Gifted Preschoolers

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Preschool for Gifted Toddler?

August 2010

I know this question has been asked before, but I'm posting in the hopes that someone may have some new or updated info.

I have a child whose 1st words were at 8mos, knew colors and shapes and numbers at 12 mos, could tell you at 16 mos the names and sounds of all alphabet letters in both cases, as well as words that started with them. He began sightreading small words at 20mos, and by 2 he was speaking in 13 word sentences w/dependent clauses, about complex subjects, like electricity. He knew everything the state standards require of kindergartners when he was 18 mos. He is Spanish-English bilingual, and now wants to learn French, as well.

How does one find preschool for a child like this? Everything I read says homeschooling works best for a child at this level, but I am a single mother / only income provider, no extended family involved. I have to win the bread.

Nearly every preschool that I visit says they've never seen a child like this. They are typically only play-based at his age and not academic, and they also typically group kids by chronological age, which doesn't work for him. His mind is in another universe. The only places I've seen which are highly academic thus far have been Montessori based, and those have felt just too darn serious and proper and not warm and affectionate enough for a child this young. I need something in the middle, something with mixed age groupings, and someplace where folks ''get it'' about ''giftedness,'' or at least, have some familiarity and are willing to try to meet his needs. And, I need something affordable. I'm finding places which charge 21,000/yr (?!?!?), and have zero or very limited, and already designated, scholarship funds.

I'd love recommendations from other parents who have been thru this, esp if you found something that worked for you. Thanks, JB Worried Mom

I would go to the most play-based mixed-age preschool possible -- I would look for one that calls itself ''constructivist'' or says it follows the children's interests. Small children learn through play, and childhood is so short -- the kinds of being with other children skills that are learned through play are so important to gifted children. Also, some of the activities in a pre-school like blocks, waterplay and art provide the experiential basis for much future learning -- in your son's case, you can talk to him about what he's learning on a higher level than most pre-school parents. You can also sign up for supplemental learning through Lawrence Hall of Science, library programs, and later ATDP. You sound like you are doing a terrific job of helping your son follow his interests, so preschool can give him the opportunity to enjoy and learn with other children. One of the things I've noticed (and teachers have noticed as well) is that my gifted child (and I think most gifted children) takes what the class/group is learning to a whole different level (i.e. read the collected works of Shakespeare after attending Shakespeare camp in third grade.) The biggest problem for us has been when teachers have followed rigid curriculums that cover material too slowly, and don't allow for extension projects (i.e. worksheets versus projects/writing). So, I would look for a school that has open-ended assignments, not just acceleration. The challenge as a parent is to help your gifted child follow his/her interests while giving them a chance to be part of a community. anon

My son is not nearly gifted as yours, but we had similar questions when he was about to enter preschool. We looked into options for him included ''gifted'' schools that allowed varied ages and seriously considered Montessori as well. But in the end, here is what we decided: He didn't learn everything he knew at some school and he will mostly continue to learn on his own at whatever pace he had established. We decided, after a lot of back and forth, that he should just go to a play based preschool and just be a kid. Sure, he was doing multiplication when most kids didn't know there numbers, but he still liked to just play. He's about to enter kindergarten now and obviously we have similar concerns again, but are still focusing on the social and emotional aspects of schooling rather than the academic. I think as long as he doesn't become obnoxious about his skills and knowledge to other kids or the teacher, and as long as we can continue to just giggle when the teachers say silly things like, ''he's really good at numbers'', we should be fine. He'll have years and years to be gifted, but only a few to be a kid. I'm not saying this approach is best for you, but it's something to consider. Mom of gifted son.

