Today, I want to talk about the joys and challenges of raising a twice exceptional or 2E child.I'm writing this because there are very few resources for parents of gifted and twice exceptional kids in the Philippines. I've tried looking for resources but they are very limited. I hope my experience will help or inspire another parent out there.
My son will be turning 3 in a few weeks but it feels like he is much, much older. A lot of people think that if you have a gifted child then you got it easy. It's completely the opposite. To say that a gifted child is a handful is an understatement. A twice exceptional child is even harder to keep up with.
Let's start with the basics.
I guess all kids have some quirks when it comes to food. My son is no different but I feel that his taste is significantly different from kids his age. For instance, last Sunday, his Sunday School teacher asked if he wanted to eat a hotdog sandwich. I told her he doesn't like hotdogs and I was greeted with a surprised look on her face, like "What kind of 2-year old doesn't like hotdogs?". Then I looked at all his classmates enjoying the food. You see, hotdog is kind of a staple on the Filipino breakfast table. Most kids can eat hotdogs for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack. I can't eat hotdogs because of my allergies but I introduced the food to my son a long time ago. He ate it for a while then decided he doesn't like it. The teacher asked me again what he eats for breakfast. I told her yogurt. And she said, "Oh. Your son is really special." I'm sure there are plenty of kids out there who prefer yogurt over hotdogs but it's just that a lot of people that I meet find my son "weird" when it comes to food preference. Aside from that, he also prefers tempura over fried chicken or miso soup over fries. He likes pistachio ice cream over chocolate and so on. When he was younger, I would cook separate food for him, something I know kids will like (chicken nuggets) but then he would ignore his food and eat mine. That's when I started experimenting with different tastes and flavors and discovered that he really is different. Oh, and he likes to munch on tofu.
Meal times can also be a problem when he is engaged in an activity. He will not eat until he finishes what he is doing or until he is starving. When he is busy, he's busy. Sometimes breakfast would be or last until 11 am and lunch would drag on until 3 pm. I don't mind as long as he eats. He would eat a little then go back to his activity. When he is satisfied with what he is doing then he will finish his food.
When we were learning about Go Foods, he pointed to the noodles (bottom left) and said "These are Hibachi Noodles"
Some kids his age still take a nap. Some don't. My son sometimes takes naps, sometimes he doesn't. He is supposed to have 14 hours of sleep a day, night sleep and naps combined but most of the time he only gets 8 to 10 and I worry. This is because he can't "shut down" his brain. He likes to keep himself busy at all times. He keeps asking questions, keeps asking me to do stuff and activities with him, keeps playing, building, painting, etc. We had to make an imaginary "relax button" on his chest that we push whenever he needs to "shut down" his brain for the night. This not only affects him but affects us as well. Sometimes my husband loses precious sleep to entertain him. Sometimes it's 11 pm and we are doing math drills. He sometimes asks to do worksheets at 10 pm. I am running out of ideas and resources to keep him busy.
Like all kids, my son loves to play. He likes playing with cars, trains, Play-Doh, puzzles, Lego, etc. but mostly cars. We have a big collection of Disney Cars that is still growing. I constantly buy him toys because he constantly needs something new. A mom advised me a couple of years ago that what I'm doing is ridiculous and that he doesn't need that many toys. So I tried rotating them, keeping them and it didn't work. Even after months, he wouldn't play with them and this was when he wasn't even 1 year old yet. I have a toy closet that I use from time to time. When he gets bored or when I need a reward, I pull out a new toy. Years after, I stumbled a few blogs of moms with gifted kids and most of them do the same. They always have something new, just in case.
This is his Zoo City. He calls his creations cities and sometimes he has a train city, car city, parking city, etc. The cities come complete with explanations and stories like the one with a stage where Phineas and Ferb can perform with their friends.
He likes building toys like Lego, Duplo, MegaBloks, Magformers and wooden building blocks. His first foray into building was with MegaBloks and his first creations were impressive. I'm not saying this because I'm his mom but I looked it up and most 7-month old kids don't make 10-block high structures. Today, his building skills are that of a 5 year old or higher, according to a therapist. Because of this, he got bored with the big blocks quickly and moved onto Lego. With wooden blocks, he builds cities. With Lego, he likes making "cars" and "double decker buses". Because of this, now I have to keep the other blocks again and focus on the Lego, which by the way he is asking more of and we know how much Lego costs! Having a 2E child is expensive!
Building different kinds of cars while waiting for the food to arrive
Like most kids today, my son loves technology. He likes using our phones, laptop and iPad. He likes to watch YouTube videos and play games such as Candy Crush, Jelly Splash, etc. He plays on his own. Just last week, we discovered that he is on level 24 of Jelly Splash and he is the only one who plays that game. Back when I was playing Blossom Blast, I was stuck in a level for days. Then one night, while I was playing, he said he wanted to play. I was coaching him and he said he wanted to play alone. So I let him. And guess what? He made it through on his first try! After that, whenever I got stuck in a level, I would ask him to "rescue" me. He learned this game from watching his tita while we were in Singapore. By the way, he was also able to figure out how to open our phones and iPad on his own.
