Education Experts Share 10 Tips for Dealing with a Difficult Child
On behalf of Rasmussen College
The first question I asked myself when I went to write this piece was, “what is the definition of a gifted child?” The federal government statutory definition of gifted and talented students in the United States is:
“The term "gifted and talented" when used in respect to students, children, or youth means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities."
For me, it is always a child who is bored by school, stands outside of the box, can show talents in one or many areas, seem highly developed and thought out for their age, has an adult sense of humour, can seem highly frustrated, has multiplicity - the ability to take in information in all 4 learning styles, often has a rare personality type and may or may not seem brilliant academically.
The last point is very important. Can a child be gifted if they don’t have perfect literacy? Can literacy issues seriously impair a student to do well on the conventional I.Q. tests? I think the answer to both is yes and these are the students who suffer the most challenges in being gifted.
Can you imagine having all the thought processes and abilities of a gifted child but never being able to show them? It’s massively frustrating.
For me, the challenges with gifted children are not just the repercussions to help with making school more interesting. With a reasonably inspired teacher, good communication and some outside the box curricular activities - all these needs can be met.
The real challenges with gifted children are personality based. The first difficulty a gifted child will have is that they are highly sensitive to everyone else. They see far more from a young age than they can possibly understand. They just don’t get why they don’t meet anyone like them and why sometimes others find them too energetic, intense and deep. They can sense more and know more - and others shy away from them. In the same way that they philosophically and scientifically want to know more about the world and how it works - they also want to know other people on these deep levels.
The ages from 7 to 10 are critical for a number of reasons. If you haven’t got the academic side right - you are in fear of having a child switch off education forever. Boredom is a terribly dangerous mode. It can make or break people in terms of educational fulfilment for life.
10 is the age we become aware that we are different to everyone else and for gifted children they get a sense of this quicker than others. Though they may lack the maturity to fully understand why they don’t want to be different or stick out from the crowd. I often meet gifted students who are simultaneously looking for validation that they are bright while trying to pretend they are too “stupid” to fit in. It can be a really complex set of emotions to go with the slight rejection that they are feelings from others.
We can address the academic needs often with a layered approach. If we can get someone beyond 11 and still interested in school they will more than likely go on to achieve greatness. If we can show them the outside world and introduce them to the ideas of others outside the box we can do the ground work for them being different. They will more than likely be a pioneer too and change the world. They may not meet anyone like them until they are in their 20’s but they can know they exist.
But the real challenge for me is in creating the balance of childhood. Just because you are gifted doesn’t mean you don’t need to be a kid. You need to make mistakes. You need to learn from them. You need to play. You need to match your maturity level with the toys and games that non-gifted children play at these stages too. Too often we lose these aspects for gifted kids and they spend too much time “working” and not enough time playing. It is as important to find yourself in the silliness of childhood as it is to balance the boredom. It’s an important life work balance that we need to learn. Gifted children often have very high expectations of themselves and can be work-a-holics later in life. You have to learn to do non-important silly things too! You have to learn to take breaks and not to be so hard on yourself.
I sometimes feel that parents have to spend so much time battling the system to prove their child is “gifted” that they forget to let them be children.
If you want a balanced child - you have to give them an outlet for the emotional side of them that may be several years behind their “gifted” level.
Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly.
I recently read a very striking article which outlined how people don't go to school because of war, Ebola or simply because they are girls. We are all familiar with the story of how a schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for continuing to exercise her right to education. These seem like really huge and profound reasons to be denied education.
However, having read this article I was struck by the top ten reasons for students avoiding school everyday in what is supposed to be a better climate and a more evolved society. I have so many students who suffer extreme anxiety daily. Who are depressed - who feel there will never be a place in the world for them. Education doesn't seem like a gift or a right.
So, the most common reasons:
1: Homework. They can't do it. They live in fear of getting it wrong. They dread the public classroom retaliations for what they have produced. Maybe they don't have the perfect "happy family" at home to help them. Many of these students have literacy issues and spend hours on what they hand up. They never get the praise to match the effort. They feel like they have no life. They spend hours working in school and hours at home working too. Is there no more to life?
2: Bullying. This comes in all forms. From the students but it is often driven from the system by what you can't do or how you don't fit in. Especially, what the teachers say in front of the class can be very specific in terms of what others feel you are capable of. Every word that is ever said to a student is caried around by them forever. You need to remember this before you open your mouth. Students often quote the horrible things said to them by teachers years after the fact. The next biggest issue that I know first hand for myself is that teachers ignore bullying taking place in front of them or don't do anything when it is reported to them. This leaves students feeling very vulnerable and believing that no one is on their side.