Highly Academic Preschool for ''Gifted'' Child

August 2006

I am the mother of a child highly gifted in language. She will be turning 3 next month and we are explorting options for school for her next year. We would like to find a school that is highly academic and will be able nurture her gifts. She started identifying letters when she was one and she is on the brink of reading. From the age of 6 months, she became intensely interested in books and could sit attentively for hours listening to me read. Her growing vocabulary now includes such words as ''absurd'', ''practically'', ''absolutely'', ''frustrated''...all used in the correct context. Her grammar is complex. Her father and I have debated whether to focus on these gifts or to balance them out by sending her to a school that is more sensorial and socially focused. We have decided to send her to a play school this year and then on to something more academically based next year. Any suggestions or insights would be much appreciated Anon

Your child sounds like many of the children I've encountered at my son's preschool. It's amazing how advanced children are these days compared to what standards used to be. I don't think you need to go out of your way to find a preschool for gifted children. I think a Montessori school with mixed age classrooms would fit your needs perfectly. My son attends such a school and it's hard to tell the 3 year olds from the 5 year olds sometimes outside of their size difference. They all learn the same skills regardless of age so many of the younger children are reading and writing. Good luck! Anon

I would recommend rounding out her interests, and realizing that your daughter may be precocious but that others may catch up. Our daughter sounds just like yours-hitting the same milestones at the same time. She used to sound like a little professor. However, now that she's 4, I've noticed that many children have the same language interest/accomplishments as she does. I have read that this often happens. I'm happy that ours is now interested in science/building, art, and active outdoor play as well, and gets along well with children of different ages. ''Specializing'' (: at this age doesn't make much sense to me. anon

We have had our daughters at a small daycare/pre-school in Oakland and have been involved there for 4 years. It is a gem, in existence under the same leadership for 25 years. I think you would find it both academic and play-oriented - kids have a lot of choice about what they do within a structured day that includes 2 circle times, lunch, nap.... The lead teacher/director loves teaching kids to read and works with each child, depending upon their strengths/interests. There are only 15 kids total, ages 2.5-6 years. She usually has 4-6 kids who do their K-year at the school and who then go into 1st grade. They are currently full, and usually have a waiting list - but, it is worth calling. Beatie Street - Judy Kahn Director, 835-0131 Martha D

I recommend that you look in your local area for some montesori schools. Most of them are able to help your child work at their appropriate level. The well established Montesori schools (and other pre-schools, too), have had gifted 3 year olds before, and will be able to work well with your child Mom

This is for the parent whose preschool-aged child was described as ''gifted in language.'' Why not send her to Escuela Bilingue Internacional, the new bilingual school in Rockridge? I believe they still have one or two openings for this year--and your child would be within the age cutoff. They start the kids off with 100% Spanish immersion in the preschool years, adding one hour of English instruction (up to 50/50) each year after that--and have plans to expand to 8th grade introducing Mandarin in grade 3. That should challenge her! And put her skills to good use, too... Our 3-year-old twins just had their first day of school today and loved it! Juliet

Play-based program for gifted child?

Sept 2004

I'm been thinking about preschools for my daughter, who will be 2 this fall (she'll be starting preschool next year, when she's almost 3). Without putting much thought into it, I had sort of assumed that we'd go with a ''play based'' program, because I figure kids have plenty of years for structure and academics, so they might as well play now. Lately, though, completely on her own, my daughter has been learning to read, and has seemed eager to push herself. I am not saying she's ''gifted,'' and I'm not looking to have her called ''gifted,'', but I'm a little worried that she might want a program that pushes her to do more learning, and that she'll be bored with a play based school. Is this a rational worry? We had been looking at Heart's Leap, Temple Sinai, and Duck's Nest, but if there are other suggestions I'll happily take them. If it matters, her temperment is not shy, not ''spirited,'' more a follower than a leader, active and extremely verbal. Thanks!

