My preschooler is super-smart and super-wild and I'm out of my depth
October 31, 2012 12:05 PM   Subscribe

My 3-year-old is super-bright and super-high-energy. I am super-lost. (Sorry, this got super-duper long.)

Things came to a head today when he was sent home from preschool for behavior issues, after we've been struggling with preschool issues for a month. I am at a loss, and I am losing my mind.

We had my 3-year-old assessed this summer for a speech impediment. (The system goes, they do a general assessment first, then follow up.) He does, in fact, lisp a bit. But the rest of the assessment - he was in the 99th percentile for everything but fine and gross motor skills (where he was perfectly normal), and social-emotional development (also normal). His vocabulary and sentence construction were, according to the early childhood specialist psychiatrist, "off the charts." She said she'd never seen a three-year-old with such advanced skills and that the scoring system on the assessment wasn't designed to accommodate a child with such advanced language abilities. She also said he was "near the far upper range of normal" in terms of need to be in perpetual motion (but that this did not interfere with his concentration or ability to finish tasks, but that it possibly we be the sort of thing we'd hear from teachers about).

Well, we're hearing from teachers about it. He has trouble following directions and NOT doing whatever comes into his head, which of course is normal at this age but this is to SUCH an extreme. And he is exhausting to be with - we were talking him for mile-long walks at 18 months just to wear him out enough to sleep. It takes at least three miles these days. We try to be outside for at least a couple hours even when the weather isn't very good. He doesn't nap. He doesn't move at a speed below "running" and he can't NOT mess with everything. I know other kids this age do similar things, but mine does it all the time, 12 or 13 solid hours a day. He can open every door and deadbolt in the house, operate every child safety gate, undo all of the child-safety locks. Some doors have three or four child-safety locking systems on them so I can at least get to him before he manages to remove them all. If something is out of reach, he moves furniture - heavy furniture! - to reach it. I literally had to just go pull him off a couch he moved to get to an out-of-reach window blind while I was typing this (not dangerous, he's just wrecking all my blinds). He has absolutely no fear, and walks up to strangers and strange dogs and runs off from us all the time if we let go of his hand when we're away from home. It's impossible to leave him alone long enough to take a shower, and I understand how in a preschool classroom he is a force of considerable havoc even when he doesn't mean to be. We frequently have to hire two babysitters because trying to care for my 1-year-old while keeping up with my 3-year-old is a LOT for someone who doesn't have practice. A couple weeks ago he started disassembling my heating ducts just to see how they work. He's taken apart my thermostat more than once while I've been in the bathroom for a quick pee; he moves a heavy chair so he can climb up to it, and then starts disassembling it with whatever makeshift tools he managed to come up with. You forget a ballpoint pen on the table and he's freaking MacGyver. He figured out how to climb up to the windows, disassemble all the safety mechanisms, remove the screens, and open the windows on the second-story windows. After bedtime. In the pitch black. I found him on his way out a window. (We now have second story windows that don't open. We've actually spent a lot of money doing insane things to childproof this house against baby MacGyver, like my very expensive non-strangluation window treatments.)

Without any specific teaching (we're a "sing children's counting songs that we happen to know" family, not a flashcard family), he has taught himself addition and subtraction. He reads long polysyllabic words. He recites long stanzas of poetry and entire poems, sometimes after a single hearing. (Not just children's poems and Dr. Seuss, but e.e. cummings and Shakespeare.) He follows simple recipes and cooks meals.

On the one hand, this isn't entirely unexpected. Both his father and I were "gifted" children with slower emotional and social development. (We both have doctoral degrees from top-10 programs in our field.) But my son is having SO much trouble with behavior because of his perpetual motion, and is SO advanced in terms "academics" ... I'm just not sure what to do. I work(ed) in education so I know that labeling a child gifted before 6 or 7 is generally meaningless, and I actually hate even typing this question because I think it makes me sound like a crazy person to be all "my 3-year-old is super-gifted!" But I don't even know what to DO with him. We're starting to have more and more yelling at home because he is just CONSTANTLY getting into things and once he starts, he can't stop until he's satisfied his boundless curiosity. He'll go back to it every time I look away for a second. My husband has jokingly/despairingly suggested putting everything in storage that isn't toys and just sitting on the floor all the time.

My husband and I used to work opposite schedules. I was fairly recently downsized. I am home with my kids all day, every day. In the month of October, I had two hours away from them, one time, when I went to see a psychologist, who basically just referred me to a psychiatrist, whom I am still waiting to see. My husband is working 12-hour days and is our sole income right now. I sleep lightly because, well, my child attempts things like climbing out windows, and because I've been very stressed since the downsizing and my younger child was quite ill. (He is fine but I get up to check on him several times a night.) I am both lack-of-sleep exhausted and been-coping-with-this-preschooler-for-months exhausted.

My questions are twofold, I guess:
A) How do I cope with a child that is SO precocious at getting into stuff and SO active, that I literally can't make a space safe and that I never get to sit down? When does this phase end?

B) He is bored and I am not sure what to do for him "academically." We don't want to sit down and "have lessons" (if he would sit down at all), but he's clearly in need of more stimulation intellectually. But what do you do with a 3-year-old who's already taught himself subtraction and memorizes reams of text for fun and WON'T SIT STILL EVER? Both the public school system and his private preschool say he needs more intellectual stimulation but that they aren't equipped to handle a child as advanced as he is. The child development experts he's seen have universally agreed he is unusually advanced and needs support to help him develop, but none can point me to any local resources in our small town. (One suggested that if he continues on this path, I would be best-served by moving! To be close to some particular program for gifted children in Colorado or somewhere.) We have talked to specialists in the nearest big city, three hours away, who also agree that he is absolutely off-the-charts and needs unique support and challenges, but there just isn't any support available nearby, so it will have to come from us. I am overwhelmed trying to figure out how to support his development, and a lot of the resources available are more along the lines of "My child is gifted because every child is gifted!" (or, gag, "my child is an Indigo Child!") and aren't of a lot of help to me.

Obviously we are also a family in crisis with the downsizing and the health crisis and I am doing my best to address that at the same time. I know this question is long and all over the place, so I'll try to answer questions that arise. I am very overwhelmed right now.
posted by Sockish American to Education (69 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
This may be a silly question, but it is not clear to me from your question (you mentioned memorizing reams of text and following recipes) - can he read and comprehend what he is reading? If so, does he enjoy reading, or does the moving around part get in the way?

