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Page last updated at 09:15 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 10:15 UK
The problem with gifted children
By Linda Serck
BBC Berkshire reporter

Joe Wrigley
Joe Wrigley's two-year-old son Oscar has an IQ of 160

Far from being a pushy parent, Joe Wrigley says he entered his two-year-old son Oscar into high IQ society Mensa to set up a support network.

The Tilehurst toddler has an IQ of 160, on a par with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Mr Wrigley says that raising a gifted child can be a joy but also a struggle.

"We're in limbo at the moment," he says. "Mentally he's too advanced for groups his own age but emotionally and physically he's still a two-year-old."

Asynchronous Development

According to the NAGC (National Association of Gifted Children), to understand highly gifted children it is "essential" to realise how different they are from other youngsters.

Oscar Wrigley
Oscar Wrigley began speaking at four-months-old

Being gifted can be seen as very fortunate, but the underlying difficulties are to do with what is termed as Asynchronous Development.

This means that gifted children develop cognitively at a much faster rate than they develop physically, emotionally and socially, posing some interesting problems.

For example, gifted children can become aware of information that they are not yet emotionally ready to handle, particularly over moral and ethical issues.

NAGC deputy chief executive, Julie Taplin, says: "We have this all the time where the child's brain intellectually is racing ahead and the child is able to ask philosophical questions about God and the universe.

"But the child might still have a tantrum and might not know the days of the week or fasten their own buttons."

'He doesn't sleep'

I think the psychologist was quite surprised when Oscar was able to identify a parallelogram
Joe Wrigley

According to the NAGC, gifted children tend to experience life with greater intensity, rendering them emotionally complex and very vulnerable to dilemmas as they grow in awareness.

Mr Wrigley says: "The reason we actually went for the assessment in the first place was not because we were thinking 'gosh we've got a really smart one, let's get him assessed'.

"It was actually to do with the negative things - the fact that he doesn't sleep.

"I think the longest he's ever slept on his own is four hours."

He adds: "The main reason we joined Mensa was to try and get a support network going and to try to network with other parents who may have children a bit like Oscar".

He says that keeping a toddler such as Oscar entertained and mentally stimulated is a challenge.

"It's very frustrating for him and for us.

"He has some really good friends who he plays a lot with and we see very often that he loves playing with them.

"But in a busy environment like a toddler group it can be very difficult.

"We've been told that he should be socialising with children a bit older than him - but of course they're at school."

Oscar Wrigley

Oscar Wrigley answers BBC reporter's questions

Mr Wrigley and his wife Hannah discovered their first-born's high intelligence when Oscar was still a baby.

'Is this normal?'

"He started saying 'mamma' and 'dadda' at about four months," says Mr Wrigley. "At nine months he used his first word, pointing at the Christmas tree and saying 'tree'.

"At 18 months he was sitting up in bed shouting about how the Romans built the Temple Of Claudius after we'd been to the Colchester Castle Museum.

"We thought 'um, is this normal?'".

While there is no absolute definition of what a gifted child is, the level of IQ is seen as one of the yardsticks.

Ms Taplin says: "It is generally thought that an IQ of 130 upwards denotes a gifted child. When getting to 150 or 160, that is obviously exceptionally gifted."

At two-years and five months, Oscar is the youngest child to be accepted into Mensa.

The couple took Oscar to see a psychologist experienced in testing young children, as Mensa does not test children under 10.5 years old.

"It's not really a test like we would think of a test," says Mr Wrigley. "It was more playing with Oscar, asking him various questions and seeing how he responded, getting him to identify shapes and things.

"I think the psychologist was quite surprised when Oscar was able to identify a parallelogram."

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