Go with play based! If your child is already beginning to read before age two there will be nothing that an academic program has to offer her that won't be ridiculously below her level. A Montessori preschool, or some other one that follows the child may be a good choice, but typical ''academic'' programs have daily themes like, ''the letter A'' where 3-5-year-olds color the letter A or shape it out of playdough. A rich play environment, like that described in The Ooey Gooey Handbook will provide excellent experiential learning for your child. Good luck and have fun with your special child! susan

Your description of your child reminds me of my daughter who just finished 2.5 years at Mulberry School (off of Tunnel Rd in Berkeley). It is a play based, developmental program. It worked out wonderfully for her. It is definitely not academic, but they will have enough time for that. They focus on social and emotional development, and I think it serves the kids really well and leads to a really lovely environment where the kids get along remarkably well. They still have activities which could be classified as ''academic''. They do reading every day, have french and spanish one day a week, and have some activities related to science. The staff is wonderful and loving, and there's a really good staff to kid ratio. Our experience has been that we have been able to follow our daughter's lead in her curiosity and love of learning, and to keep feeding it. School was able to provide things that we can't as easily--playing with lots of other kids, a large group environment, and the overall richness of their program. There are several comments about Mulberry in the BPN archives. Check it out.

I was worried about this for my son, too. But I think a play-based program is terrific for these smart, verbal, eager kids. Their smarts and drive won't wither and dry up in a play-based program. In a good one, they'll find all sorts of outlets for it--and will keep learning outside of school, too. But in a play-based program, the child can grow into him or herself in a social environment, which is what they need in these early years. It's great if your child can read before she enters kindergarten. But the skills that will really help her on the play ground and in the class room are cooperation, being able to be in a group, taking turns, listening to a teacher and to fellow students, that kind of stuff. Avoid schools that actively discourage intellectual learning (at one preschool open house, I heard a teacher brag that they stopped a child from learning the alphabet!!), and look for one that will meet your daughter as an individual and help her be her own glorious self in a group of glorious selves.

Play-based daycare is boring for gifted 2-year-old

Sept 2004

I'm starting to think that our daughter may be unusually verbal, and I wanted to see if parents who've dealt with gifted children could provide their perspectives. I was highly gifted as a child, skipped grades and entered college at 13, so I'm probably thinking about this a little earlier than most parents might. Our daughter is 23 months and has a vocabulary of several hundred words, including things like ukelele, accordion, violin, rhinoceros, ostrich, delicious, beautiful, boring, episode, jaguar. She's been putting together complex sentences for several months. She memorized the abc song and other songs, colors, and can count to 15. She's also exceptionally empathic and gets upset not only when other people are upset but even if a character in a book is sad. Does this sound unusual?

My next question is about preschools, since I'm worried she's starting to get bored at her daycare, although she seemed to enjoy it initially. It's a great place, but it's very focused on a play-based approach, even for the older pre-schoolers, and the teachers have told me she has mastered everything for her age group. They'd move her up, but don't have a space yet. She is so happy to leave when I pick her up, and she makes it clear she'd rather stay with me. When I was a kid we lived in a hippie commune in the wilds of Montana, so my mom was able to stay home with us, but financially it would be difficult for me to stay home full-time. Any thoughts from anyone on what sorts of preschools work well for gifted kids, or any advice in general on parenting gifted kids? concerned parent

Despite how verbally talented your daughter might be, I have never heard of a child that didn't like to play! Preschool should really be about letting your child be around other children and play. It's great that your child is so advanced, but don't forget that learning things early is also just a range of development. For example, the child who learns to walk at seven months isn't necesarily going to be an olympic athlete. And Einstein, as we all know, didn't speak until quite late. So what I am really trying to say is that despite your daughters verbal talent's don't forget to let your daughter be a child. There is so much to explore at that age. To spice things up for her you can always put her in preschool in another language. My children are all trilingual. There are some great preschools out there that immerse the little sponges in other languages. That would be a great gift to give your verbal kid. Liza

