by Brigitte Gudat
Years ago, Joshua visited our kindergarten. When he was inspired about something – and he was inspired about a lot of things – he spoke so fast that you had to concentrate to understand everything exactly. If he was occupied with something and wanted to share it, you had to listen to him, otherwise he would react angrily or become whine. I learned to respond to this, also in order to be able to work calmly again afterwards.
At first, colleagues had no understanding for this, but saw it as a preference for the boy. These colleagues did not play any role for him, he sometimes did not pay any attention to them, he hardly showed any respect towards them and also expressed this.
Later, when he was an after-school child in our centre, conflicts often arose because he thought he had to take care of everything. In doing so, he imposed his views or ways of acting on the other children.
Joshua was never a particularly sporty child. It was bad for him that a girl from our group was far superior to him physically, although she was far inferior to him mentally. There were always conflicts between the two of them, which often ended in physical altercations. Most of the time, the argument was preceded by remarks from him like „You don’t understand all this because you can’t think as well as I can“.
Joshua studied dinosaurs intensively for a while. He knew all the Latin names and characteristics of the animals. He liked to pass on his knowledge to other children. He could also depict the animals very well. Since he could not yet read at the age of five, but he needed information, his mother read to him from books. After that, he occupied himself with inventions for a long time. He invented all kinds of things and drew plans. He hardly needed any time for his drawings because he had already thought about them. For his drawing of a paper diaper changing and recycling machine, he received a grand prize in a competition organised by GEOLINO magazine.
See: Joshua, the Inventor
Joshua was a very impulsive boy. He could be happy about a lot of things, but also reacted with tantrums in situations he couldn’t cope with. Often, too, when someone disagreed with him.
Joshua only really developed an intense bond with me and two other children during the whole kindergarten time. Mainly because we accepted him for who he was. He once said about my colleague: „She wasn’t so good“.
At that time, Joshua lovingly took care of a three-year-old boy who had a metabolic disorder and was not allowed to eat everything. He was very careful that other children did not give him the wrong food.
For me at that time, without my current background knowledge (about giftedness), it was only important that he did not become an outsider and felt comfortable. There was a lot of discussion about views and conflicts with him, which did not always lead to a positive outcome for him.
Unfortunately, children like Joshua find little support in our schools so far. Inquisitiveness and divergent thinking are not desired; instead, a lot of emphasis is still placed on conformity.
Joshua is an example of how this can play out. He is currently attending grammar school and has often heard his teachers say, „That’s enough now, the rest of the class isn’t ready yet.“ He has been slowed down again and again. At the beginning, he also had a lot of trouble finding his way around the class and accepting the rules of the school.
Joshua failed in all subjects. He skips classes, writes off homework and no longer participates in lessons.
He tells a classmate he still knows from kindergarten that he has decided „not to be smart anymore“. He is now with young people who are far inferior to him mentally. However, he plays a follower role in this.
His classmate is worried about him.
Joshua is the classic example of the problems and difficulties a highly gifted child can have. In kindergarten, we were very responsive to him, accepted him as he was. His single mother was responsive to him wherever she could and tried to make many things possible for him. But she always blocked me when I wanted to talk to her about giftedness. She never had him tested, perhaps out of fear of possible consequences.
At primary school, he met a young, very committed teacher who made her lessons interesting, showed a lot of understanding, but also consistency. Then came the break-in at the grammar school.
At this point I ask myself whether I am achieving anything at all with my work if the school system is often unable to continue the work.
What I have learned
With and from my three observation children Joshua, Tamara and Leon I have experienced and learned many things in the IHVO Certificate Course, for example:
For all children, including the gifted, friends are very important. However, the highly gifted child realises very quickly that he or she does not think, feel and act like other children. Even at preschool age, he or she may feel excluded, but does not understand what is wrong. He is ahead of children of the same age in his intellectual maturity and interests. At the same time, his manual dexterity may well lag behind his level of knowledge. Here again, the gifted child needs peers of different kinds as companions: for play and sports, for the intellectual sphere or else for emotional friendships.
One should not try to pressure children to participate in group activities in order to possibly initiate friendships. If you try to force them to join other children at the expense of their personal interests, it is possible that they will rebel, even though they would certainly like to have friends. Here they need the prudent support of their parents to build relationships with other children or adults.
Gifted children often have a current focus of interest. They then do not understand why others do not share these interests. Sometimes, however, they change their main interests abruptly. However, they devote themselves intensively to the topic that has priority for them at the time.
Re: Communication partners
Many gifted children show an early mastery of language. Their vocabulary is many times larger than that of their peers. Chances are that these children often join older children or adults in order to be able to exchange thoughts. Then there is the danger that they will hardly form friendships with children of the same age and will be increasingly isolated.
Many adults forget that mental development and emotional maturity are rarely developed in the same way in the gifted child. They are confused when the child behaves age-appropriately in certain situations.
Re: lack of understanding
Gifted children are generally still neglected in our society. Families who have a gifted child still find it difficult to admit it. On the one hand, they are proud of their child, but have to struggle with prejudice and lack of understanding from teachers and other parents.
Gifted children show great sensitivity, intuition, but also vulnerability. They want to be loved and accepted like other children.
At the age of five, six or seven, many gifted children begin to seriously consider moral, social, humanitarian and religious issues. Primary school children are already thinking about how to maintain world peace. The gifted child appreciates logic and rational approaches. However, he discovers that many traditions, customs, rules and boundaries are often illogical, irrational or at least arbitrarily set and therefore difficult to accept. This can lead to the child breaking with traditions or doubting values.
For our work in the kindergarten, these findings mean that we have to create the conditions to promote individual abilities of the children within the group. We make sure that the children feel comfortable, that they are integrated into the group and that we recognise and respond to their needs. In this way, we can recognise and support their existing abilities and skills.
It is important to give the children the self-confidence to accept their talents and to develop them themselves, possibly with our help.
Date of publication in German: June 2016
Copyright © Brigitte Gudat, see Imprint.