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Gifted Child Has Reading Problems
Q: My son has always been very smart. He talked at a very early age. In fact, when he wandered off at the age of 19 months and the police found him, he could tell them his name, his parents' names, and where he lived. He rode a bike at three, knew the alphabet at four, and could multiply at the age of seven. When it comes to football, he is something else -- he has made the All-Stars twice now. Everything he wants to do he learns with great ease. At the age of eight, he rebuilt bikes and sold them for extra money.
The problem is that my son has a very hard time reading. When we sit down for reading time, he clams up. I have tried phonics and sight reading, and he still clams up. How can I help him?
A: From your description, your son sounds very advanced in visual learning and quantitative skills. He is good at math and is technically skilled. However, if he has to learn through written words, he has difficulty. It is very possible even for gifted children to have learning disabilities. Perhaps your son has an undiagnosed reading disability that he is managing to conceal by using other strong skills (such as visual memory).
I would suggest that either you or the school obtain a full educational evaluation of your son so that the extent of his reading problems can be determined. The sooner this is done the better. There are specialized reading tutors who can help a student catch up in their reading -- even over the summer. I don't expect your son to be overjoyed at the prospect of tutoring -- we all like to avoid those tasks that are difficult for us. He sounds as if he has some good skills that may be sidelined (to use a football term!) if he doesn't read with greater ease. Talk with the school psychologist about what your next evaluation step should be. Good luck.
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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.