My son is also unusually verbal and has been since well before he was a year old. Besides a large vocabulary, he also is very emotional, empathetic, and regualrly wrestles with concepts that many adults shy away from. Many people, even his preschool teacher, think he may be gifted. However, I have decided not to have him tested at this point. Later in his school career it may be important, but right now I don't think such a label would cause me to treat him any differently. The people I've talked to generally say that the preschool years are for socialization--learning to be friends. There is a lot that can be learned from kids who are not as bright and verbal. There is a lot to learn about being a part of a community that has little to do with IQ. I've also noticed that my son's interest in matters of the mind waxes and wanes. For instance, a few months ago he wanted to know how every word he could say was spelled. Now he shruggs off these prereading games while he's learning to master the monkey bars. I find that the teachers at my son's preschool are very impressed with his intelligence, and help to draw it out. At the same time, they are just great at helping him round out his personality, his abilities, and his social confidence. You might look for a preschool--not a day care center--for your daughter, one that can cherish her intelligence as part of a whole being, and help her get ready for the learning environments where her intelligence can really take off. We are lucky in the East Bay; there are lots of excellent preschools. Lucky Mom

sounds a lot like my daughter, who just turned 5. She's been at Berkeley Montessori in Nancy's class and it has been wonderful-- she has all the headroom in the world to explore and push herself as far as she wants. She's very doing basic reading, spelling, great number work, has learned lots of geography, science... it is truly inspiring. All in a very nuturing and no pressure way. I couldn't recommend it highly enough for a child who could get bored in a more play based environment. nancy

Yes, that does sound like a gifted child. However, if you daughter really likes her daycare center don't move her. If she starts to get bored you might want to think about swiching her to a more ''advanced'' preschool. And at home you can start to teach her reading and high counting. Also, think about private schools for the future. Rachel

Regarding gifted children, some internet resources I have found helpful are: (Hoagies' Gifted Education Page) (Families of the Talented and Gifted) (Gifted Development Center in Denver) 

A local resource is Dr. Annemarie Roeper (mentioned in the archives) in El Cerrito. (Tel. 510-235-3173, She is in her eighties and is very knowledgeable about gifted children. Dr. Roeper runs a monthly support group for parents of gifted children.

Regarding your daughter's extraordinary empathy, it sounds typical of gifted children. See ''Emotional Sensitivity in Gifted Children'' on the Hoagies website. Good luck! Anon

Your child definitely sounds gifted. We wish we had formally identified our ''highly'' gifted children earlier on as it would have helped us better understand their many idiosyncracies, which were considered unusual for ''normal'' kids, but typical for the HG+,who are statistically about 1:1000. There are many blessings AND challenges in raising a [truly] gifted child, one of which is finding an accommodating school environment which recognizes and supports the gifted child. The gifted child is often overlooked in California public schools, including Berkeley Unified. You will find the answer to many of your questions at:
Signed, Learning to Expect the Unexpected

18-month-old knows the alphabet - Hyperlexia?

Oct 2004

I have an 18-month-old who knows her alphabet. She can recite it and idetify all the letters, both upper and lowercase. She also knows the phonics of them. She can count up to 20 and recognizes numbers up to 10. She is a wiz at puzzles and she LOVES to read and have me read to her. Books are her favorite thing. At the same time she enjoys the story times and play groups I take her to. She goes right up front to listen to the storys, if they keep her attention. When they sing songs she dances and does all the actions. She pops bubbles, steals kids toys and is a very normal, happy, social toddler.

I got worried when a mom who saw my daughter pointing at numbers and saying what they are, told me that my daughter could have Hyperlexia. I looked it up on the internet and it said the early warning signs are extremem fascination with numbers and letters and knowing the alphabet and reading at an abormaly young age. It said that at 18 months, children with hyperlexia start to demonstrate anti-social behavior and have trouble putting words together. They said that even if they have a large vocabulary, they have just memorized the words and don't understand how to make a sentence out of them. It is a mild form of autism.

So my husband and I are scared, but at the same time she is already starting to put sentences together. She says ''yummy green beans,'' and says bye bye to people when they leave. She bables in the car and tries to sing to her Barney CD. So I don't know what to think. Is she gifted? Does she just have a really good memory and is like every other kid, or does she have some weird autism. My dr. said he had never heard of hyperlexia and I had to tell him to look it up on the internet. This is all quite confusing. Her fast learning went from something we were proud of to something we are scared of. Shena.

