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Will my gifted 3-year-old be bored at school?
Q: My son, who will be 3 in June, is very advanced for his age. He wrote his letters and numbers at 2 and knows how to read. He plays computer games, can send e-mails and is very good with the computer mouse. He can count to 100 and beyond. My fear is that he will be bored in school, and it may become a behavioural issue. My family and friends always say to get him tested, but I don’t know what that means or entails and what that would do. I don’t want him to have to go to any special school or be different from his friends. Is there anything you would recommend that I do? He’s very social, so I don’t worry about him in that department.
A: Andrea, from what you have written, your little boy is obviously quite advanced for his age. You are going to have big decisions to make throughout his school years as you and the conscientious educators he comes in contact with try to determine what’s best for him. But let’s be honest: Doesn’t the prospect thrill you and your husband? We rejoice when our children are advanced or unusually competent. But the situation is not without its problems. Sometimes it isn’t easy to work out an ideal educational program for children who are “off the chart” in cognitive development, and opportunities vary widely from city to city.

As for having him tested, what would you learn that you don’t already know? You know he is very advanced and that some sort of special educational program is going to be necessary. A test could give you an IQ score, but you might lose friends if you found yourself dropping that information into social conversations. A comprehensive battery of psychological tests can identify unevenness in maturity, such as a big gap between mental development and social development. But you say that your son has no social problems, so you don’t need testing for that at this time.

My advice for you would be to keep reading and talking to him and exposing him to interesting and challenging experiences. See that he has a variety of interesting toys. Let him play with slightly older children some of the time and carefully note how he does in such situations. Encourage his interest in numbers, but don’t push him. Ask him questions that make him think. And I would try to have him in a high quality early childhood program several mornings a week. Six months or so before he is scheduled to enter kindergarten, talk to the principal. Take samples of his artwork, printing or reading with you. Find out what the school offers for gifted children. At that time the principal may suggest some type of testing, and it may be available right in the school.

Finally, love him and enjoy him! Few parents are lucky enough to bring up a spectacularly bright child.