Gifted Children Do Have Their Sets of Problems

Recently the Channel News Asia’s (CNA) Talking Point team came to our house for an interview. It was about Gifted Education Programme (GEP). Some of you may know that AJ is in GEP. The CNA team was interested to know why I sent AJ to GEP prep class when he was Primary 3, when MOE is discouraging every parent to.

When AJ was a toddler, we noticed that, not only was he a fast learner, he was about able to infer Arithmetic sum on his own. Though I credit that to the Glenn Doman’s method that I used to coach him, still we find him a little special.

To satisfy our curiosity and validate our guesses, in addition to knowing how we may stimulate him, we sent him for an IQ test when he was five. The assessment confirmed that he has higher IQ than his peers. With that confirmation, we decided to sign him up for the Mensa Junior Club for better support. You may read about it here.

Many people expect a higher ability child to be good at everything, the least, to be polite and very well-behaved, to be good in sports, etc. Truth be told, these exceptional kids often have double exceptions, if not more. They can be exceptionally intelligent; they can also be exceptionally notorious, hyper-active, etc., with some having Dylsexia, ADHD and Asperger.

When AJ was in kindergarten, we often received complaints from teachers that not only was he not paying attention in class, he often had weird behaviour like biting his shoes/socks, etc. Despite explaining to him the hygiene concern, we had also scolded him numerous times, even canned him when this kind of behaviour surfaced time and time again. We dismissed this as he being a child and didn’t pursue the matter further, thinking that it would be a passing phase and it might get better as he matured.

When he entered Primary School, other kind of behaviour surfaced, and it was not abnormal to hear complaints from teachers about his weird behaviours during the Parent-Teachers Meeting sessions. Sometimes, situation warranted canning, when repeated counseling and scolding failed to take effect. I felt defeated not knowing the underlying cause of his behaviour. 

Slowly, it set me thinking it might be more than what we saw, the teachers might not trained to see as well. Some coaches we approached agreed with our research on the Internet - AJ has some issues handling anxiety. New environment, new people, new culture, etc could send his anxiety level high. When he doesn’t know how to cope with it, he will manifest it in his behaviour.

That had drawn me to sign him up for the GEP prep class during the June holiday when he was in Primary 3. In all honesty, I do not think the 4-session prep class could craft a genius out. I just wanted him to be able to cope with the unfamiliarity well.

Like in all tests and examinations where we were made known on what would be tested and the format of the papers, the GE department in Ministry of Education is completely silent about the GEP selection. In order to bring some familiarity to the unknown, the GEP prep class will at least get him to know the format of the paper and the types of questions that might be asked, in order to help him to mitigate his anxiety to some extend. 

I do understand the reasons why the Ministry discourages GEP prep class. At the macro level, I think they have to do that. However, at the micro level, I will do what I deem necessary to help my child cope with this deficiency, even if it means ‘defying’ the instructions from the authority.

Entering into a new Primary School at Primary 4, starting a totally new curriculum and having new friends last year have sent AJ’s anxiety level up again. He had a tough year in Primary 4, coping with these environmental stress. He is doing a lot better this year at Primary 5, and I believe he will do well next year too. The anxiety level might shoot up again once he enters Secondary School when he has to cope with everything new once again. Hopefully, by then, he is more mature and experienced to handle these.

Agreeing to this interview and writing this post put me in a position of being judged. If I had been afraid of being judged, I wouldn’t have agreed to the interview. As a parent, I do what I can to help my child grow healthily, both physically and psychologically.

I have set up a Facebook Group in attempt to support parents with gifted kids to have an avenue to share their struggles and seek opinion/assistance in a safe, non-judgemental environment. If you have gifted children and are residing in Singapore, you are welcome to join us.


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