My reading of the research literature and my experience with a similar child (who is now 7) suggest that you have ABSOLUTELY nothing to worry about. Retrospective studies of autistic children and children with other pervasive disorders sometimes show early signs of hyperlexia, but they also showed many, many other signs of abnormal attachment and abnormal social interactions from an early age. Your child sounds like a normal, verbal, bright toddler. I'm sure you know by now that friends say all kinds of things when a child is a little above or below the curve on some behavior, only some of them being informed statements. By the way, although our DD knew all numbers, sounds and letters by 17 months, this did not accelerate her ability to learn to read. I have read that early identification of letters is more of a naming and memory feat than a conceptual feat - more typically, they do not have the higher comprehension of letters as sounds that can be joined to form words. Of course, we didn't make any special effort to teach her to read at an early age, but that was because I didn't feel she was ready...and DD learned how to read along with her friends in Kindergarten. Hoping to reassure

I don't think you should worry at all. She just sounds extremely bright. It sounds like she knows what the words mean, from your description, and she enjoys learning. I have a 2-year-old who is also very bright, knows his letters and numbers, absolutely loves books, etc... and he's a healthy little boy. He just happens to see us reading and enjoying books, and wants to do it too. book mama

Your daughter sounds exactly like my son (who is now 5). Don't worry at all! My son started his obsession w/the alphabet also at 18mos and was reading by age 2 1/2. It also freaked other people out but no one ever said anything that ridiculous. I am a teacher so I knew already that some kids learn to read quickly and early. Early doesn't neccessarily mean ''gifted'', just... early.

Many people assumed (because I'm a teacher) that I taught him to read and write but I didn't.I just supported his interests. My advice to you is to relax and enjoy your daughter and this exciting stage. Encourage and support her interest in letters and numbers, but don't feel like you have to supplement or sign her up for classes. Don't pressure her to practice or make her ''perform'' for others; she will do just fine learning what she needs on her own.

My son is in Kindergarten and he is the only reader in the class. They are busy with alphabet activities at the moment and it doesn't concern me a bit. He loves learning so much that he will find many ways to challenge his brain throughout his many years at school. Don't worry. Your daughter will be fine. Anon

In my humble opinion, the mom who told you about ''hyperlexia'' was being cruel and thoughtless. If your daughter is engaged and happy, please don't go looking for problems, and please refuse to listen to those who would make you paranoid. If you encounter problems as your child grows older, you will have plenty of time to worry, then. For now your job is to enjoy. Heather

Perhaps those of you with gifted children might not want to take advice from me, because my children are decidedly NOT gifted. They are most assuredly average. But nonetheless, I'm going to make a suggestion. Rather than tie yourself in knots about whether your child is ''gifted'' or hyperlexic, just take a breath or two and chill.

My oldest daughter was speaking in long, complicated sentences at 18 months, knew her letters and numbers, and is an intelligent, normal child. Not gifted. One only needs to hear her practice her violin to hear how limited her gifts are. And as for those who worry that their gifted children's lives are not enriched enough - full with sufficient stimulation, I think the best gift you can give a gifted child is boredom. Let them be bored. Let them work to fill those hours creatively. Let them read and play and learn to use their imaginations. Long days full of planned and structured activities -- Score and Kuman, etc. -- might make your kids ERB results go up, they might satisfy you that your child is as gifted as you want him to be, but in the end they won't teach your child to make use of her ''gifts'' in any meaningful way.