Does he have access to a computer? I wonder if it would be useful teaching him to program, or giving him the tools so he can learn a programming language? This would be a relatively safe activity for him to do (you could use an older computer, that is not your normal computer, and is not connected to the internet) If this captured his attention, it might induce him to sit still for a time.

You could teach him chess and he could play against a computer.

What kind of physical stimulation is he receiving? You mentioned long walks, but could you get him involved with some kind of sport (toddler gymnastics?) or hire a sporty babysitter who would be willing to do take him out to the field to play ball games or something?
posted by unlaced at 12:28 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry I don't have any specific resources, but is there a Montessori school near you you could use instead of the preschool?

Also in terms of excess energy - maybe gymnastics or dance that would focus his energy and he would find stimulating as well. Or music piano, violin, cello...
posted by effigy at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2012

We don't want to sit down and "have lessons" (if he would sit down at all), but he's clearly in need of more stimulation intellectually

Well, why not? Kids love learning and while I understand the urge not to go the rote lesson route, your kid needs to be challenged. Clearly. I think the suggestions for some kind of rigorous physical activity would be great, but there's no reason why you can't sit down and start learning about/teaching him about, say, engines or science or history. His mind is a little sponge that wants knowledge. Why not cater to that? Otherwise both school and home are going to be boring places where he needs to make his own trouble to stay interested.

I agree that a Montessori school might be good. Also anarchist free schools or other alternative school systems.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:32 PM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

Why not go with it? Feed that big brain of his. Instead of seeing it as problem, make it the solution. Some ideas:
- Give him small motors to dismantle and reassemble (and tools)
- Buy him puzzles made for adults
- Give him the components to build a bridge, walk over a bridge and let him at it
- Give him the raw ingrediants to make cake (flour, chocolate, etc etc) but no receipe. Tell him to figure out how to make a cake. Rinse repeat for cookies, breads, etc.
- For the energy, nthing gymnastics, martial arts, dance, circus arts, yoga
- Live near a farm? That is endless exploration and physical and conceptual puzzles
- Maybe animals? A border collie would have the energy to keep up with him
posted by zia at 12:37 PM on October 31, 2012 [18 favorites]

First of all, you have my sympathy. Any 3-year old is exhausting, and that just sounds incredible.

When he gets into things, does he focus on them, or does he just take them apart and get distracted? If he focuses on projects like that, can you set up "safe" ones for him to work on? Even if it is a second-hand thermostat, or something like that?

What about puzzles, like linked metal puzzles?

Ultimately, you want to use his momentum in your (and his!) favor. If he's taught himself addition and subtraction, get him started on multiplication. If he wants to get into things, give him things to get into. If he wants to run around, get him a hamster wheel... wait, no... put him in soccer.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 12:37 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can he read? If he's absorbed enough in a book, maybe he would stay still for a couple minutes - like, he could sit in the bathroom and read while you take a shower.

If he can't read yet, try teaching him. So kids learn to read at/around three, and it sounds like your son would have no trouble picking it up quickly and without much frustration.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2012

I have a high-energy 3 year old (maybe not as high as yours), and it definitely is challenging. But one thing that struck me about your post is you talk a lot about things you do to wear out the boy or to keep him out of harm's way or to prevent him from wrecking things, but you don't mention anything about discipline. From where I sit, he's not developing any sort of self-control nor is he facing any consequences from his actions. You shouldn't have to child-proof absolutely everything or hire two babysitters! He needs to learn how to calm down and develop judgement. That's not to say it will be easy, but you seem to by blinded somewhat by his precociousness. Try to recognize that what he may need more than an intellectual outlet is some sort of structure of how to behave.
posted by Leontine at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2012 [24 favorites]

Also, does he have rules? Boundaries? You mention yelling but I wonder what kind of repercussions he faces for, say, destroying property. 3 is young, but not too young for a time out. I'd give him lots and lots of positive, challenging work to get into but still make it clear that there are certain things that aren't allowed in the household.

(Maybe you are doing these things, in which case, apologies!)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2012 [11 favorites]

I was going to suggest one of those toddler leashes and leave the house and go to bookstore/library/mall/park and spend most of your day out of the house. Everybody seems to dislike the toddler leash but hey, you have a special case. Can you strap him down in a stroller? How does that go?

I was going to suggest very stern warnings but you are already yelling. I tend to be a yeller and sometimes I am yelling in the wind. Exasperated yelling. Nobody cares. Nobody listens. Practice being more quiet and stern if you aren't already. Stern with eye contact each time he does something that is beyond the beyonds. You will have to pick your battles.

It's hard but make it a priority to get some alone time. Hire the two babysitters and go out for a couple hours on a weekly basis all by yourself.
posted by Fairchild at 12:39 PM on October 31, 2012

Seconding effigy. Exercise and lots of it. Tire him out.

I know several adults who were child Houdini/Speed Racer types. (Right now I'm thinking of the kids from "The Incredibles"!) A friend of mine, at the age of 2, used the drawers in a highboy near her crib as a stepladder to get to the floor. The more effort that was expended to outwit them/lock them down, the more ingenious they became.

Others have spoken about structure and discipline. All I can tell you is that the people I know were born masters at doing the opposite of what was asked of them. You can try more along these lines, but don't despair if it doesn't work as you thought it might. And your kid may be nothing like the folks I know.
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:40 PM on October 31, 2012

Best of luck to you as you figure this out. One thought on academic challenges: maybe he would enjoy learning another language? Kids this age tend to be curious about such things.
posted by judith at 12:52 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding insectosaurus and Fairchild about reading. There's a chance the children's librarian at your LL is bored during the day, before school lets out. There are some have been known to relish the challenge of a young sponging mind.
posted by carsonb at 12:55 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

In 4th grade there were 3 of us who wouldn't sit still, got in a lot of trouble. But had tested off the charts our whole lives. A very thoughtful teacher gave us all the books for mathematics grade for grade 5 and sent us out in the hall. She told us to work at out own pace and turn in work when we were done. By the end of the year we were on 9th grade. It was very liberating.

Later: other teacher didn't do nearly as good a job and school was a real struggle. But that one year stayed with me my whole life and spurred me on to a lot of success once I escaped public school.

So my suggestion would be two fold. Lots of Text books, and lots of sports.

