Asynchronous Development Syndrome

An interesting way to talk about problems of gifted kids

Asynchronous development is the uneven development that we find in many gifted children. It just means that different domains don't develop at the same rate. So a child's physical, emotional, and intellectual abilities are uneven, with one or more being more advanced than the other(s). Parents of gifted children recognize how difficult it is at times to cope with asynchronous development.

What is asynchronous development syndrome?

  It's really a term I coined to refer to asynchronous development. Why did I add the word "syndrome"?  Because I found that it made it easier to talk to other parents about the problems I encountered with my child.

Talking about Giftedness

My journey as the parent of a gifted child was quite a roller coaster ride. At home, he was mostly a joy, but it won't come as a surprise to parents of gifted children when I say that almost all of the problems I had were related to school. The World Wide Web was in its infancy back when my son was in elementary school and it was difficult to find help and support. Like most parents, I sought the advice of other parents.

I had been learning about giftedness since my son's preschool teacher suggested to me that my son was gifted. It took me a long time to accept the idea of giftedness, to accept the idea that my son was gifted, and then to realize that it's almost a taboo topic.

What I mean by "taboo" in this instance is that trying to share experiences and discuss problems as they relate to giftedness is not always welcome.

When my son was ready for school, but didn't meet the cut-off date, I tried talking to parents and teachers about getting him started in kindergarten early.

The attitudes I encountered ranged from tolerance to downright hostility, almost none were sympathetic or understanding. The worse responses I got resulted from my use of the word "gifted," but even just talking about my son's needs in terms of his development didn't engender much understanding.

Talking about Syndromes and Disorders

One day as I sat watching one of my eight-year-old son's softball games, where he stood in the outfield alternately studying the sky above his head and the blades of grass under his feet, I decided to try a different approach. I had been chatting with another parent as we sat on the bleachers watching our kids (her son was a star hitter). She was telling me about her son, all the while with her eyes on him, whether he was at bat or in the dugout.

I didn't want to bring up the taboo topic, and there certainly wasn't much to share about my son's softball skills with the star hitter's mom. She asked me about my son, but what could I share with this mom? His love of reading and learning about the universe? His concern over Polaris no longer being the North Star in 2,000 years? His frustration with reading material in school that he had mastered three and four years earlier?

His desire to conduct scientific experiments?

After a minute or two, I told this mom that my son had Asynchronous Development Syndrome - ADS. For the first time, this other mom took her eyes off her son and looked at me, genuine concern reflected in her eyes. She wanted to know what it was since she had never heard of it before (I wasn't surprised.) So I simply described asynchronous development and explained the kinds of problems it could lead to, including the lack of an appropriate educational environment. I explained how my son was an 8 year-old emotionally, but 12 intellectually, and explained how this created problems in school.

It was the first time I had ever found any sympathy from anyone other than someone very familiar with gifted children.

People seem to be more sympathetic when we talk about syndromes and disorders than they are when we talk about giftedness, even when the traits and problems we talk about are the same things called by different terms.

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