But, then, I'm really just the parent of a bunch of average kids. So take what I say with a few grains of salt. Ayelet

I am sure that you will get dozens of replies in support of you and your child, but your posting just made me so sad that I had to reply. I hope that the mother who told you about ''hyperlexia'' meant well, but her words were misguided and even cruel. Unless your child is showing signs of distress and discomfort, or is, in fact, acting socially inappropriately, please, just enjoy her. Enjoy her gifts and support her when she needs you to, and please, don't worry. Nanu

Don't worry at all. Your daughter sounds like a highly intelligent little girl whom I am sure you will be very proud of. Nuture her love for books and learning, and perhaps enter her in an 'advanced' preschool, and most likely a private elementery school when she gets to that stage.

As for being autistic, I highly doubt it. If you want to help things to be extra sure, help her to make sure she understands words she is saying, which it sounds like she does. And the fact that she babbles is a positive sign that she still has a little babyish part of he so she can fullydefelop those cruial skills little ones need to learn. Edmund

If I were you, I'd ignore the well-intentioned pop diagnoses and enjoy your daughter's passions. We are, IMHO, way too inclined to pathologize our children, and label their differences as abnormalities to stew or crow about. My older son was a lot like your daughter: riveted by letters and numbers. Like your daughter, he knew the alphabet at 18 months, and was doing unbelievable math at age three. He would make us lift him to point to street sign letters, and even memorized car logos. (''D'ats a Volvo; d'ats a Beemer.'') When he started to speak, his vocabulary was enormous, and he was funny and smart as hell, if socially clueless. Well intentioned folks have had all kinds of opinions about this (and our second) kid over the years, some of which scared us to death. (Hyperlexia is a new one, though.) And yes, he is different, and a challenge at times. But he is a great kid. His early extreme interests were a sign of things to come -- serial passions, some more fun than others. But passion is good. He now is devoted to chess (at which he excels), which is far better, I think, than the studied boredom of his peers. My advice is to avoid comparing children, trust your instincts about your child, and don't worry about anything until you think things are a problem. And even if they are a problem, deal with them but always believe in your kid, don't label her. Mom of Eccentric Kids

Hyperlexia? I think the other mother was just jealous of your daughter's abilities. Anyway, my son could read all the letters and numbers before he turned two, and (at three and a bit) he is still intelligent and verbal and is not antisocial. I'm sure plenty of other parents will write in with similar anecdotes. Mother of a verbal kid

Blessing! My four-year-old nephew has autism and his behaviors sound very different from your daughter's. He has trouble interacting with people and won't make eye contact much less say bye-bye. Your daughter sounds absolutely terrific. Don't let one person (who may not be well informed) throw off what you know to be true: she is outgoing and social as well as very bright. anon

18-month-old seems advanced for her age

Jan 2002

Our 18-month-old seems quite advanced for his age and we are wondering if he is a "gifted" child. Has anyone on this list had this kind of experience? How early can one spot the signs of giftedness? Is it helpful or is it counterproductive to think of one's child as different in this way? Any recommendations for local schools, programs, or support groups for such children and their families?

I too have a "gifted" toddler. Usually, when people talk about giftedness at this age, they really mean precociousness. I am a math teacher and I come from a family of precocious children and here's my opinion and advice: support your child's interests, provide him with opportunities to stay engaged in learning (school is often boring for those of us who learn to read when we're 3 or 4), don't become too grandiose about his talents, or forget his emotional needs. I say the last bit because precocious children are often very sensitive and observant about what goes on around them. They can express themselves in ways that make them sound mature but their emotional development may be more like their peers. As a parent, you need to be aware of that and make sure your expectations are fair and reasonable.

As for the grandiosity caveat: Parents who get too caught up in the greatness of their children often do so at the child's expense, pushing them into academic classes that the child may be intellectually ready for but not socially or emotionally. You set your child up for tremendous disappointment if you make his precociousness a way of seeing himself as smarter than others around him. I remember the panic of a 7th grader in my geometry class as he realized that the subject was going to be hard for him and he would have to learn along with his classmates. He felt lost not being the "smartest" in the class and started having psychosomatic symptoms that led him to withdraw. I have heard similar stories of high school valedictorians dropping out of MIT or Stanford because they so depend on being the smartest. Remember, precociousness is just one way of being smart. Other children whose development looks more average may possess gifts that your child can learn from and appreciate.