Sports are great for really brainy kids, because the wear us out and also humble us a little. Seriously.
posted by French Fry at 12:55 PM on October 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

I don't have good advice to share re: academics and development/behavior. But on the boundless energy front, I wonder if a different sort of babysitter could help you out. Perhaps an athletic teenager or young man who has the energy to play vigorously for a couple of hours without stopping. Combining that with some sort of organized sport or dance class might give him a couple of good avenues for the physical energy, leaving you with more energy to handle the other things.
posted by stowaway at 12:59 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

i really really really like the idea of moving to an area that has the resources to deal with a precocious child. emphasizing discipline at this point is insanity. yes, he needs to have boundaries set. no, that has *nothing to do* with his precocity. if you go down the path of confusing the two, the misery will never end.

what you're describing is a special-needs child. if he were autistic instead of gifted, what lengths would you go to to provide for his needs?
posted by facetious at 12:59 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Read tons of books to him. If he loves building stuff, read Iggy Peck, Architect.

Do lots of puzzles.

Have you played board games like Sequence for Kids?

Does he like drawing?

Martial arts classes for young children might help him become a better listener and better follower of instructions.

I second (or third) Montessori.
posted by Dansaman at 1:00 PM on October 31, 2012

"can he read and comprehend what he is reading? If so, does he enjoy reading, or does the moving around part get in the way?"

Yes -- he can even follow simple recipes -- but the moving-around gets in the way from stories that are very long. The longest book he reads to himself right now is probably about 20 pages. Definitely not more than half an hour at a time, though.

Programming I'm not sure about -- he is very good at puzzles but better if there are physical manipulatives. We do some programming-type GAMES together. Chess might be a good idea, if he will sit still that long.

We've tried a couple of "toddler sports" but he tends to run off to do his own thing or, for the outdoor ones, just decide to up and leave. (The only ones available where we are are gymnastics, dance, and soccer. Not even T-ball for another couple years.) We do lots of hiking, digging, building, outside chores, visit a ton of playgrounds, and we have engaged high school athletes as babysitters/mother's helpers to play ball of various sorts with him and to run with him. He is fast.

"Well, why not? Kids love learning and while I understand the urge not to go the rote lesson route, your kid needs to be challenged. Clearly. I think the suggestions for some kind of rigorous physical activity would be great, but there's no reason why you can't sit down and start learning about/teaching him about, say, engines or science or history."

Oh, we do all that. I meant I don't want to sit him down with worksheets to do rote drills. (Although I'm starting to feel like letting him learn about engines is just encouraging him to break my car.) He has a million books about how things work, he has his own garden, we do kitchen science. I feel like I'm going to be at a loss with general science knowledge soon; I don't really know a lot about teaching science to small children.

"- Give him small motors to dismantle and reassemble (and tools)
- Buy him puzzles made for adults
- Give him the components to build a bridge, walk over a bridge and let him at it"

We do these things, although giving him tools partly encourages him to take apart my house.

"- Maybe animals? A border collie would have the energy to keep up with him"

So far, no. We have pets, but they wear out way before he does.

"From where I sit, he's not developing any sort of self-control nor is he facing any consequences from his actions. You shouldn't have to child-proof absolutely everything or hire two babysitters! He needs to learn how to calm down and develop judgement."

I didn't focus on this in my question, but he does have tons of boundaries and discipline, and he has reasonable self-control for a three-year-old. I'm pretty sure other people don't have to childproof everything because their kids don't push the couch across the room. He does struggle with impulse control, I think more than many kids, but we are actually fairly strict in terms of boundaries and behavior. He is a good kid and a kind kid who goes to pick up other toddlers when they fall and offers to kiss their boo-boos. If he WANTS to do something, and there is not something else TOO tempting, he will obey instructions and stay within the rules -- which I'm told is developmentally normal. We try to use positive discipline techniques, which have worked great up until now, but suddenly I'm yelling all day. We have talked with the child development specialists about boundaries and they are all in agreement that his boundaries and discipline at home are appropriate.

I mean, he actually hasn't tried to disassemble the windows since he was told not to, but we had them made unopenable anyway because "falling out a second-story window onto concrete" is not really the sort of rule you want him to forget to follow even once. But it's one thing after another like that, things that are SUPPOSED to be child-safe or that other kids don't mess with ever.

Part of the issue with sitters is that he knows he can get to things he isn't allowed to get to, because they're not as wary of his behavior as we are. So if his goal for the week has been to disassemble the heating vent system, he will wait until the sitter is changing his brother's diaper and be treating it like a Jeffrey's Tube 30 seconds later. (Remember that his younger brother also had a recent health crisis so is in need of more care than normal.)
posted by Sockish American at 1:01 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Find what he values most in the world and then make him earn it. You cannot modify his behavior, but he can. Make him choose to exercise self control by setting up a wall chart with stickers. Every day (you can go every hour at first) that he exercises self control (give short, easy directions) he gets a sticker. After so many stickers he gets his treat. Once he can understand it, start explaining to him the reason why you are doing this. Ask him how it feels when he has a bad day and how it feels to have a good day. Ask him what he does differently on those days. Ask him to draw a picture of a good day to hang on his wall as a reminder. You want him to be internally reward driven, not externally reward driven so really harp on the why. You want to teach him that making good choices makes him feel good inside.

Don't send him to that pre-school anymore. It hurts his self-esteem to be around people who don't like him. Find a care giver that sees him for the amazing little human that he is.
posted by myselfasme at 1:06 PM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Toddler leashes are great for kids with no sense of fear. The Jeep ones on Amazon are good - they're soft animal-themed backpacks. Let him choose which one he likes and make it a firm rule that if he takes off the backpack leash, he gets a consequence like a timeout. What's better - a safety leash and exploring the world outside or having to keep him indoors out of entirely rational fear.

Have you thought of a pet? He sounds like the kind of kid who would benefit from long walks with a dog, and a dog as a companion to a child who doesn't quite fit with his own age peers is a very good friend.

You can totally get him started on academic type projects now. The Well Trained Mind is pretty systematic but starts with short lessons and he might enjoy that because of the strong language emphasis. Try a month with each homeschooling method (Charlotte Mason, Unit-based, Montessori-esque) and see what suits him and you best.

Look into playgroups that meet outdoors where he can run around freely so he can socialize with other kids. Swimming lessons, dance, peewee football - all that will help him socialise and burn off energy. Right now, he doesn't have to be in playschool to learn academically, but he needs to be around other kids. You could simply take him to the same neighbourhood playground regularly. After he's run around there, then go to the library.

Stock up on open-ended toys like Lego and art materials. If you have a yard, give him his own area to excavate/garden.

I had a raging kid and we severely child proofed a room for him so when he went on a rage, we could safely leave him there. It sounds like you have done the same to your house - could you do that to a single room so you can safely leave him there with some toys? We literally took out handles and knobs in that space, and we have always had window grilles because of kids climbing out. I really would do that because you need to be able to shower without having to worry about him climbing up the chimney!

