Monday, January 12, 2009

Profoundly gifted and selectively mute. Where does a child thrive?

I'm reading: Profoundly gifted and selectively mute. Where does a child thrive?Tweet this!

I don't have a lot of firsthand knowledge of this, but that won't stop me from posting about it, LOL.

I know a mom with a Profoundly Gifted child who was selectively mute. He could talk, he just chose not to. Of course, this caused a lot of problems, especially at preschool.

Skipping the many important details I don't know, ultimately the boy was placed in a school for gifted kids and he thrived. And he spoke.

What does it take to help a special needs-whether highly gifted or physically or leaning disabled- child to blossom? I'm wondering about that a lot because right now one of my boys is thriving and one is not.

The issue is not as obvious to my son's teachers as the mute boy was to his teachers. I do hear comments from them about my son not applying himself (and yet coming home with A's? Am I the only one who senses a disconnect here?), but that's it. He's not completely withdrawn. Nor is he silent. And he's not failing.

Am I trying to convince myself that public school is the right place for him? The gifted school was a good move for a while, but as glad as I my boys attended the "Gifted Academy," I'm equally glad they left.

I want to be reassured that we are doing the right thing having him at public school at his age-grade level, yet I know there is a body of evidence suggesting otherwise. And I don't mean to suggest the issues are all due to IQ. I think that EQ, or emotional intelligence, and temperament also play a role in finding the best fit for a child.

I've got some thinking to do.


Naomi said...


Naomi said...

Jasper pushed "publish" before I meant to, sorry.

I have been wondering about keeping Roo in Montessori because as great as it is for her in preschool, I wonder if it's too protective of her. How do you know if you're screwing up your kid?! Ugh.

kristina said...

I think schools don't take into account kids individual qualities. Education is just cookie-cutter, one approach to all kids. NCLB doesn't help. But as you know, that's not the case.

I worry about the same sort of stuff. Zoe has speech issues -- in that you can't understand her -- but her vocabulary is above average and so is everything else. But people just ignore her because they can't understand her. Keeps me up at night.

That's no advice for you, but just letting you know I understand (to a degree) and hope you find the best educational situations for both of your boys.

jtalbot said...

I too worry about kids who "disconnect" from school (since I have one myself - and truth be told, probably was one as well - although not because I was particularly smart.

However, I try and remind myself that much of the work of growing up is not about learning facts but also learning how to get along, entertain oneself, contribute and make your life one worth living. Lessons that are often hard to learn, need to be learned over and over again and take some time to be learned in the first place.

Its always hard when you see your kid withdrawn or low energy or not really engaged but there are others ways to get the (traditional) public school system to engage them.

Its just a bump in the road.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Naomi- I take the conservative approach: assume I am totally screwing up my kids, throw my hands in the air and log onto Twitter.

Kristina- that is a tough one. I know, it's always hard to see your child ignored or turned away. I think she is in speech therapy, right? I hope that's helping.

jtalbot- are you the jtalbot I know IRL? You make a good point about learning lessons, etc. I think more of the drudgery of heading to work each day for a job you hate. I guess he is learning important life lessons! I just hope he doesn't have a "bump in the road" that affect many of his most formative years. :-/

Shari Schmidt said...

I think it's hard for all parents. We all worry about our children and whether or not we're doing the right thing. Just remember what Hillary Swank said when she won the Oscar, "I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream." (Okay, it's close enough to make the point.) It's just as important for your kids to have dreams and goals as it is for them to get As in school. We just try to help our girls find their passion. They are young, so we have time. If we can do that, then we've succeed.

laughingatchaos said...

And this is where I lose sleep at night. I don't want to lose A with school. I'm starting to hear "I'm an idiot" and "I'm stupid" and the like, usually as a song. The kid is the least stupid kid I've ever known. But because of some things making school more difficult for him, he thinks he's stupid. In 2nd grade.
I need to go back to Carol Fertig's book now...

Anonymous said...

I am the IRL jtalbot.

raisingsmartgirls said...

As a mother of a selectively mute, very bright and possibly gifted (she's 2-3 years above age level in some areas) preschool aged girl, I have to let you know that selective mutism isn't a choice.

A selectively mute person can talk where comfortable (at home, with close relatives, etc), but the child can't when not comfortable. Not won't talk, but can't talk.

For selective mutes, not speaking isn't a choice, it's a reflexive maladaptive response to stress or overstimulation. It's a form of severe social anxiety. If unaddressed or worse, attempts are made to force a child to talk, a child is likely to carry the selective mutism into adulthood.

They used to call the condition ELECTIVE mutism, until the experts realized, there's no free choice involved, so they switched the name to selective mutism.

I do think the classroom atmosphere and teacher personality has a lot to do with how a selectively mute child adapts to the setting. I have wondered if having my daughter in a class of her true cognitive peers would have made a difference from the get-go, but there's no way to know.

I do know that working with compassionate, teachers in her early intervention class have made a huge progress, I think partially because her teacher there works hard to challenge her while working on her needs.

If you or anyone else were curious to learn more about it, I do blog about her selective mutism (among other things) at

She still has her mute moments, and though she's improving, she still resorts to whispering nor non-verbal communication when she's fearful of something.

I'm very curious in your blog posts about gifted issues, and surely I'm going to be reading more.

For your son who's not thriving, perhaps you ought to read Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School by by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver. It's a way to think about supplementing education at home.

Even though I send my kids to school, I do teach them a whole lot more at home (math and science mostly). I don't rely completely on the schools to get it right. They are younger than your kids, but so far it's working.

I also think that there is a mom out there in the blog world that public-schooled one of her gifted children, and homeschooled the other one (one was PG, one was MG, and I don't remember which one was sent to school and which one was not).

I think, like with most things, there is no "one size fits all" though they'd like you to think so.

Anonymous said...

Always go with your instincts; the instincts are correct. Be in touch with your emotion and drill down into the details. You can tell if something is wrong and it may take longer to discern what is wrong. I have some support for you, since I have made the same decision. (I will qualify it though to be honest with you; I believe our brains are constantly analyzing data, so do not be surprised if what works this year, does not work next year. In politics they call it a flip flop, but it may just be that humans can change their mind as new data is received.) I heard and saw an Asian young man interviewed and he said that his educational system was educating his creativity away. I believed him. In public school, your child might have the extra time to do whatever is on your child's mind, not somebody else's. The other day I took a quick, fifteen minute rest and before I knew it my child had put together a very well-constructed plane from tape, paper and straws. That would not have happened if I had a constant schedule with no breaks.

Anonymous said...

Public school is our pick, too. You are not the only one. Choose what fits the life of your child. School is only one part of life.