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Gifted Child Takes Too Much Time for Classwork

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Noreen H. Joslyn, LISW, ACSW

Q: I have an eight-year-old son who attends a gifted program for advanced math and science. He seems to enjoy it, but for some reason he takes much more time than the other kids to finish his work, even if he knows the answers. He has a history of excellent grades, which are now being affected because of this problem. In his regular third-grade class he spends too much time thinking before starting to write a paper. The teacher says he is very creative and likes to use big words and a lot of details, but when all the kids have finished he still needs an extra 15 minutes or more.

Can you please give me some advice on how to help him? I hate to see his grades going down when I know he could be doing much better.

A: There are two possibilities here. Is your son a physically slow writer? This is a common problem, especially for young gifted boys. It can be improved by having him practice writing a chosen passage from a favorite book as fast as he can. Have him write the same passage for a few days in a row while you time him. Make a game out of it while he tries to improve his time. Then he can select a new passage to practice.

Another idea that has worked for me with young boys I have counseled in my practice is to allow them to watch a TV show (this is always popular!) while they take quick written notes on the ongoing plot. They do not have to write complete sentences; this technique just encourages fast thinking and writing.

Secondly, having to think up the perfect idea may be slowing down your son as he gets started with his work. Talk with him and remind him to trust his "first idea" in writing. A good way to practice this is to have him try some writing "prompts". For example, have him write a brief paragraph answering questions like, "What is your favorite summer activity?" or "What was the best movie you ever saw?" Encourage him to be creative and have fun with this. The plan is to free-up his creative thinking and to help him trust his ideas. I hope you find this information 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.

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