He has asynchronous development - people are going to assume he's entirely a 3 year old or that he's a 7 year-old in a little body, when truly he's both at different times. You want to get in contact with parents of gifted kids on discussion boards or mailing lists so you can talk without being accused of bragging or exaggerating. Moving might be an option later, but right now I would focus on just finding what works for your whole family, including your daughter.
posted by viggorlijah at 1:06 PM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

You sound exhausted, and I think that's part of the problem.

Three is a rough age, they don't have a filter, an off button or much impulse control. If he's smart, it's a wonder you don't go ape-shit with two young kids.

Perhaps a trip to the local Home Schooling store for workbooks and such like and you can do some structure learning at home. Reward with stickers for a job well done.

Try training him. Like dog training, only not. Using positive reinforcement, see if you can show him what you want him to do, and then reward him when he does it. My Dad is a Skinner Behavoral Therapist. I'm surprised I wasn't reared in a box. It's amazing what kids will do for M&Ms.

My friend's son has a lot of that boundless energy and when he came to visit he wanted to run on the treadmill. We made him get off after 90 minutes, full, tilt, boogie. Not because he was tired, but because we were worried about the treadmill.

I think you should think about having a high school kid in, after school, to help you with your son. That way you're not so tired and stressed about it. You can concentrate on the 1-year old, and your son can have a play date with an older kid. Even better, if that kid is into motors, or circuits or whatever and can teach him about them.

This isn't normal, and it sounds like you're doing a great job under a very stressful situation. The most important thing is for you NOT to burn out. You have to take care of your husband's wife and your kids' mother.

If that means getting back to work, then do that. My mom wasn't cut out to be a SAHM. We were all happier when we went to the Hobbit Day Care, and mom went back to work.

It's okay to be overwhelmed. The situation is overwhelming.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:10 PM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Guys, I understand I sound like a bad parent, but the disciplinary situation at home is appropriate. We have used sticker charts, positive behavior intervention, behavioral modification, etc., when appropriate. Those are things I CAN actually get help with, too, from the specialists.

He wears out both our dog and our neighbor's dog. They're both high-energy dogs.

There are no neighborhood playgroups -- it's pretty much organized preschools or nothing. The Montessori program locally actually has a poor reputation with gifted children and with energetic boys (there's only the one, and no Waldorf or anything). I organized a playgroup myself that meets outdoors weekly because there was nothing else available. He is in a swim class, I forgot about that. We do have high school students over to wear him out. We prefer track & field athletes.

He does have a rich play environment at home with a lot of building and puzzle toys, fairly free reign to make huge kitchen messes, and his own garden, and a large child-safe yard. He's pretty good about staying on the path or sidewalk (without having to hang on to him the whole time) when I take him walking or hiking, as long as we're exploring. Once he's fully explored a playground, say, he has a tendency to take off running towards whatever the next interesting place is. Soccer is a nightmare since it's just a big field of grass and that's soooooooo boring. He's gone in instants.

I'm looking at the links and books above.
posted by Sockish American at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2012

Music? I was a pretty precocious kid and I could be a handful, but I could be plunked in front of a piano and left for hours.
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:21 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't have any practical suggestions as I haven't been through this but I think you might go back to your behaviorist or try another one -- maybe see if the school can recommend one. I feel like you are getting short shrift there and that there are likely other kids with serious impulse control issues and that seems to be the major problem. Of course, the other problem is that your attention is divided -- you have a 1-year-old, pets and a household to run. You've got a kid with the energy of two (or three or four!). You need some help. And I know that's easier said than gotten. I just want to throw it out there that I recognize that you're burning the candle at both ends here. Which is why I think you need to go back to the specialists. Maybe have a friend or relative come out for a week and give you a hand while you give some undivided attention to the 3-year-old. Or your husband can take some vacation days so you guys can try to tackle it.

Running off during soccer is a safety issue! I think you need more professional opinions.
posted by amanda at 1:25 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Has he shown any interest in music? I'm trying to think of something that would present a continuous challenge to his skills.

Also, video games? Get him a wii, maybe, something that requires movement? People worry about kids zonking out, but it doesn't seem like that's going to be an issue for you.
posted by Diablevert at 1:30 PM on October 31, 2012

I know it's not what people usually recommend, but you don't mention any TV or computer time. They can be engrossing enough to at least give you a few minutes to sit down. When my son was about five I taught him how to search YouTube for videos about things he was interested in. Now he's 10 and an extremely avid Minecrafter.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:36 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

You sound exhausted, and I think that's part of the problem

Agreed. Still doesn't solve the problem. So I'm offering my five cents as a kind of idea-bank. I understand that the situation must be very challenging. And you might be doing all this already...

I gave my son (who is bright, but at least he left the furniture alone) technical legos suited for kids twice his age or more. Push it as far as you need to with the technical toys, level-wise. Teach him how repairing stuff works, as opposed to dismantling them.

Teach him during the walks. Tell him stories during the walks. Tell him, during the walks, not only that, but why, it is undesired and dangerous when he screws apart your home. Intellectualize, argue.

Languages. Get someone else to teach him languages. Apparently: lots of them. (Other candidates: Math, Physics, Music, Astronomy, Philosophy)

It might be an idea to get in touch with Mensa and see whether they can point you to resources in your area or more structurally oriented solutions to the situation.

And good luck with this.
posted by Namlit at 1:37 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

First of all: you sound like a great parent. My daughter is not really up to the level of your son, but she is super smart and super verbal and was GO GO GO GO GO GO all the time. I understand your weariness and your frustration.

If I understand you correctly, he's very unusually high in several different areas: he needs a lot of cognitive activity, he needs a lot of physical activity, and he needs a lot of novelty / he gets bored easily. So there's no such thing as an old reliable activity; anything that he was good at and enjoyed yesterday, he has mastered and is therefore bored with today. And then he's on the loose and looking for trouble.

Ultimately, he needs to learn how to be calm and centered within himself, how to harness his abilities and his energy and put them to mindful use. That is definitely on the edge of ability of a normal 3 year old, and probably is for your child as well, but that doesn't mean that you can't start working on stuff like that with him. Martial arts is the first thing that came to my mind there, for something that is physical, cognitive, and involves enormous amounts of mental and physical discipline. But a lot will depend on finding the right teacher. Could you work with him on the idea of setting and achieving goals? Start with small ones, "run to the wall and back ten times," and move up to progressively more complex and long-term things?

