Having gifted kids is an interesting journey. I have two and they are vastly different in their abilities and struggles.
My oldest has always shown signs of high intelligence. She talked early, wrote early, and read early. Her brother, who is only 22 months younger did not make all the same early milestones as his sister, but he made different ones. He was great at Legos, had an early sense of humor, and understood social situations and friend making.
However, as he developed academically I thought that he also showed signs of laziness. His printing was erratic, which I attributed to him being a boy. He also had trouble spelling words, but I thought this was developmental and quite possibly lack of motivation. After all, he had a walking dictionary in his sister and she was always more than happy to help him spell any word he needed help on.
Other than his handwriting and spelling, my son seemed to be doing well academically. We homeschool though a hybrid charter school and as a former teacher I realized that his ability to comprehend stories and make inferences was off the charts. I also knew that he was great at math. However, I didn’t think he was gifted like his sister.
Eventually his reading started to suffer. I realized he was having trouble reading multi-syllabic words. He could start the word off, but he got lost somewhere around the third syllable. Eventually I had him screened by our charter school’s reading specialist. She confirmed that his reading was well above level, but that he just needed a little work on spelling and decoding longer words.
Eventually the wheels started coming off the bus, but I was not putting the puzzle pieces together. Another one of my son’s teachers told me that he has such great ideas and that she stopped having him write down his stories and just had him use voice to text technology. His handwriting was still atrocious even after practice and his spelling was in no way improving.
We paid for an outside writing class for my son. I was not paying attention to how much I was helping him complete his writing assignments each week, until…my husband took me to Australia for three weeks. During that time my kids were staying with some friends of ours. They made sure the kids got some of their work done, but my son was pretty much on his own for his writing assignments. He didn’t have me to perfectly spell the words, place the commas and periods, and make sure each sentence was truly complete.
When I returned from my trip, his writing teacher asked me if I had ever considered that my son had “stealth” dyslexia. I had heard of dyslexia, but what was the stealth part. Apparently kids with high intelligence can mask their learning disabilities by compensating. My son was in fourth grade and I had no idea he had a learning disability.
We ended up having him privately tested and found out that he actually has dysgraphia. It is a specialized learning disability that directly affects writing and spelling. Here are a few symptoms, and once I read them it all seemed to fit perfectly.
- bad handwriting
- poor spelling
- hard time getting words on paper
- hand fatigue when printing
Here is a great resource if you think your child may also have dysgraphia:
Since then, my son and I have been on a journey together that included mourning the loss of normal, accepting that he has a disability, and now working on ways to help him learn and compensate.
Our journey isn’t over, in fact, the adventure continues everyday!