“Gifted with a Glitch”

Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP

Common Parent Comments:

“He knows the material, but he doesn’t turn in his papers!”

“She seems so smart, but tests so poorly.”

“He’s a voracious reader, but spells like a second grader!”

Gifted Kids Who Underperform

One of the most puzzling scenarios a parent experiences in homeschooling, is watching their child or teen who has all the characteristics of a gifted learner, but who is performing far below that ability.  The temptation is to see the child or teen as having a “character” issue.  Parents sometimes reluctantly come to the conclusion that this child or teen is just “lazy, sloppy or unmotivated.” Let’s look at these puzzling kids.

Is My Child Gifted?

Home educators often do not have their child tested for giftedness.  Then how can you determine if your child is very likely gifted? Many experts on giftedness believe that parents are excellent identifiers of giftedness in their children.  In their experience, they found that the majority of parents are very accurate in their assessment of their child’s intellectual abilities.  When these parents studied a list of the most common gifted characteristics, and observed that their child exhibited at least three fourths of these characteristics, that child would generally test a least 120 (superior range) in an IQ test.  So, once again, it is proven that parents really do know their child!  (To receive this list of Gifted Characteristics, just put “Gifted List” in the subject line, to craft@ecentral.com)

Smart But Tests Poorly

Many times this is a manifestation of a child/teen with a mild focusing issue.  Some kids and teens know the material, but test poorly in both end-of-unit tests and in end of year tests.  It is very possible that this could be due to difficulty with maintaining sustained focus.  To prevent that issue from interfering with test results, many parents take the following steps for testing:

  1. Do all testing (especially standardized end-of-year testing) one-on-one on a day when the other kids (and dogs) are out of the house. Even though your co-op may give a group test, it is best to test this child one-on-one at home.  You can also do the group test, but we are not relying on that for our measurement of what this child has actually learned throughout the year.  Any parent can administer the California Achievement Test (CAT) at home.  Many places offer them.  One is www.setontesting.com.  You will likely be surprised how much your child really does know.
  2. Sit by the child or teen the entire time.  Do not get up to do anything else. Your presence will help him remain focused.  Use an index card or some other type of marker to keep track of items being done.  Child can read aloud if that helps with concentration.
  3. Have child/teen mark answers directly on the booklet, rather than transferring to the dots in the answer sheet.  You can do this later.
  4. To avoid test anxiety, it is recommended that the parent time the child surreptitiously.  The standardized test needs to be timed, or all the information will be useless. However, you can do this quietly without their knowledge, by gently saying, “Oh, let’s move on to math now…”

Another puzzle is when these kids test high in other subjects, but consistently score very low in Spelling.  I have found that this occurs because they have not been shown how to use their Photographic Memory for spelling. They are relying on phonics rules, which actually are very unreliable in spelling.  For this child/teen, it is a very good practice to show them how to use their Photographic Memory to store words.  This is very easy to do, and such a powerful spelling method for them. No writing, no rules, no memorization.  Right Brain learners, especially, do very well with this method, learning to store a multitude of spelling words in their brain with very little effort.  To learn how to use this universal spelling method, read my article “Teaching Your Right Brain Child“.

Memorization of facts can be a weakness with some kids who consistently test poorly.  They often know the concepts of science, history or math, but have not stored the “data or facts” in their long term memory.  When I had students with this issue, I loved to teach them how to store information in their Right Brain, which is the brain hemisphere responsible for long term storage.  These Right Brain Study Skills, which train these kids and teens how to use quickly drawn pictures with the facts or data imbedded in them are excellent tools to help these guys do well in tests.  The results are usually quite astounding.  This “study method” is demonstrated in the DVD, “Teaching the Right Brained Child” by Dianne Craft, or in the book, Use Both Sides of Your Brain by Tony Buzan.  In this book is a report of a seventeen year old named Edward Hughes.  Edward wanted to sit for the tests given by Cambridge University in England.   However, his professors refused to recommend him, because he was only a “B-C” student. They felt that he would not qualify for entrance, since many of their “A” students failed to qualify for entrance.  Being an enterprising and determined young man, he decided that he would pay the fee to sit for the tests, himself.  With many years of experience that the “old way” of studying the facts did not result in good test results, Edward spent the summer converting his old class notes that had been written in the typical linear, column method, into quickly drawn sketches with the data or info imbedded in the picture. By using this method, he made outstanding test scores in the Cambridge tests.  He not only was accepted as a student, but received scholarships, and graduated in three years, using this Right Brain Study Skills method of storing information.  He studied much less than his fellow students, but got better results.  His quote is that he “learned how to use his brain.”  (1)

Doesn’t Turn in Written Work

When a child or teen balks at writing and consistently does not turn in completed written work, he/she may seem “lazy, sloppy and unmotivated,” but I usually found that this student was suffering with an undiagnosed Dysgraphia. These gifted teenagers had great ability to tell a story orally, but when they put the “offending utensil” 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.  In my Language Arts class I used a daily corrective exercise called the Writing Eight Exercise that had been developed forty years ago by an optometrist, Dr. Getman. This can easily be done at home.  After we did this fifteen minute a day midline exercise for six months, the writing/typing had transferred to their Automatic Brain hemisphere so that “thinking and writing” were now available to them.  We corrected their Dysgraphia.  They were then able to turn in their written work.

Bored and Unmotivated

Many unmotivated, seemingly bored teenagers are struggling with focus/attention issues.  Consider physical causes before you assume that they are just not trying, or don’t care.   In clinics across the country, physicians or naturopaths look for the physical reason for a child or teen’s behavior.  Some things they frequently consider are:  Subclinical Anemia; Low Blood Sugar; Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency; Yeast/Fungus Overgrowth (caused by much antibiotic use, or sugar and carb overconsumption); Food Allergies; Low Serotonin (the “feel good” focusing neurotransmitter); and Zinc/Copper Imbalance.   An Integrative Physician would be of great help here in determining if one of these scenarios is what is keeping your child or teen from being successful. Once the cause of the focusing and follow-through issue has been resolved, and the proper nutritional interventions begun, these students very happily finish work, actually read a book all the way through, and even follow-through on assignments.  To find an MD who specializes in looking for these causes of behavior, Google “Integrative Physicians in (your state).”  These wonderful MDs will look for things you never thought to look for. Both you and your child/teen will be very relieved.

It is really not so puzzling. In my experience, when gifted children or teens are consistently performing below their ability, or appear bored or unmotivated, there is always a reason.  We have explored some unique ideas in this column. I pray that God will lead you to the exact answer for your child or teen.

Download our Informal electronic checklist of symptoms that will help you identify your child’s learning issues.

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.

(1) Buzan, Tony, Use Both Sides of Your Brain, Third Edition, the Penguin Group, 1991