Is his attention broad, deep, or both? Can he do music in the morning, gymnastics in early afternoon, Mandarin in late afternoon, and run through Khan Academy drills while you're cooking dinner? Or does he tend to be all-one-thing-all-day and then switch focus later?

Also, others mentioned music classes -- I'd suggest perhaps looking into drumming or percussion in particular. It's a very physical ways of making music, you are constantly in motion with your arms and your legs, and it's HARD. Does he have any sense of desire to be "objectively good" at things, or does he just go off like a mortar shell in every which direction?

There's got to be some way to harness his mechanical aptitude in a way that doesn't lead to him destroying your house. Let me think about that for a while.
posted by KathrynT at 1:38 PM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

Can you acquire some broken stuff (old radios, toasters, etc.) for him to take apart and put back together, if you can make him understand that he can only take apart/put back together those things, and not things that are actually attached to/running the house? If nothing else, it might keep him occupied while you pee.
posted by rtha at 1:39 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

My now 5-year-old was not as precocious as yours, or quite as high energy, but he never sat down and focused on one thing. He didn't play with toys. He was just always on the move exploring things, and climbing things, and doing whole-body play. The only thing that had any hope of holding his attention were video games and movies. He has loved playing on my iPad since he was a toddler. He often does things like walk around while "watching" TV, or jumping on the couch while watching, but he will also sit down to watch, sometimes. That, and baths. Our only respite.

Also, I second folks up-thread that you cannot start learning about the development of gifted kids too soon. I thought that homeschooling meant I didn't need to worry about whether my kids fit a "gifted" label or not, but it turns out there are a whole constellation of characteristics that are common and known, and talking to other parents of gifted kids, and to a therapist who works particularly with gifted kids, has been so helpful to me. Because I didn't want to wrestle with the label, it took me longer than I wish it had to educate myself about this stuff. Warning: knowing doesn't necessarily make dealing with the kids easier. But it at least tells you that you and your kids are not alone.
posted by not that girl at 1:40 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just a question that suddenly crosses my mind: how's his sugar and quick carbs intake?

There might be part of a solution lurking there...
posted by Namlit at 1:42 PM on October 31, 2012

If you take him out of school, he may chill out of his own volition after a month or so. It could be that the stress and confinement of school causes him to be more wound up and expressive at home.

I have an academically-gifted but cautious 3 year old. I can relate to how hard it is to stay ahead of these kids -- researching every night for supplies and project ideas, and picking up behind the supplies and finished projects in their wake.
posted by xo at 1:46 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

From your updates, it sounds like your son is getting a lot of enriching activities! He may need more, but I am wondering now if the real problem here is not that your son needs support, but that you need way more than you are getting? It is really hard to give give give all the time. You don't sound like a bad parent at all. You just sound tired, and it seems pretty obvious why. I don't know that throwing yourself into being the most awesome homeschooling parent of all time is going to be a great solution for your family. It may be the case that moving to an area where there are appropriate educational opportunities for gifted kids is the best choice. But maybe the first step is to connect with other parents of gifted kids to find out what worked for them at this age or development stage. Don't be bashful about finding resources that benefit you and your children. I get that you don't want to be "that parent" of the "special snowflake" child, but the alternative doesn't seem to be working for you.
posted by stowaway at 1:53 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a smart 3 year old, but not nearly as energetic and shall we say, project-oriented, as yours! I can understand completely how worn out you must be. You sound like an awesome mom.

You may try checking thrift stores and junk shops for things (old toys, radios, thermostats, anything) he can dismantle and (ideally) put back together to learn how they work. Also, maybe you can give him a recipe or textbook or any little project and tell him to figure it out and then come teach you? That gives him a goal, and the reward of getting to teach something to mommy.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 1:55 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is he receptive to deeper investigation of the stuff he takes apart? Putting it back together is an obvious first step, but there's also room for study of the principles that make a radio/heater/thermostat/etc. work, reading about who invented it, maybe even making a simple version from scrap parts.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:59 PM on October 31, 2012

Has he been evaluated by someone with specialized knowledge about the autism spectrum on the highly verbal/intelligent end? The memorization and the elopement issues make me wonder if resources for autism/asbergers would help you. Sorry for spelling, on phone.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:00 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, not to diagnose on the internet, but if you look at those gifted resources I posted above, also pay special attention to the subsections for "twice exceptional" children.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:06 PM on October 31, 2012

"If I understand you correctly, he's very unusually high in several different areas: he needs a lot of cognitive activity, he needs a lot of physical activity, and he needs a lot of novelty / he gets bored easily. So there's no such thing as an old reliable activity; anything that he was good at and enjoyed yesterday, he has mastered and is therefore bored with today. And then he's on the loose and looking for trouble."

This is a pretty good description.

"what you're describing is a special-needs child. if he were autistic instead of gifted, what lengths would you go to to provide for his needs?"

This is what I'm starting to realize and why I'm starting to freak out. But if he were on the special-ed end of the spectrum, there would be local support and resources. For gifted kids there are not many.

"how's his sugar and quick carbs intake?"

We eat only whole grains (when it comes to grains) and no added sugars. They don't even get juice unless they're ill and we're "pushing fluids," only whole fruit. I mean, they eat bread from the store so there's sugar in it (but real sugar, not HFCS), but it's mostly whole foods and home-cooked we're careful about additives. We eat largely organic (exclusively organic isn't practical in our area). We're not vegetarian, but we don't eat meat more than twice a week.

"Has he been evaluated by someone with specialized knowledge about the autism spectrum on the highly verbal/intelligent end?"

Yes, and in fact more than once, because he has an autistic cousin. My son is not on the autism spectrum.
posted by Sockish American at 2:09 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

It... sounds like you're doing everything you possibly could. Short of moving, I think you might just have to develop coping skills (like trying to get a little more downtime by any means necessary) and wait until he grows into his precociousness a bit.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:19 PM on October 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

Glad to hear you were able to get an evaluation out of the way!

I'm not sure if you're looking for childproofing advice or ideas, so apologies if this is unwanted or has been seen & rejected, but a friend who has a child who creates similar difficulties swears by this bed, the Safety Sleeper.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:19 PM on October 31, 2012

You do not sound like a bad parent. You sound like a parent challenged by a high-needs child. That is not a term that applies only to infants. You might get something out of this book, which covers a full range of ages.