3: Lack of Respect. It seems totally fine to make you look dreadfully bad in front of a whole class, year or assembly hall of people. Respect is a two way street and it is not something you automatically have - you have to earn it. You have to treat people with respect in order to earn it. For personalities that thrive on justice - they cannot cope with an environment that does not have respect.
4: Boring. School is horendiously boring for these bright people and usually by the age of 11 they have switched off forever and never bother again. They often have really involved interests outside school and endlessly research them. The school material is just not interesting enough and there seems to be no space for discussion on real life events, research and ground breaking ideas.
5: The endless drone of the fact that you are no good and never will be. What I experience myself and the feedback I hear back: "You can only do pass subjects." Even if your dreams hinges on being able to get certain grades. "Forget your dreams." Well then, why are you in school? Why bother? You are not going to be allowed to do any of it anyway. "You are too stupid to be here." "You should not be in this class." "If you get 40% you can stay in this class, no sorry, I have changed my mind you need to get 50% now because you came up 10%." This is what is happening in our schools.
6: You are not a social extrovert butterfly. You are a misfit. You are quiet and serious. You are often seen as too intense and are never invited to parties. You do not feel like you will ever meet anyone similar to you.
7: You are no good at sports. You lack the social "cudos" of fitting in to the whole set of what it seems really matters to fellow students.
8: Rules. Why are there so many rules? They are never explained. Many of them seem to create control for the sake of control.
9: Sitting still for far too long. They live for break time or yard time even from young ages. These people live for the sports pitch and only ever seem good there - but at least this leads to popularity.
10: Lack of expression. This even starts as young as 5. Sit down and be quiet. Sometimes as young as 7, you are battling not to be left as the only person in the class that has not received a "pen pass” and be the only one left using a pencil because you are "too stupid" to be allowed a pen. You will carry around the feeling forever that you cannot write. We will then wonder what "expand" really means on all of our essays for the rest of school life. What does this good mythical writing really look like?
Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly.
I have invested the past 6 years researching ADD / ADHD in my custom built multi-Award winning facilities with families from all around the world. I have some very strong views on medicating ADHD children and always aim to reduce medication levels.
Are Children Being Over Medicated for ADD / ADHD?
Yes. But the real challenges do not show up until children go through the transition from childhood to teenager. It is easy to medicate children. Some parents even tell me they are making their chid safer. The schools like quieter more containable children. But they are not looking at the real reasons for ADHD behavior. The big problem with medicating ADHD people is that they do not build proper emotional benchmarks and strategies. They very often end up feeling very unfulfilled in life as adults because they do not get into the habit of having lots of activities and interests to absorb their natural excess energy.
Extract of my work/words from ADHD book:
“The classic ADHD student exhibits extreme multiplicity. This means they have the potential to take in all information around them in four ways simultaneously. Through visuals, auditory behavior, kinesthetic behavior and practical thinking. This makes them highly sensitive in any ‘average’ environment. They are aware of exactly what’s happening outside the school window, of the lighting in the classroom, everything being said in the entire class by the teachers and other students, all other visual stimulation and the atmosphere and emotions in the room which they suck up like a sponge.”
A Blog I wrote this month revealing publicly for the first time my findings re: ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome diagnoses:
Myers-Briggs to Fit Our Expectations & Needs – Not Just Understanding Who You Are But What You Need to Succeed
The founder of personality understanding was Carl Jung who first wrote about his findings in 1921. However, his work had one serious limitation. As he was a trained psychologist he mainly had access to people that were perceived to have serious psychosis problems. His work was based on finding a new balance for these people rather than a balance for the everyday person who doesn’t find their way to a psychotherapist.
Isabel Myers took up the challenge in 1942 to help “ordinary, healthy, normal people understand that it is alright to be unique individuals.” She could see the implications in everyday life, careers and relationships with those around you. Her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, wrote in 1980 - “I hope parents, teachers, students, counsellors, clinicians, clergy - and all others who are concerned with the realization of human potential - may find a rationale for many of the personality differences they encounter in their work or must deal with in their private lives.”
Nowadays, the test is used by a vast array of big corporations to fit you into a box and try to predict how well you will do a particular job. This was not the purpose of the empowerment and awareness test. It was not to determine your path in life or what box you go into. In the same way Alfred Binet created the I.Q. Test to help see how to better accommodate students - not to determine their capabilities for life.
We have gone beyond the simple factors that people have obsessed over who you should be but rather than the factors that help people to be the most balanced form of themselves. Which, ironically, is what Jung was striving for when he first worked with his patients in the 1920‘s. This balanced form of yourself allows you to be successful at everything in record breaking times.
