Living with a child with high cognitive abilities

For Clara Domíngues, the behaviors of her son Máximo (10 years old) took on more meaning when last year he was diagnosed with high cognitive abilities, a condition characterized by high emotional intensity and great interest in learning .

Like many, Clara Domíngues thought the stereotypical version of the “gifted” child that they painted in the series when he first heard the term high cognitive abilities, with which his son Máximo (10 years old) was diagnosed almost a year ago. She remembers that her brother-in-law had said to her, as a joke, during a family event: “Ah, but surely Max the gifted”, and she did not think that the profile of her son corresponded to that of a child who, as she imagined, was calmer, more withdrawn and spent his time surrounded by books.

“At school they sent him to the occupational therapist because he couldn’t sit still, so to me it was nothing like the gifted kid in the movies” remembers Clara, who, after receiving the diagnosis, immediately went to the Alta Capabilities Chile Foundation. In his website They point out that “high capacity is a condition that manifests itself in approximately 1 in 10 individuals. This is characterized, among other aspects, by the presentation of a divergent and complex thinking, high emotional intensity, as well as strong motivation and passion for topics of interest and for learning. Within the population, between 10% and 15% are considered highly capable people, as highlighted by authors such as Françoys Gagné or Joseph Renzulli.

As a new mom, Clara was surprised by everything her son did, but now she looks back and analyzes some of Máximo’s behaviors that make sense to her with his current diagnosis: “When he was 2 months old, he stopped taking naps. I remember he wanted to sit in the chair the whole time watching us talk. He was very attentive the whole time. In fact, when I was able to sleep better, it was when there were people talking.

The first alert that Máximo had other abilities was received from the head of the nursery school. “She told me that he was a child and that she thought we should help him a lot in the social part, but not in the academic part, because he would always succeed in that aspect. He recommended that I help him with teamwork, enroll him in team sports, because he is, in a way, more mature than children his age. But he never talked about high cognitive abilities,” he says.

Moments of crisis

When Máximo goes through a crisis, it is not something momentary, like a panic attack, but rather a state – as Clara understands it –; several weeks or months during which he has “tantrums” and difficult attitudes. “He doesn’t want to do anything, he doesn’t want to go out, he doesn’t want to go to school or talk to anyone. These are long periods of time and usually when a crisis happens it’s because there is something underlying that has been bothering you for a long time and you have to detect what it is to work on it.

These crises date back to when he started pre-kindergarten in a traditional school. Since he learned everything faster than the rest of his classmates, he got bored easily and remained agitated, which resulted in behavioral problems in front of teachers. Clara remembers that her son “behaved badly and that the teacher often left him without recess. I found it terrible, I thought school wasn’t for him and I withdrew him. I went to the other extreme, which was a Waldorf school, a pedagogy which is based on the child’s learning according to his emotions. There were no tests or grades. But this form of education had no concept of high ability. Máximo needed something different and this school couldn’t give it to him,” he says.

Last year he also started to suffer a lot of bullying and went into a crisis. “What often happens to very gifted children is that they are bossy and don’t like to follow the rules. My son, for example, was very defiant towards the boy who had the role of leader in the class, until this boy opposed him along with several others. At that point we decided to change him to the school he is currently in; an international, very personalized course, where you learn everything in English.”

There, I learned that when it comes to his performances, the reality is far from what one might believe; who is an exceptional student in all subjects. “School isn’t difficult for him, but he doesn’t have a 7 average in everything because there are things that don’t interest him. Children with high cognitive abilities tend to be very selective about their interests. Getting good grades is not a priority for them. They put in a lot of effort when they like a subject, but they can also leave a test empty,” explains Clara, who traveled to Spain to attend a conference of high-ability parents and took courses to deepen the subject. And he adds: “It’s complex because they have this gift which is to learn very quickly, but there is the difficulty that when things are very monotonous and repetitive they question everything. They don’t understand why they are studying something. “If they don’t understand it, they won’t study it. »

Her youngest son, Augusto, is 7 years old and Clara says he also shares some of Máximo’s behaviors that make her suspect he has the same diagnosis, but the psychologist they work with suggested they wait a bit before to evaluate this possibility. He also attends the same school as his brother: “When I started my studies, I discovered the Altas Capabilities Chile Foundation. They gave me a lot of information, and that’s where I also see my other son, who is not so intellectual, but more artistic.

The return to traditional school was not easy for Máximo and he is currently going through a period of crisis. Sitting for so many hours doesn’t make sense to you. “He finishes things very quickly. The other day he came home with a score written by him. I said to him “When did you do that” and he said “Oh, I just finished the science quiz before and I did it.” He has been at this school for less than a year and the material has already become repetitive. At the Waldorf school he studied other things, what he is learning now he did not know before and he learned it very quickly.

Just like the piano. “During the pandemic, Javier, my husband, took up the piano again. I remember that one afternoon, Máximo joined him. He started playing the base notes. My husband showed him part of a song and he played it straight. Within a week, he was already playing the piano with both hands. Many things about him caught my attention, but this one was very surprising. I said there was something different here. Since then, Máximo has been practicing piano with a teacher.

Multiple skills

One of the anecdotes that Clara remembers the most is when, also during the pandemic, Máximo, at 7 years old, offered to help his father with his work. As a joke, they told the boss about it and she suggested helping them with a Children’s Day marketing campaign they had to do. So Máximo ended up making the presentation to his father’s boss.

He also highlights his ability to read, which he had not noticed at the time: “I read the stories to him, then he told me it was his turn and I read them straight. At that time I didn’t realize it, but now I see and the reality is that children of 6 or 7 years old still don’t read correctly and Máximo did. I also played basketball for hours with my father. He wasn’t bored like maybe another child.

At 10 years old, he gets along better with older children. “He looks like a teenager,” Clara said. “He doesn’t want to play a lot. He is at the stage where he wants to talk, watch films, read books and comment on them. He prefers to talk than play with other children, but he remains active. He really likes sports, being in the yard, moving around,” he adds.

Her son Augusto shares several similarities with Máximo, but Clara considers that “he is more regulated, because he has fewer tantrums. He is very sensitive, yes, everything makes him very sad and he asks himself a lot of existential questions. He asks me why we are here, how many lives we have lived, things like that. He really likes to draw, paint and dance. He learns practical things very quickly, like riding a bike alone, without wheels.

Neither of them really like massive activities. Closed places like video games have become Máximo’s nightmare. He himself asked his mother not to take him there anymore because he found it very stressful. “We try to be very outdoor with our activities, to do a lot of sport. We take them up hills, ride bikes. I also can’t take them to just any birthday, because it’s frustrating for them and for me. “We live a normal life, but accepting that the social part won’t be easy” Clara said.

Today, they have been in this new school for less than a year, so it is too early to make the decision whether or not to ask to be advanced a year, which is another thing that is usually done with boys and girls with this condition. . But Clara and her husband did not make this decision. Maybe they’ll think about it later.

“This diagnosis helped us to better understand them, but we still have to find an educational methodology where the school can also provide us with its contribution. After school, many high-ability families motivate their children with the extracurricular activities they prefer. I think the school should be more involved. In the United States, it happens that children with high abilities are detected at school, they are transferred to advanced classes without separating them from their peers, only for the duration of the subject. And this is extremely important, because the acquisition of knowledge is precisely what helps them to be more stable, it keeps them intellectually challenged,” Clara reflects.

Source: Latercera

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