I don't actually think moving is an insane suggestion. If your son had special needs instead of high needs for stimulation, exercise and engagement, you'd move into a district with the best integrated support your could reach. Your son may have similar educational demands for a gifted and talented programs.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

OP, can you memail me? I have some ideas for you, but there's a lot of back-and-forth in this process which is better in memail than askme.
posted by KathrynT at 2:23 PM on October 31, 2012

I don't have kids so you know, my advice is basically useless BUT: It sounds to me like you have done an amazing job of trying everything! Not just despite your circumstances, but like....FOR REAL. Even if I had a kid and no other obligations I don't think I would be doing as well as you are. I hate moving and I think moving sounds extreme, but if it's your last resort and is actually an option, think about it! Even if your kid chills out between now and adulthood, you'd potentially be doing him a disservice by staying somewhere that apparently has no resources for gifted children. Ideally he'll only get smarter, and he may as well be somewhere that values education and can help him excel. Plus I have friends in CO and they all love it. (Full disclosure: I hate where I live and would jump at the chance to move, so I may be projecting but DO IT!)
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:30 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Re reading: Kids who read early are sort of like "developmentally challenged" in that their eyes can't cope well with long passages of small, unbroken text. Some things that help:

Books on tape. Their ears can cope better than their eyes plus they can physically do other things while listening.

Large print editions intended for the visually impaired.

Reading accessories like magnifying glasses and weights that hold the book open for them.

Illustrated works. The illustrations help bridge the gap between their reading ability and interest level, cluing them to new vocabulary. They also tend to be written at a higher conceptual level with tougher vocabulary than grade equivalent "chapter books".

Comics/cartoons/graphic novels can fill that last role pretty well. Calvin and Hobbes are perennial favorites for this crowd, "the cartoon guide..." Series (if mild swearing and pg-13-ish humor is not a showstopper), and Elfquest are also good sources. Elfquest is now available online: Linky

Getting a kid like this reading is usually a huge relief for the parents. Helping bridge the gap between what their brain hungers for and what their eyes can handle can make a big difference in everyone's frustration level.
posted by Michele in California at 2:32 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even if your kid is the smartest kid in the world he needs to learn to do as he's told. You don't have to yell, set boundaries and enforce rules and teach him acceptable behavior. Right now its a game to him and he has no respect for you.
posted by fshgrl at 2:34 PM on October 31, 2012

fshgrl, I don't think that's at all accurate based on what the OP has said. She has been told that her son's behavior wrt impulse control and following rules is developmentally appropriate -- by experts who have actually evaluated him, not people on the internet. There is zero evidence that he "has no respect for her," and it doesn't do her question any justice to pretend otherwise.
posted by KathrynT at 2:38 PM on October 31, 2012 [9 favorites]

Do you have space in the back yard for a trampoline? The new ones are safer and could be a nice way to contain him whilst he burns off some of that energy! Or even a little mini tramp for inside? Bouncing whilst listening to an audio book or watching TV could keep him focussed on one thing for a bit longer.

In a year or two, you could try teaching him how to knit. In the mean time, maybe finger knitting? Might be more suitable for fidgets than high energy types, but it's worth a try.
posted by kjs4 at 3:22 PM on October 31, 2012

Don't feel guilty for letting him watch a tv show while you drink a cup of tea if its what you need to stay sane.
posted by bq at 3:47 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

A) How do I cope with a child that is SO precocious at getting into stuff and SO active, that I literally can't make a space safe and that I never get to sit down? When does this phase end?

I wonder if you can interest him in learning how to self-regulate. Not through carrot and stick stuff, but as a puzzle to solve. Because I think that's, fortunately or unfortunately, the answer here. And maybe he's just too young for it--developmentally normal in that way, but not in all the others--but maybe not. Like, could you teach those skills, rather than just trying to keep him as occupied as possible? What about teaching him to meditate?
posted by liketitanic at 3:54 PM on October 31, 2012

> if he were autistic instead of gifted, what lengths would you go to to provide for his needs?

Kids can be both! I've got one right here in the room with me.

You say he's not on the spectrum but he has so much in common with kids that are that I think you should try to tap into those resources. Things like securing doors, keeping kids away from the items they're obsessed with, safety, etc all come up on autism parenting e-mail lists all the time. Yahoo Groups -- no, really -- probably has one for your area.

Floortime therapy can be great for burning off energy, if you get a good therapist (again, recommendations from an e-mail list).
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:42 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

> if he were on the special-ed end of the spectrum, there would be local support and resources. For gifted kids there are not many

Oh, gifted kids are in special ed, by the way. If his behavior is so bad in school, I'm surprised he doesn't qualify -- that's how my son got in.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:44 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you are trying to parent an unusual kid in a non-authoritarian or progressive or evidence-based way, stuff gets tough. And other people are prone to giving advice that is not helpful and is just not applicable to your situation, like about how you should be more of a disciplinarian. So I hope you are able to let some of this stuff roll off, because they are just not talking to you (even though they think they are).

I don't know if anything I am going to say is helpful, but we are parenting a bright, intense, physical toddler. Some ideas:

*Read The Well-Trained Mind. It is specifically for people who want to do academically rigorous homeschooling, but I think there are some valid ideas in it for any kid who is bright and curious. Check out the associated forum. There is a subforum for "accelerated learners": most are going to be older than your kid, but they will understand what you're talking about and maybe have other ideas for you. There are people there who have really alarmingly intelligent kids, and they may be able to point you in a direction you will find helpful.

*I have had okay luck doing things with my kid that deepen his concentration, like Legos, or these Ideal Blocks. He will also do sensory "science experiments" (the famous tray of baking soda and a dropper and a cup of water and vinegar with food coloring in it) for a really, really long time. Fine-motor/sensory stuff like that or Playdough or that gloop you make with cornstarch and water is often a pretty reliable thing for getting him into the zone.

*Do you read those Ames & Ilg books? You probably do, but their theory about six months on, six months off equilibrium/disequilibrium seems correct to me, based on my kid's development. Right now, he's pretty delightful. Six months ago, I thought I was going to lose it. The constant climbing and taking stuff apart! The idea that I could have somehow shamed or yelled him out of his intense desire to comprehend How Things Work is laughable to me. He is driven as he is driven. I can facilitate or try to stand in his way, but... the second choice doesn't actually work, anyway, and then there is pointless yelling.

*Do you think your guy would get anything about the youngest version of Snap Circuits? My kid is too little, but I wonder if yours might be able to grasp what was happening with them (under supervision.)

*We do a thing where I will invent themes for a block of weeks and then read books on the themes. It is mildly helpful in giving him lots of new information that I might not otherwise have thought to mention.

