Giftedness in Children and Language Processing Disorders

Gifted children, while exceptional in one or more areas of academics or creativity, may also exhibit profound weaknesses in other areas. When a child appears to have difficulty in receiving or expressing information, they may be experiencing symptoms associated with one or more language processing disorders. The gifted child's ability to compensate can disguise the problem or mislead parents and educators, making it more difficult to diagnose the issue, as Jennifer Hasenyager Smith, M.D. points out in her article "The Silent Struggle: Language Processing Problems in Gifted Kids." 1

Understanding Information

The brain processes information by placing it in the proper location so that it may either be used right away or saved to retrieve later. Language processing disorders pinpoint problems with language input and output. Trouble receiving language involves interacting with information, either verbally or in writing, and categorizing it into memory; difficulty expressing language involves retrieving the information and organizing it into verbal or written form, notes Smith.

Identify The Signs

Being familiar with your gifted child's academic strengths and weaknesses can help you identify signs of language processing disorders. Your child may look to you to answer the question or reinterpret it for them, pass off the question to another person after giving a brief answer, use techniques to buy time or repeat or reword questions, says Smith. Other signs may include a tendency to prefer nonfiction over fiction, the inability to summarize the plot of a story, doing math problems in his head instead of showing work, and stressing over writing assignments.

Assess The Situation

Once a gifted child is diagnosed with a language processing disorder, interventions can lessen the impact it has on his academic progress. Smith points out that while there is no "cure," a gifted child's language processing weakness may at some point in time transform into strengths. The brain of a gifted child has asynchronous*development. So some aspects that haven't yet developed may develop later if the child has a supportive learning environment. Hence, the educational focus for gifted children with language processing difficulties is on teaching coping mechanisms and increasing the brain's capacity to process information. Parents can meet with teachers and counselors to formulate a plan to make accommodations for classwork and homework, suggests David Palmer, Ph.D., an educational psychologist who specializes in giftedness assessment.

Apply Interventions

Accommodations for managing language processing disorders in gifted children include those in the classroom setting, as well as with their physical health. Pre-teaching, multimodal instructions, keyboarding and mind-mapping software are examples of academic modifications, notes Smith. Language processing therapy groups, speech pathology sessions and instruction in note-taking may provide gifted students with new skills. A diet of complex carbohydrates and protein, especially in the morning, limiting the intake of junk foods, and getting enough sleep and regular exercise can improve the brain's ability to process information.