In sum: You need to nurture your child intellectually and emotionally, advocate for his needs when he gets to school, and not make his talents the sum of his identity or your reason for loving him all the same time. Best of luck! -- Anonymous

Is my 2-year-old gifted?

Sept 2000

My two year-old is gifted, I think. From 18 months old, he has been memorizing passages from books we read him and reciting them to us or himself all day long. Now he has moved to memorizing songs -- not easy ones, but "Morning Has Broken," "Do, A Deer," "Let's Go Fly a Kite," etc., and he gets them almost word-perfect. Then this week he started imitating James Cagney's tap-dancing routines in the movie about George M. Cohan, "Yankee Doodle Dandy." SO: am I just an over-eager mom, or is this kid out of the ordinary? How can I encourage that amazing memory and love of learning without making him self-conscious or learning a bore? I would appreciate specific resources as well as general advice. Francis

I urge you to check out the Montessori philosophy of early education. It is really quite different from what most of us think of as pre-school. For the gifted child, it is the only education structure that can fully develop your child's potential and natural love of learning. Public school and/or typical preschool, no matter how good, just don't meet the gifted child's abilities.

My son, (mathematically precocious) started Montessori at aged three (you can start them younger) and is now in second grade-- still Montessori-- and I could not be happier with how he is developing both intellectually and socially. Helene

The best way to encourage your toddler is to follow his interests. You appear to be doing this right now. If he is fascinated with something, do more of it, then find ways to vary it, make it more complex, last longer, whatever. As soon as he seems to lose interest, drop it and see what he's on to now.

Very young children show startling competencies and, also, major deficits. This is normal development because nobody progresses on all fronts at once. Whether or not you later find he is "gifted" is not as important as truly loving him for what he is right now.

If you are thinking of enrolling him in some kind of program, young children do very well in programs that allow long periods of free play with other children their age. Attempts to encourage academics at an early age tend, in the long run, to depress intellectual development. Louise

Assessing & channeling 3-year-old's gifts

Sept 2004

I have an almost 3 year-old who is very intelligent and has been very verbal (also, very intense) since at least 18 mths old. In fact, from the age of about 18 mths, most people thought he was at least 3. He has the most astounding memory and is extremely observant. I don't know if he is gifted and am not as concerned about that as I am about channeling his skills into appropriate activities, classes etc. Of course, if he is not interested in any of the classes/activities, I'll stop - I just don't want to miss something to introduce to him that he could really enjoy. All that said, is there someone/some organization out there which does evaluation/assessment of skills or aptitudes? Right now, I don't have him in any classes and haven't for the last year but am looking to try something out. Any advice? Thanks. EA

I am sure that you are very proud of your child, however what ou are describing is very much like a Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NLD). NLD is a developmental disability which all too often goes undiagnosed. These children are often bright, sometimes incredibly so. As young children they may actually be targeted as gifted, due to their mature vocabulary, rote memory skills, and apparent reading ability.However, parents likely realize early on that something is amiss. As preschoolers, these youngsters probably have difficulty interacting with other children, with acquiring self-help skills, are not physically adept, are not adaptable, and present with a host of other troublesome problems that are of concern, but not alarming. In all likelihood, the children bump along (figuratively and literally) through their early elementary years, handling the academic demands fairly well, except when their fine motor difficulties get in the way, or they fail to attend to a math symbol calling for addition or subtraction, or some other subtle symptom of their disorder derails them. As these children enter the upper elementary grades or begin middle school, they are left to handle more tasks on their own. Things rapidly begin to deteriorate. They get lost, forget to do homework, seem unprepared for class, have difficulty following directions, struggle with math, can't read their social studies textbook, can't write an essay, continually misunderstand both their teachers and their peers, and are often anxious in public and angry at home. They are accused of being lazy, rude, uncooperative, and worse. Nothing could be farther from the truth! They are hardworking, persistent, goal-oriented, and incredibly honest. They have NLD. More info can be found at: NLD Parent

I have read the past few messages about ''gifted'' kids with interest because I was there once, too. I remember an activities teacher telling me my daughter was ''autistic'' because she was very shy, very intense, and very smart! But a few words of experience:

* we let her persue all her interests that we could afford or tolerate. Violin, dance, after school art classes -she ate them up and asked for more.

