I have been thinking the last couple days about this. It is something I forget about in all of the meltdowns, therapies and delays. M is also gifted.
She is not gifted in the way that K is, or even in the way that A is, but in her own awesome way. When she was tested by the Neuropsychologist, one of the tests that they did was an IQ test, and she tested just in the gifted category. This was at age 4, well before she even started to read, so he said it may be a little bit higher if we test her again in a year or so. Gifted, however, means so many things and expresses is so many different ways. So what does it mean for M?
It means that she is very visual. M sees patterns everywhere, in everything. Things I would never think to look for, but she LOVES patterns. At the beginning of this year they started to learn about A/B patterns (ie blue, red, blue, red…) M immediately grasped the concept and took off running with it, creating and talking about A/B/C/D/E/F/G or AAA/BB/CCC patterns all of the time. She can also do things quickly in her head that she can not do on paper. Since her hands and eyes do not work properly, she does math and spelling in her head. She was spelling words well before she could read. While she was unable to recognize a word on paper, if you asked her how to spell a word (the name of anyone she loves, cat, salad…) she could spell it for you. Her biggest strength is definitely math.
Next year in Kindergarten she will learn some basic addition and subtraction. M can already add and subtract double digit numbers in her head. AND she can multiply by 0, 1 and 2. All of this she can do with no help…she can even add a series of numbers and do story problems. This is where I am afraid she is going to become frustrated…while she can do all of this in her head, she can not write one bit of it. She can write her letters somewhat but a math problem on paper makes no sense to her. I don’t think the numbers make any sense because in her head she is seeing 5 of something and adding 4 of something to that to get 9 of something. Numbers are not concrete, they are vague representations. I actually heard Temple Grandin (my hero!!) speak about this when she was talking about different kinds of thinkers and learners at an autism conference I attended last spring. She is going to have to learn to train her brain to associate numbers with the actual number of something she sees in her head. Same with money; a dollar will mean nothing to her, she will have to associate it with something she knows that costs a dollar to understand its value.
All of this aside, her mind is amazing. She is doing so much more than her peers, or even those a grade above her. It will be difficult but important to keep her challenged in math and to not become frustrated and start to dislike it because of the challenge of putting it on paper. Fortunately K has been instrumental in teaching M math (she is the one teaching M multiplication) and hopefully she will continue to be able to help her. K also loves math and her brain also does math in a different and fascinating way. Math is certainly my weak point and I am useless by the time they get to decimals and fractions, so I will need all of the help keeping her challenged in math I can get!
Never let someone’s difficulties make you think they are not brilliant. A delay in one area (or even several areas) does not mean that a person is not intelligent, or even gifted. It is important that we see the whole of every person, each different and complicated thing that makes them who they are, and nurture each part of them. 2e (twice exceptional) children are so amazing, and we can not neglect to challenge them and help them build their gifts in the midst of helping them with their difficulties.