Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Our visit to the shrink !

Sophie has been kind of acting up at home, like refusing to go to the toilet, and sleeping issues, I phoned our pediatrician because I wanted to rule out any illness or allergy.

The pediatrician agreed that we could see a child psychiatrist for an assessment. So today we had a rudimentary sort of IQ test and personality test for Sophie at a child psychiatrist's office. This was really pretty relaxed. The psychiatrist and I sat on a sofa and had a chat, and he let Sophie loose on the floor with a whole bunch of puzzles and games and he observed as she played, ran back to mommy for confirmation or help, and watched when I spoke to her.

The verdict was partly what I suspected, but needed confirmation of.

First the good news - Sophie is definitely a pretty bright kid. Just how bright is a bit hard to tell because toddler IQ tests are extremely inaccurate, but what they could tell me is that whilst Sophie is unlikely to be profoundly gifted, she is definitely ahead of the bell curve on certain activities like logical reasoning and language.

I learned that it's not so much early talking which gets these doctors excited however, it is what your child actually says. What you need to look out for is your child verbalising complex logical reasoning or early mathematical thinking - as a trait of the gifted or highly intelligent child, these skills are usually self taught.

Actually anyone who knows me will know that any math that Sophie has is DEFINITELY self taught simply because I am one of those math-illiterate people who need a calculator to leave a tip in restaurants because I cannot calculate 20% of a bill. Creative playing with words and language (e.g. calling her bear "camembert") is actually one of the signs of linguistic giftedness.

Now for the bad news - Children who are intellectually advanced or bright can be deeply affected by a new sibling. Strong emotions such as jealousy are probably closer to their physical than mental age. Parents who are used to an otherwise smart child with whom they are used to reasoning regularly with, are at a loss to deal with what is essentially a toddler-level emotional reaction. If the reaction is not managed appropriately, then you get behavioural problems and a great deal of emotional angst.

The psychiatrist also thinks that Sophie appears introverted but unlikely to be shy. This means that there is nothing we can or should do to make her speak more to strangers or interact with people that she does not want to.

Apparently shyness is when the kid WANTS to play and interact but is scared to do so. This is a behavioural problem which will leave the kid unhappy if this is not corrected. Introversion is when the kid is perfectly happy in his own company and not feel desire to interact more with other people. Play therapy helps a shy kid overcome his/her fears, and be happy playing with other kids. But trying to change an introverted kid into an extrovert will cause them a lot of unnecessary stress.

What is difficult for Sophie is that by nature her mommy is an extrovert, and enjoys going out to different people and different situations. Also, Alexandra has a more sunny and outgoing personality than Sophie, and Sophie is stressed that her mother seems to "prefer" Baby Alex. If I were to be completely honest with myself, I would say that Alex is a better personality fit for me than Sophie. And Sophie unfortunately is astute enough to see that.


Fioleta said...

I hope you got some useful suggestions out of the meeting. Sophie sounds like a fantastically delightful child and her personality reminds me of myself and my daughter (want to send her our way? :-) ).

From your posts it appears that you have a lot of admiration and love for Sophie and her personality and I'm sure it comes through in real life as well.

Fioleta said...

P.S. re shy - I find it a bit strange that adults expect a child to be able to talk to any stranger at any time whenever that stranger chooses to approach the child and start the conversation. I'm sure I wouldn't want to talk to as many random people on constant bases. Maybe I should use "She is introverted" line whenever someones exclaims that Katya is shy.

S* said...

I Most Definitely agree that many adults expect a lot more from small children because it conforms to whatever preconceptions about what children want and think about. You actually need to spend a lot of time with a kid to see the real depth of their character.

I am actually surprised (pleasantly!) that Sophie tested much higher than I expected on the (so called) IQ test. So I am still absorbing that piece of information, and wondering how we can help her enjoy those gifts without feeling pressured. Actually the doctor said, "just do whatever you have been doing".

The personality fit issue is a really tough one. Because Alex is such an easy and chilled out baby, it is actually easy to see why Sophie feels threatened on the one hand, and torn on the other.

It's a journey I think, and I guess I would like to start rationalising it for myself now when she is 3 years old, rather than later when she is 13 years old !

La IsleƱa said...

I am naturally introverted and it has NOTHING to do with shyness. Introverts are simply self-sufficient and find their inner world much more stimulating. It is also that introverts don't structure thoughts in ways that are easy to communicate physically... hence the laziness...

Anyway, I was "forced" to "become" an extrovert by cultural/familial pressures and it really did woeful things to my sense of identity (as a youngster).

I haven't parenting skills of course. But from my own experience, I'd venture to say that introverted kids probably need constant assurance that they're much loved, just as they are/no matter what... as well as a strict policy of not fiddling with the child's natural temperament.

Kids can deal with the outside world not understanding them, remarkably well. But when their own parents "fail" to accept them as they are (however subtly), it can be a lifelong sore point.

Having said that, being naturally introspective/introverted, they grow up okay no matter what - they can philosophise their way out of any situation. So, I suppose you should only worry now to mitigate the intensity of Sophie's teenage angst a tad... but know that Sophie will be more than okay in the long-run, especially given that she obviously has doting parents who want to see her happy, above all.