We firstly started off applying our new methods to students with learning difficulties - why are no two dyslexic children able to get the same results? Why does one find the whole school experience so difficult and not the other? Why are so many people of a particular personality type diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome? Why do some people with written expression issues bully others? Why do some students need all the steps explained while others find their own ways?
We now have a more extensive profiling method, Purple Profiling, that takes more factors into account including the ways in which we process information. Another area that Katherine Briggs was keen for people to have an understanding and realization of. We understand the developmental time scale and how generational factors affect long term patterns. We have ended up with a system that is like psychoanalysis and counselling on speed. The results are not only rapid, but more importantly, sustainable. They have been described as ‘flicking a switch.’ We are not changing people. I don’t need anyone to be less dyslexic or more sociable for success.
The methods have now been applied to all areas of life, business and sports as well as education. Across a span of ages, backgrounds, sports and industry sectors.
It has been so important to continue to build on the foundations of this work, especially as we have been continually written off by people in life. My own psychologist report at 16 told me that “it was beyond my status to go to college” because of my severe dyslexia. Interestingly, all of the people who have seriously added to this method, and not in a way to just be used by corporations to fit people into boxes, have themselves all been INFJ. The rarest MBTI personality type. It is as if in being so different from others that they have strove to add to the understanding of that difference in the world around them.
Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly,
February 3rd 2015.
This is why when I now do Psychological Assessments of young children I am very focused on a fun enjoyable experience - a trauma free zone if you like.
I was 8 when I had my second Psychological Assessment and 16 when I had my third. I have lived with hereditary Profound Dyslexic Spectrum Disorder since birth and it still impacts of every aspect of my daily life - but I developed ways to cope.
I remember there were pages and pages of how I did not measure up to other children my age. There was never help given to my parents and I to assist me in working the way I needed to work. The only focus was on what I could not do.
Hence, this is why I started to develop my own methods of learning from 4. I was also acutely aware at 4 that I was completely incapable of doing what the School and Government Shrinks wanted me to so.
These days, I set children and families up for success no matter how “behind” the rest of the world perceives a child’s cognitive development and behaviors.
Every family I have dealt with personally, and that is thousands of people at this stage, are set up to succeed in the precise ways that their child is capable of learning and developing.
Personality is a massive factor in development. Some people are more independent that others. They may walk faster, they may be quieter. Some people are born chatterboxes and others do not speak until much later on. Some will not play by themselves others are loners. No one can be put on a scale and expected to fit.
Even children who have hearing impairments and a great big long list of conditions I deal with can develop better and learn faster with the right interventions. It does not matter what it is - no two children can rise to their challenges in the same ways.
How can a professional determine if a 4-year is up to task with cognitive development?
Most professionals rely on standardized test. Personally, I do a session with the child using my “toolbox.” This involves a whole series of games with everything from Playdoh to magnets. This allows me and my Team to test abilities across a whole spectrum without the child even being aware of it. All the testing is completed without the child feeling like they are being examined.
What if the 4-year old cannot do all the cognitive skills for his/her age?
Should a parent worry?
I do not deem tasks age appropriate. I strongly believe development is a little bit more complex and I think it is unfortunate that a lot of learning difficulties are determined on an age scale. This ends up making parents feel very bad about their child’s development. During my initial assessments, yes sure it is always very obvious to me what people cannot do, but it is equally obvious if they have fantastic visual pattern recognition or memory association skills. These can be used to develop the areas that are lacking. Just the same ways I achieved a First Class Honors Degree followed by a Doctorate when told as a teenager that University was “beyond my status.”
I think the system sets up parents to worry. But one of my key tasks in taking on any new case is to put everyone’s mind at ease and make everything doable. Families always walk out the door with a way, structure, plan an if necessary Team support to do everything.
How can a parent help a child develop these skills?
I set up programs for parents to use the everyday in their own home to help their children. I think one of the disadvantages of our technological world is that it is very removed from other people and parents. Yes, I do like to use some Apps but I like to develop skills using less remote games. Child cookery, for example, builds time management skills and the use of a radio in the background helps children filter information.
Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly Expression Developist™
From my experience helping students across a whole spectrum of dyslexic conditions of all ages - dyslexia boils down to difficulties across 4 areas.
1: Visual Perception
2: Auditory Processing
4: Information filtering
This sounds a lot simpler than the endless technical jargon of psychological reports.
We see differently, we take information into our heads differently, it comes back out of our mouths and on to the page differently, we swap orientations and don't know our left from right and we become overloaded in certain situations and can't filter the information to focus on what is important. Dyslexia Spectrum in a nut shell. All you simply have to do is to work on these core skills and work in the way that suits the learner best - match their learning style to overcome the area or areas that hold them back.
Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly, Expression Developist™.