*Have you read Growing an In-Sync Child? It's interesting, and has exercises and play you can do at home.

*Have you read Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding? It's technically a curriculum, but really I think it's more a book that tells you how to talk to small children about science.

*There's a series of science picture books by Vicki Cobb called Science Play. Eg: I See Myself. He might get something out of them.


*Are there any other preschools near you that are more progressive? I know the pickings can be slim, but maybe there's something out there? Or maybe there's a meetup of like-minded parents interested in a co-op? (I know that's a lot to consider. But my kid just started attending a really progressive school and it has been a huge, huge thing for us, and for him.)

Finally, I wanted to say that I empathize with your predicament. I think there's a rough gap period that happens in extremely bright little kids, where they aren't old enough or mature enough to necessarily do formal learning, but they are so eager for new information and comprehension that you just think you're going to lose it completely. I hope you find some help, whether its here, elsewhere on the internet, or through your local providers. Your child sounds very unusual and interesting, and you are not crazy or weak to find this hard to cope with.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 5:12 PM on October 31, 2012 [12 favorites]

I have so much sympathy for your situation, and it sounds like you are already doing so much that is supportive and nurturing and I applaud you for it. Your experience with your son sounds a lot like the relationship I witnessed between my younger brother and my mother, which may be helpful to you.

My younger brother was an incredibly hyperactive and intellectually advanced child who sounds similar to your son (right down to moving heavy furniture around; he also read encyclopedias for fun, taught himself how to cut up and re-sew his own clothes to make superhero costumes, etc) and my mother struggled for years. Strangely, one thing she discovered was that eating dairy products absolutely increased his boundless energy level and decreased his impulse control. So in addition to teaching my brother all kinds of behavioral coping strategies to focus his energy and attention (which mainly revolved around an elaborate system of lists, which is probably a bit advanced for your son's age; practicing martial arts was also really helpful) she was hypervigilant about keeping my brother from eating any milk, ice cream, cheese, etc.

I have no idea if this is a common phenomenon or something that just happens to be unique to my brother, but it seemed worth mentioning.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 6:02 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're doing a fantastic job - and I'm learning lately myself that "gifted" is not supported in the same way other special needs kids are. My boy's current teacher has no idea what to do with him, and no one else in our school seems to know, either. It sucks.

To add to your idea bank:

swimming! nothing wore me out better as a kid.

nthing yoga, martial arts, etc. - physical activity + discipline might be a good challenge for him

is it too soon to starting thinking about learning to meditate? might sound crazy, but if this is a kid whose brain never turns off, might be good to learn how

agreed on music lessons, too - he could start violin at this age, which might be intriguing because fingering + reading music + body motion for bowing = complicated

Last but not least, I agree with the previous poster who said you aren't getting enough support from the existing system. There must be *someone* in town - a therapist, educator, social worker - who can guide you to support nearby (closer than 3 hours) and/or brainstorm ways to keep this guy happy.
posted by hms71 at 7:10 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Parent of a 4.5 and 2.5 year old. I only offer my own opinions. Everything that you describe, to me, is called learning. Kids start at zero and build. I know that most people know this...but...really...KNOW THIS. Touching things. Petting strange dogs. Reading. They are the same to the child. The same. If you can imagine that this is the context, then, we need to figure out how to guide a child through this. My littlest loves the blinds too. I have spent time, allowing him to understand how they work and then encouraging him, at the beginning of the day or the end of the day to help me use them. He knows now how to appropriately use them and will ask. Of course, he will, occasionally, just try to use them. I remind him that they are not toys and that there is a way to ask. I always try to talk through things so that the kids understand the logic. You may or not be accustomed to saying "Now see this cord, when we pull it, it goes up. The cord goes down but the blinds go up. There are other things that we pull down and things go up. Now the blinds are down and the sun isn't as bright in the house. Let's pull the blinds and see what happens. There, lots of sun. See that on the floor? That is your shadow..."

All of this being said, the energy of children is amazing and time consuming. There is no alternate reality. It has been my experience that the time spent with my kids has been well spent. What is amazing about kids is that they are who they are and not who you are. They can be anything so, how do you foster their love of learning? What kind of creative outlet would they like? A big cardbox and markers can keep my kids busy for hours if I guide them a bit. "This is your new rocketship. Draw a flag on the side and and then draw the controls on the inside. Then decide where you want to blast off to! I will be a friendly alien when you land on Mars." It is amazing to see imagination blossom.

So to answer your questions: the phase does end, bask in your child's curiosity for the world as it is a lovely gift. You may be tired, but your time is well spent and will provide compounded value. The whole academically challenged piece...well, I think I would said "actively engaged". Kids that young are learning so much already, peripherally, that more formal learning is...well...more formal learning. Kids really are learning about their families and seeing morals, ethics, reasoning, planning in real time. I never thought of it that way until my 4.5 year old starting verbalizing her reasoning and laid it out in terms that we use around the house all the time.

Good luck in finding answers. Seeking the answers should let you know that you are already on the path.
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:21 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I dated a guy who was almost certainly just like this when he was 3 - genius IQ, pushed every boundary, could move so fast he was like a blur at times. He was diagnosed with ADHD once he made it to grade school and Ritalin was the only way he could hold still enough in class that he wasn't disruptive, from the fourth grade when I met him all the way up through the end of high school. Occasionally he'd have rebellious periods where he'd refuse to take his medicine for a few weeks and everyone who sat within a few seats of him in any given class suffered as a result. He once stole and hid my backpack over ten times in a single history class period.

So, this is a few years off, but if you end up putting him in conventional public school with kids his age and they recommend he be medicated, pleeeease consider it. If he stays hyperactive like this, he is not just screwing himself up by driving his poor teachers up the wall, he's also making it really hard for everyone around him to do well, especially whatever poor little girl he ends up having a crush on.
posted by town of cats at 9:41 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have a gifted child.

You know, I don't really think this is an AskMetafilter question. You really need to join a community of other parents who are going through the same thing.

It seems like you are going to have to fundamentally alter your family's lifestyle to accommodate your child's needs, such as putting valuables in storage, and moving to be closer to a program for gifted youth.

