Parents: in what way is your child intelligent?

What is intelligence? General intelligence was once measured as a single quotient, with 100 as the average. A quotient of 140 was therefore thought of as gifted and talented. A quotient of below 80 suggested a learning difficulty. Children were presented with verbal and non-verbal tests designed to assess logic and reasoning skills. As a teacher of children with Special Educational Needs, I was required to apply these kinds of tests to many children. Unfortunately labelling a child with an intelligence quotient did little to identify HOW that child learned. Nor did it encourage high expectations from those children with quotients well below 100.
Whilst such general quotients are still used, intelligence is now recognised as more multi-faceted. Your child may have a ‘good head’ for maths, or may be especially good at sport, running perhaps. Maybe your child excels in music. Is he or she skilled at drawing and painting?
The problem with basing all expectations on intelligence is that it measures only basic skills such as reading, writing and maths. Children with low intelligence quotients are often schooled on a diet of these three basic subjects, to the neglect of others (for example, taken out of PE to do more reading). We must not neglect talents in children that can be identified and celebrated. Whilst the ‘basics’ are essential to success, we must not deny children opportunities to enjoy and excel in other ways. Motivation to succeed relies on a balance of everything – so we must be mindful of what keeps children wanting to achieve. For young, reluctant writers, an additional daily helping of writing practice may not be the best way to improve their writing.
So by focusing on the positives (strengths) might the negatives (weaknesses) also be improved? Both the pluses and minuses are what makes your child a whole person. So:
– what does your child enjoy doing?
– where are the main strengths as well as weaknesses?
– where do the basics lie within the subjects that your child enjoys? Use them to advantage.
– reward your child for his efforts.
Intelligence is not just a number. Find your child’s strengths and build on them.

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