If you're like most people - myself included - when you hear the term “special needs,” you probably start thinking of a certain type of person; one who may be physically or emotionally handicapped. And in fact, until very recently this is the only definition of special needs that I was aware of. But while trying to find out more about our son's giftedness I found something very interesting. It seems that the more profoundly gifted a child is the more that child could be considered special needs; not in the traditional sense of the definition, but special needs none-the-less. Initially I didn't much care for this label for our son, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. And the more it made sense, the more freedom I found.
Our son's chronological age doesn't seem to have much bearing on either his cognitive reasoning or his emotional maturity and it is the great difference in these areas that makes our son a special needs child. While it can be quite a delight to teach him and see him absorb information almost as fast as I can feed it to him, because of his ability to communicate at a level on par with a 12 or 13 year old I have a tendency to treat him as though he were older than he is. This can cause quite a lot of frustration on my part, especially when he starts behaving like a 3 or 4 year old, which is about where he is emotionally. It's sort of like have three kids rolled into one - and boy can it be tiring!
To look at an asynchronous child - one whose emotion, intellectual and chronological ages are on different levels - you might not think that the child was different from any other. But then they talk to you and you soon realize that something is different. Our son is much like that. He looks like a normal 5 year old boy. Then he opens his mouth and it's all over. For the parents of asynchronous children life becomes an unusual symphony - trying to be the intermediary between your child and the world, and vice versa.
My husband and I are the ones who have to explain the world to our son; not only the world, but his place in it. We also have to explain to our son why he can't do the things that he wants to do because he's just too young to do them. It's times like these that his asynchronisity is most evident. His intense emotions are easily frustrated by his advanced intellectualism. When these worlds collide inside our son, all we can do is be there for him, hold him and comfort him.
Just the other night my husband said that he wished our son could just be a little boy. I have often felt cheated out of our son's toddler years, and even this time when he should have no cares, no worries other than which toy to play with first. But when your child teaches himself to read by the age of two and a half, when he takes six weeks to complete a full year's kindergarten curriculum before he's three, and learns his states and capitals by his fourth birthday, what can you do?
We have never pushed our son academically. On the contrary, it has been our son who has run so far in the lead that at times my husband and I merely try to keep up with him. I won't deny him intellectual stimulation just because society says that a child his age should be doing X, Y or Z. And we've found that if he doesn't have something to challenge him intellectually, he becomes bored and then, watch out!
Parenting a “normal” child is a big balancing act. Parenting a child with special needs, whether society would call them handicapped or gifted, can be a three-ringed circus. But with God's help and guidance, and learning as much as you can about the uniqueness and intricacies of your child, it can be the greatest show on earth!
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