I don't think AskMe can really help with that.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:55 PM on October 31, 2012

My ex husband was, according to his mom, like this as a child. If this was my child, I would hire a talented handyman as a tutor or mentor to teach him how to disassemble and assemble stuff, and to teach him when it is appropriate to do so. (As opposed to making it taboo). And maybe when he's a little older, someone to show him robotics. His kind of curiosity should be nurtured.
posted by gt2 at 10:12 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

My last comment got deleted, I don't know why as it clarified what I meant by setting boundaries and expecting good behavior. I'm 100% not advocating yelling at your kid or setting tons of rules or losing your temper because no one should do that but he does need to learn, sooner or later, that many activities are unacceptable and destroying things is one of those. So is agreeing not to do something then doing it anyway. Smart or average it makes no difference.

Have you tried sitting him down and explaining why you don't want him touching the heating ducts and then making him promise not to? Explain it to him in whatever terms he can understand: if someone broke his toys how would he get new ones? Would he be sad or angry? How could he stop that person from doing it again? Agree on a punishment ahead of time if he breaks his promise. If he does break it, you ask him: do you remember your promise? you decided to break it. Do you remember how I said this would make me sad and angry and be a lot of work for me? You understand that's not how we treat people? (briefly because he's three, even a work or two of explanation or acknowledgement that he screwed up is good enough). Then he has to accept the agreed-upon penalty. With your kid maybe you could say "no cooking, only responsible children can cook because it is dangerous and you were irresponsible today and I can't trust you and I am too busy fixing the thing you broke. Tomorrow you can cook if you show me that you are responsible between now and then. To do that I want you to do x in the meantime". Consistent reinforcement of the idea that there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with things in your household and that there are transparent consequences to breaking agreements is going to do a lot more than simply trying to outsmart him, which makes it all into a game. He has nothing else to do but try to beat you at that game.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was a precocious child, though I had a long attention span, here are some things I liked:



Counting change into those little paper sleeves and grouping it to make dollars

marble ramps


Silly putty and play-doh



Just to add to your bag of tricks.
posted by mai at 9:17 AM on November 1, 2012

This is totally not my area of expertise, but two quick thoughts:

1) Have you been able to have him assessed for sensory processing/integration issues? Some of this sounds like sensory seeking behavior. Sensory processing disorder is usually thought of as something that happens in autism, but it can occur on its own. If it is sensory processing issues, an Occupational Therapist could be a major help in dealing with this, and in giving him tools to help him manage his reactions.

Here's a good overview -- the part that sounds like your son is "Still other children exhibit an appetite for sensation that is in perpetual overdrive."

2) You probably already know this, but just in case: please don't buy him old thermostats at a thrift store. Thrift stores are really bad at screening their stuff for hazardous materials, and many old thermostats from that era contained mercury. I routinely bring hazardous stuff (old asbestos insulation, recalled kid's drinking glasses with lead or cadmium paints, etc.) up to the management at my local thrift store, and half the time it gets put back on the shelf. Something designed for kids, like an Erector set, Capsela, etc., would be a much safer choice.
posted by pie ninja at 10:27 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about biking? There are bike trailers where a child can help the adult pedal. Example: Adams Trail a Bike with backrest & Weehoo iGo.
posted by oceano at 11:08 AM on November 1, 2012

NYTimes Magazine article today.

My mom is a Pediatric Behavior Analyst... kids get referred to her through school or welfare workers usually, but parents also can contact them directly. She works here but there are lots of other places too. They use Applied Behavior Analysis, and there's a good description on the website. It's kind of a new thing ( & I don't know where you are).

They work will ALL kinds of kids... and yes, some that are just waaay smart, have sensory issues etc. Rather, they work with parents of all kinds of kids to find practical solutions so that everyone can get through the day intact. They come to your house (and/or the kids' school, or wherever) to see the real thing - and work with you. Common goals are getting kids to follow directions, to increase attention span, to go to the dentist or survive a trip to the grocery store, etc. They use behavior modification techniques, which would be good to start *now*, before he starts school. They're not psychologists and they don't diagnose or prescribe things - they just work with what you've got at the moment. My mom works as part of a team, and clients often try a few different analysts before they find one they like - so no biggie. A lot of people like working with my mom 'cause she's a mom with adult children herself... kinda like having someone's grandma come over (rather than a 23 yr old fresh out of grad school who's never held a baby etc.).

I've heard others comment that Montessori is good for this kind of kid too; Waldorf would probably be good as well, as there's a strong focus on music/rhythm/movement and also outdoorsy-farming stuff (read: energy sapping) component. As a former nanny/camp counselor, I think a lot of "hyper" kids benefit a lot just from being outside - kids aren't outside enough anymore (at least in school... sounds like he gets a lot of fresh air at the moment!).

My mom would likely be more than happy to email you and point you in the right direction. Memail me if you're interested. Good luck!!! (My mom almost didn't have any more kids 'cause I was SUCH a handful... it turned out okay, and my siblings were all much more mellow!)
posted by jrobin276 at 6:46 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you tied one of those heavy blankets or vests? Or doing "heavy work" with him? I can't link on my phone but it's basically what it sounds like - fill up a bucket with water, carry it across the yard to water the garden, repeat.

Something else to try: protein. My daughter gets pretty hyper if she doesn't have enough protein in the morning.

I know it's much easier said than done but if there is any way you can get some regular time away, that would probably help more than anything. I wish you all the best.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:01 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

From today's NYT: How Do You Raise a Prodigy? You may relate to some of these parents.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:44 AM on November 3, 2012

Sorry not to have been back for a few days; I did order some of the books above and I've started looking at them. Unfortunately we have reached another crisis point, I think his preschool is going to tell me at my conference in half an hour that they can't accommodate him any longer because he has too much energy and is "bored."
posted by Sockish American at 7:35 AM on November 9, 2012

If this, indeed, is what happens, ask them to work with you on brainstorming other solutions. They might know things you don't.
posted by KathrynT at 8:49 AM on November 9, 2012

Trying to find a silver lining: if he's getting kicked out of private preschool that's going to make it easier to get him into special ed preschool, which could have more resources than a private school does, a better teacher : child ratio, specially trained staff, a fenced playground, etc. And it would be free! And he could ride the bus!

Some special ed preschools have mainstreem peers in them, and all kinds of kids go to special ed preschool for all kinds of reasons.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:36 AM on November 9, 2012

nth'ing Montessori. Also software programming, it can be an endless time sink (in a good way). Here's a programmable r/c car. Get him a rubik's cube.
The game bloxorz is kinda 3-year old programming. And there're lots of free programming environments for kids: logo, sketch, squeak, and many others.

Is there a Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity ReStore near you? You can pick up, for cheap, complex machines for him to dis-assemble. Do you have a good library near you? Point him at David MacAulay's books, while you find a comfy chair and have a nap.
posted by at at 4:24 PM on December 12, 2012

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