked him or her to spell it orally while I wrote it down for him or her to see. If he or she spelled it orally correctly then I determined that the writing glitch was the biggest cause of this child’s spelling errors in writing. In that case, I employed the crossing the midline exercise developed over 40 years ago by Dr. Getman. If the child spelled the word incorrectly even when I wrote it in front of him or her then I realized that the method which had thus far been used to teach this child spelling was not the correct method to use to instruct him or her. Thus, I chose two methods that bypassed this problem: Right Brain spelling, which utilizes the child’s strong photographic memory for storing non-phonetic spelling words; and Sequential Spelling, to learn words with a phonetic pattern to them.
To teach paragraph writing skills I used a very basic step-by-step program that I called Right Brain Writing. I sometimes called this “Writing Without Curriculum” because it is the parent/teacher working with the child, showing him or her how to think through all the steps of paragraphing. This method allowed the child to see the end from the beginning and follow an easy path to success. I developed this to be used even for the most basic, non-writer. After a child has become adept at creating paragraphs by working with a blank piece of paper and using this webbing and transition word method for usually about nine months then he or she often is ready to go on to a more sophisticated writing method that was developed by the Institute for Excellence in Writing.
It is such a relief for a child to have his or her glitch identified and taught with newly-utilized methods. Your child will be grateful.
The information in this article should not be construed as a diagnosis or medical advice. Please consult your physician for any medical condition and before adding supplements or changing a child’s diet.
Dianne Craft has a Master’s Degree in special education and is a Certified Natural Health Professional. She has a private consultation practice, Child Diagnostics, Inc., in Littleton, Colorado.