Defining your children’s intelligence

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 18, 2014

As a teacher of intellectually gifted students, I am often approached by students and parents who are confused when the child, who is an “A” student does not “pass” the gifted test. Moms say, “I just knew my child was gifted.
She is so intelligent.” Of course she is. Just because a child isn’t considered intellectually gifted by the experts’ standards does not mean she isn’t intelligent. Every child has strengths and weaknesses, regardless of his IQ score.
Intelligence is a funny thing. There are as many definitions of intelligence as there are the gurus who study it. Furthermore,
it is defined by the culture in which it exist, meaning it varies from place to place – state to state, country to country, continent to continent. In our western cultures, we tend to view intelligence as individualistic. Those who “get ahead” are considered the brightest of the bright. Americans view struggles as indicators of low abilities and weakness.
In eastern cultures struggles are seen as opportunities and part of the learning process. The focus is on persistence and emotional strength. Easterners view intelligence as a reflection of wisdom and the desire to improve their society as a whole.
Many experts define intelligence as the ability to reason and solve problems. But what kind of problems? Does that mean if you can’t read well, but you can analyze an engine problem and repair said engine that you are not as intelligent as a novelist? I propose to you the idea that different types of intelligences exists without others. Our children’s (and our) brains are mosaics of talents and abilities as well as weak areas. In other words, intelligence has multiple addresses in the brain. It is a kaleidoscope of abilities. One of my favorite theories is that of Howard Gardner who believes that we all have multiple types of intelligence in varying degrees. They include verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, bodily/kinesthetic, musical, spatial, and naturalistic. I have to add here that I covet those with musical intelligence, but my family has convinced me that I was not blessed with it. This leads me to my next point. Are we born with these intelligences? Can we develop those in which we don’t excel?
Imaging studies of the brain have proven differences in brain architecture. Parts of the brain for reading, math, music, etc. are different – larger or smaller, more or less active, in everyone. If your child struggles in one domain, she may excel in another.
Studies have shown a connection between reading and the bundles of electricity-conducting bundles that link parts of the brain together.
Why is all of this important to know? Patience and persistance. First, be patient with your child (or spouse) if you can’t understand why he is struggling to learn something that seems so simple to you. Recognize and reward the skills your child has naturally, and help her with areas that are challenging. Second, and pay attention here, scientists have proven that THE ACT OF
LEARNING CAN CHANGE THE BRAIN. There are ways of training the brain networks. A Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity study showed by MRI evidence of jumps of activity in brains of children with reading disabilties after one year of building their phonological skills. What can you, as a parent, learn from this? Work with your child – over and over and over.
I have tried, on more than one occasion, to learn a second language. It is hard! Try it some time. It will give you a much better perspective of how difficult some of your child’s school work is to him. Never give up on your child.

By Susan Spiers

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