We are homeschooling but sometimes we join the regular class in his school. He also attends Sunday school. The problem is he doesn't stay seated. He just likes to walk or run around. He only stops when something catches his attention. His teacher gets so stressed whenever we are there (in school). I can see it in her face. I'm really surprised because he is enrolled in a school for the gifted and all his classmates are either gifted, special or both. I'd understand if it were a different school but his Sunday school teachers have more patience. Just saying. I digress.
My son also likes talking to grownups than kids his age. Last Sunday, one of the teen teachers was there and my son chatted with him for the duration of the class. He usually just runs around during class but he was so focused on what they were doing that he was practically behaved the entire time. Even in school, he doesn't mingle with his classmates but when there is an activity outside with all the grade levels present, he is in his element. He loves being with the kuyas and I'm so happy that the big boys get him as well. They all have the same wavelength. Even when we are in the mall or hospital, he likes talking to adults than play with the kids.
Busy with kuya while the rest of the class listens to teacher below
Learning about offering
Yep, there he is on his kuya's shoulders
Homeschool is a tough challenge. I prayed for this and even when I was pregnant, the Lord put it in my heart to homeschool. I know this is the right path for us but sometimes it can be so hard and so overwhelming. There are days when he doesn't want to study. Actually, most days he doesn't want to study but on days when he does, he is like a machine. He just won't stop and just keeps asking me for more. Sometimes I'm the one who gives up. Last year, we enrolled late. School started in June but we enrolled in August. It was an impromptu decision. I phoned the school to inquire and talked to the directress. She said to come in for an interview and test. After that, she said to enroll my son and the rest is history. We enrolled late but we finished his whole civics book in 2 months. During that time, he was so into civics and history that he asked for several lessons every day. This can be both good or bad. Sometimes I worry that he might burn out and call a time out. I would ask him to play with his toys instead but sometime he would insist on more lessons. I have to always be prepared with the lessons and sometimes I just want to slack off.
Gifted children have asynchronous development. This means that their IQs might be that of an older person but some skills, attitudes, temperaments, etc. are that of a much, much younger person. They can be 10 and have the brain of a 17-year old but have the emotional intelligence of a 5-year old. My son is no different. He is now showing these signs. He can read full sentences, can do math drills, name all the planets in the solar system and point their location but his tantrums are the worst. Worse than a child going through the terrible twos. I know he understands what I'm saying but his mind is locked into whatever he wants to believe.
He hates it when people lie to him. I needed to have a checkup but he didn't want to go to the hospital. He just wanted to go to the mall so I told him okay. On the way to the hospital, he noticed that we were going the wrong direction and so he started going mental in the car. In the hospital, he kept screaming and running and just was an all time brat. So, we had no choice but to go home. In the car, he was asking why we were going home and not going to the mall. I was so upset that I took him home. He remembered this and was mad at me for the rest of the day.
Now, what we do is we give him an itinerary. By the way, this is what my sister advised me to do. She is a SPED specialist so she knows what she's talking about. I tried it over the weekend and it worked! We didn't get any major tantrums. I kept explaining to him what we were going to do for the day. My sister said to make a checklist and let him check all the items. I didn't but maybe I will. I also explained the details of out itinerary the day before. I also told him that there will be restroom breaks from time to time. I needed to say this because last week, after eating, we told him that we were going to ride the train. On the way, I spotted the restroom and decided to go. He got so mad and cried a lot. I don't know how his dad got him to stop. So now, I don't break routine.
Like I said, having a 2E child is expensive. Believe it or not, we don't have libraries here like you readers in other parts of the country have so I have to invest in books. We also don't have as many (safe) parks and playgrounds as you have. The aquariums are expensive. Never mind the zoo. I don't even want to talk about it. So, I constantly have to find ways to keep him occupied. I buy a lot of second hand books because if I didn't, I'd probably go bankrupt. I take advantage of sales a lot especially warehouse sales. A few weeks ago, I bought 15 books and when we got home, we read 8 in one sitting. I was planning to stretch out the books to last the week but I guess his plans were different. The thing is, he doesn't want to read the book again once he has finished it. There are very few books he wants to read over and over.
We also stock on a few supplies such as stickers, pens, paint, Sharpies, etc. He doesn't like crayons that much and prefers pens and other "grown up stuff". I need to be creative when it comes to his exercises as he won't do them if it's just a simple 'circle the correct answer or write the correct letter' thing. I need to use stickers, dot markers or rainbow colored pens just to keep his attention.
My son is just a ball of energy. He can beat the Energizer Bunny any time. I have to be able to keep up and that can be a problem when I'm sick. I'm still recovering from my autoimmune stuff and there are days when I just want to stay in bed the whole day...but can't. He will constantly get my attention even when my mom is around and looking after him. I seriously can't get a time out with this kid.
These are just some of my experiences as a new mom to a 2-year old 2E. If you are new to this and have questions, please feel free to comment below. If you have tips, I'd be glad to hear them. Let's share our experiences. We all need to support each other so that we can be the best moms to our kids.