Dear Dr. Sylvia

Gifted Child Needs Challenge

January, 2018


I am the mother of an 8½-year-old, the oldest of three girls. From an early age, she was very perceptive. She learned to read before kindergarten and was playing classical piano by ear at the age of 4. She now takes lessons and also plays soccer and loves it.

Her second-grade teacher confided that my daughter’s score on her skills test was so above and beyond the rest of the class that the principal told the teacher to downplay it because, in that school, there was no way to challenge her. The only option at the school, according to the teacher, was pushing her ahead a grade.

We recently received a letter from the teacher stating that our daughter is drawing on her book covers and scrap paper, daydreaming, and acting inappropriately in class. One day she came home crying and finally broke down over the dinner table, stating that her teacher called her lazy and irresponsible. She refused to go to school the next day. This is a girl who loves school and has missed only one day in 4 years.

I don’t know what action to take now. She’s in third grade and isn’t ready emotionally to be pushed ahead academically. My daughter is a sweet, sensitive child who tries so hard and seeks acceptance on all levels. We’ve been told she’s brilliant but a bit immature socially. I’m frustrated because the school system caters to the less fortunate and ignores the child who’s obviously advanced in her studies. Any advice or reading recommendations would be greatly appreciated.



Your gifted child has undoubtedly been unchallenged at school for several years. Perhaps this is the first year she’s confronting something difficult. Because she assumes that everything should be easy, a small challenge may have frightened her and caused her to back away and appear lazy. That “lazy” label would, of course, embarrass her. She probably wants very much to please her teacher and is sad that her teacher appears not to like her.

In any case, a psychoeducational evaluation by a school or private psychologist familiar with the needs of gifted children can shed further light on whether she needs a grade skip or not. What appears to be emotional immaturity may only be boredom. There’s considerable research that indicates that grade skipping helps gifted children, both academically and emotionally. Learning to cope with challenge will enhance her self-confidence.

Dr Sylvia RimmDr. Sylvia Rimm is a child psychologist and clinical professor at Case University School of Medicine, author, newspaper and magazine columnist, and radio/TV personality. For a free newsletter entitled So Your Child is Gifted!, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a note with your request to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094. Read Dr. Rimm’s articles on this topic and submit family questions online at All questions are answered.

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