* public school worked wonderfully for us. She was accellerated a grade, and took all the Honors and AP classes offered in middle and high school. It allowed us to afford all those other extras, and we never felt she was ignored or treated poorly. It also gave her a wonderful empathy and understanding of kids who were not like her.

* She is now a highly successful high school junior wth enough good friends to feel socially comfortable in a HUGE urban high school. She works hard and plays hard. Interestingly enough, she is seriously considering taking a year off after high school (after getting into a highly competitive college) so she won't be the sixteen-year-old college freshman.

I think she has been able to find balance with her abilities and intensities. It's important to look at the big picture - not just what their needs are now, or even what will happen when they are sixteen or twenty - but how they will find their way at every stage of their development. I know how freaked out I was when she was in pre-school and everyone was telling me how precocious she was or how I felt when her teachers wanted her moved up a year, but I love seeing her now as a normal kid, with some special skills but a very happy place in her world.

Hope this helps. her mom

Preschools for gifted 3-year-old

September 2001

Can anyone recommend a preschool and/or elementary school for my 3 year old son, who was recently assessed by a child psychologist as having the cognitive level of a 7 year old? He is bright, but his social skills are skill those of a 3 year old. I do not want to put him in a classroom with much older children just to keep him stimulated. If anyone else has a similiar situation, I would really appreciate hearing what your experience has been and if you have found a school/program that your child is thriving in. I barely even know where to begin looking, so any advice would be a help bridget

For the mother looking for advice about the gifted 3-year-old: Actually, I think the most valuable thing you can do for your child with respect to school is to avoid, at all costs, "academic" preschools and kindergartens. Nothing is as deadly for an extremely gifted child as sitting through lessons about the alphabet and phonics and "the numbers 1-10." Instead, find a place where he can be social and creative (lots of art and music!), and let him find his own academic way, with your help, at home. Later you will agonize over elementary school, but again, watch out for schools that claim to be really academic. A school program that is "a year ahead" will most likely be useless to your son academically, and might be more rigid about accommodating his needs than another, less (officially) academic program. There are wonderful materials available for learning at home, by the way, so I'm sure you will find ways to keep his brain fed. Good luck, don't panic, and enjoy your son! Anne N.

Check out the Montessori philosophy of education. I think it is by far the best approach for super bright kids. It allows the child to work at his or her own level and speed and fosters independence of thought, self reliance, and respect for oneself, others and the environment. My son attends The Renaissance School, (formerly a Child's World Montessori School), in Oakland, and they have a few kids there who are in the super bright category and are thriving. The school has both a tremendous breath as well as depth in the curriculum. Also, I would suggest you read some of Maria Montessori's books to understand the philosophy and how it translates into the classroom in order to understand what the education is all about. Unfortunately, most journalists who write about it only repeat standard clichis and are woefully uninformed. Good luck in your search. Helene

Assessing a Gifted 4-year-old

April 1999

My daughter will be five in she will be the oldest in her class when she starts kindergarten. I am afraid she will be bored. She is already starting to read and can add numbers and write her letters. She is extermely verbal with a sophisticated vocabulary. While I don't see my daughter as a child prodigy, she seems to shows some signs of giftedness. Is this something that can be assessed at an early age? It's hard to be objective when looking at your own children. I don't want to push my daughter but I want to look out for her best interests so that she is sufficiently academically stimulated. Any advice?

Anne Marie Roeper is an older woman who has worked with issues around gifted children for many years. It is her specialty. In the past, I have heard positive feedback. Telephone is 763-3173.