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Gifted Son Being Punished by Teacher
Q: My son was tested at seven by his school psychologist using the WISC III. He had a verbal score of 135 and a performance score of 146. Unfortunately, the school does not have a gifted program or ability grouping. He is now nine and things are getting worse. The school recommended I speak to his new teacher at the beginning of each year. He is gifted in math and is a very advanced thinker, although he is very bored in school. His current teacher is "punishing" him by denying him more challenging work, which he earns, because she doesn't like his behavior. She thinks he is immature and told him he acts like a baby. I am furious. My son is building up anger and sadness. How do I handle such a situation without putting the school on the defensive?
A: Your situation upsets me, too! No gifted child should have to "earn" the right to receive schoolwork that challenges and educates him. The teacher's method of "punishing" your son is punishing him for being intelligent and can impact more negatively than positively on him. Given your son's stated IQ scores, he is indeed gifted and I can see why he would do very well in mathematics. While IQ scores are generally stable, if the scores were obtained while the student was very young, and the student does not receive subsequent enrichment, then the potential can fade away due to lack of development. This can lead to average grades or even underachievement in later school years. It is such a waste of potential.
I do not know exactly what you are referring to when you mention your son's immaturity in the classroom. He may be acting out for attention because he is frustrated with the curriculum. He must obey classroom rules like any other student and he should receive appropriate consequences if he does not. However, to take away his enrichment is like taking away other students' regular assignments if they misbehave. Since that probably doesn't happen to other kids, it should not happen to your son either.
You need to ask yourself these questions: Is your son a happy kid? Does he have friends? Does he play or participate in sports with others? Does he still like learning? These are important concerns. If the answers are no, then you should consider counseling to help him with his immaturity and social skills problems. If his behavior is interfering with his learning, then his behavior is a concern that warrants attention. I still maintain however that much of his unhappiness could stem from not being challenged. Rather than just speaking with each new teacher at the beginning of the year, I think you should give them a copy of the book Teaching Gifted Kids In the Regular Classroom by Dr. Susan Winebrenner. It contains easy suggestions for enrichment that are low or no cost. You can also share this email response with the school if you like. I hope you find this data helpful. 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.