Abstract Thinking 8-Year-Old

 
Dear Power Tools,
 
My son attends a private Catholic school in Houston and has been having some trouble since 1st grade. He is 8 yrs old now and in 2nd. The psychologist that tested him said he was extremely high in abstract thinking.
 
He is extremely creative and has many of the gifted characteristics. He has very messy handwriting but will dictate a book to us to write down for him, then he illustrates it. He seems to daydream a lot at school, doesn't finish assignments - even though he usually knows what to do. After looking into the characteristics of the VS Learner, I asked him if he thinks in pictures or words and immediately he answered pictures. He is very sound sensitive and cries at any movie we see. The tags on the shirts bother him and I could go on and on. Many people have told us what an exceptional child he is because of his social skills. To make a long story short - the grades are not good except science - A. Others range from B down to an F in English. The teachers at the conference last week are asking if we know of anything to help him in school - they obviously don't. He is extremely unorganized and wehave him now carry a chart with him to each class to mark off things as he goes. Getting to the room on time, having all materials, and completing the class work are included on the chart.
 
I hope you can give some suggestions because when I picked him up yesterday he was very down about how he is the worst student because of his bad grades. He is such a joy to be around. He wants to be a manager of a theme park - he already has the park planned out with a spa with the best massages for the moms and kennels for the pets. He also wants to be an inventor. I hate to see any of this get dampened in him. I have considered pulling him out to home school. I also have a degree in early childhood and elementary education.
 
I was wondering if doing the V-S Identifier at this age would help. I hope to hear from you soon. We love our son enormously and I don't want him getting the negative side of school.
 
Thanks
LK
 
 
 
Dear LK,
 
Sounds like you already know that your son is a Visual-Spatial Learner (VSL). The real question is "What should you do about it?" When I assess a child, I put a great deal of faith in parent observations. (I have created a type of qualitative assessment that looks at the whole child. You can find more information on my website.) I have yet to be misled in that practice. However, you are also describing what may be some twice exceptional traits. For instance, being very sensitive to sound and touch can sometimes mean a Sensory Integration problem, which can be addressed with occupational therapy. Daydreaming can mean anything from an attention deficit, to boredom with the pace of the class, to very high imaginational overexcitabilities. As you can imagine, when teachers jump to the AD/HD conclusion, the impact can be devastating and misleading. If you are interested in getting the most reliable understanding of his IQ, skills and potential learning challenges, you should have him tested at the Gifted Development Center, which is pretty much the Cadillac of agencies for identifying multiple exceptionalities. Check out their website.
 
If you are willing to give the teachers at his school a chance to meet his needs, there are a number of resources. My experience with presenting workshops for teachers on this subject is that they are open to getting new ideas and developing more strategies, as long as it doesn't require extra work for them. Your first step, however, is to educate them; most teachers go into the profession because they are good in school, which means they were Auditory-Sequential Learners (ASL) themselves. So they have no idea what it means to think in pictures and for verbal to be like a second language, complete with translations. VSL 101 can start with Linda K. Silverman's article "The Power of Images," and/or mine, "Teamwork: helping Visual Spatial Learners Blossom..." They include many practical suggestions to help teachers start to think about new ideas.
 
From your description, your son is creative, ambitious, and imaginative. If you have it in you to homeschool him, that would be the gift that goes on giving. Allie Golon is also a tremendous resource in that area, and there are dozens of websites that can support you around selecting a philosophy of schooling that fits you and your son (believe it or not, there are several philosophical styles, and hundreds of resources for support, supplies, and content). Here is an interesting website that references the educational underpinnings of one homeschool philosophy.
 
It might take some research, but seeing your son excited about learning and motivated to expand his world, not to mention feeling good about his gifts, is a very empowering and rewarding experience.
 
Good luck on your quest...it would be a shame for the world to miss out on a theme park that included massages and a spa for both moms AND pets.
 
Linda Powers Leviton
Power Tools