My confidence was soon shattered however, when during the second week of school I received a phone call from his teacher requesting a conference. What now, I thought. The next day I arrived at the school only to learn that my son had been sleeping on class. Not just a few times, but every single day! Knowing that he was getting enough sleep at home, I made an appointment with the pediatrician. After exhaustive medical tests that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, my son was excited to learn that there was nothing medically wrong with him. There was no underlying medical reason for his sleeping in class. The pediatrician reviewed his educational records, and stated that my son was sleeping in class because he was bored. It was during this time period that I learned that many gifted children will simply nod off if their brains are not being stimulated. This is why “gifted “ children will often sleep in the car, even on very short car rides. There is nothing stimulating going on, so they take a nap. I never thought about that before this time, but quickly realized that my son slept every single time he got into a car!
I returned to the school and met with the Principal, who was happy to review my son’s records with me. He said that he felt a change in curriculum may be the answer, and after administering some placement tests to my son, implemented a more challenging curriculum for him to use in the classroom. However, we soon realized that this presented problems of its own, because the teacher was unable to spend very much one-on-one time with him, and he was being left to his own devices to figure out the work. Here he was, a second grade age child completing work on a fifth grade level, and not being able to interact with his classmates because they basically had nothing in common with regards to their learning activities.
The Principal soon decided to do something that he had done only once before in his career, allow my son to skip a grade. I at first had reservations about this. I wasn’t sure that my son would be on the same emotional level as the third graders, and worried about him fitting in. I was put at ease when I learned that the third grade teacher had numerous years of teaching “gifted” children, and had been voted “Teacher of the Year” for our county numerous times. My son was a bit nervous about this, worrying that he would be unable to make friends, or that he may be teased for being “smart”. We told him that if it made him feel better, we could do it on a trial basis and see how it worked out. After spending two weeks in the third grade classroom, being challenged, and kept awake, he came home and asked me, “When can I officially become a third grader?” Soon afterwards, he was officially put into the third grade, passed the FCAT with flying colors, and never slept in class again. He maintains an “A” average, made the honor roll, and is quick to explain to anyone who asks why he skipped a grade that he isn’t special, he just needs to be challenged.
Unfortunately, I know other parents of “gifted “ children who, for whatever reason, are not advocates for their children. These children, who in their younger years were full of promise and hope, are now dropouts because they too became bored in school. They were not challenged, became class clowns to get attention, and decided that if they weren’t being taught anything anyway, why should they bother going to school.
No child is going to stand up in class and proclaim that they are “gifted”. Teachers and administrators need to be aware of the child who seems bored, finishes his hour long assignments in 10 minutes, and who is constantly asking for something extra to do in the classroom. I don’t know of any teacher who is going to ignore the special needs of an autistic student, or one who has been labeled “learning disabled”. While I don’t agree with all of the labeling that goes on in the school system, my son is “learning abled” and his special needs should be just as important as everyone else’s.
Recently, a friend of mine, whose son is autistic, said to me, “You are so lucky to have a gifted child”. If only she knew. Secretly, I was a little angry at her comment. After all, it took me a little over two years to get services for my son. On the other hand, it took her all of five days to get services for her special needs child. Children who possess above average intelligence do not need to be singled out, this only adds to their problems. Instead, they need to be recognized as part of a population of children with special needs.
I am fortunate that the charter school my son now attends serves children through the eighth grade. No longer will I have to appeal his case for a more challenging setting. If he stays on the track he is now following, he will graduate high school a few years early, and begin college by taking a few online classes. By the way, this is his plan, not mine. At the tender age of eight, he is already planning for college, and reassuring me that he will never sleep in class again!
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