Amit, a 10-year-old, is just not good at numbers. For him, Maths is a mental monster. But give him blocks, puzzles and games and his block constructions reveal his ability to think in terms of images and pictures. Or take the case of Reena, a fourth-grader. She’s not one of those high IQ types, but she is otherwise gifted with a keen intuition, especially in her assessment of other people’s hidden motives and drives.
True, both Amit and Reena are not gifted academically. But, both can adapt, select and shape the real world experiences if these are relevant to their lives.
What, anyway, is intelligence? How does it manifest itself? Is this measure of a child’s mental capacity fixed, or can it be adapted? Some say it’s the play of genes. Others claim experience and environment can nurture or stunt its full expression. Parents, of course, relate intelligence to scholastic ability only. The 3Rs of reading, writing, and arithmetic is the only barometer of a child’s accomplishments, in their opinion.
That age-old belief is now being challenged. The new school believes that there’s no child who is totally smart or totally dull. What needs to be explored are the natural talents of a child and how best these can be tapped. One way to go about discovering this is by changing the focus from how smart your child is to ‘how’ is your child smart. Call on your child’s strengths. Discover where your child’s aptitude lies and then start building upon it.
Integrating different activities can also help a child learn fast. Research now talks about seven kinds of abilities or intelligence. They feel that every child has different proportions of these abilities. These are:
Linguistic: The capacity to use language, to communicate your own thoughts as well as to understand other people’s. Poets, lawyers, and writers all fall under this category.
Logical-Mathematical: Children endowed with this kind of intelligence are blessed with logical thinking and can manipulate the numbers of quantities.
Spatial Intelligence: It defines the way a child perceives his visual or spatial world. Sailors, navigators, painters, and sculptors are all high on spatial intelligence.
Bodily-Kinesthetic: It is the ability to use the whole body or parts of the body to solve a problem or to create and produce something. Dancers and actors fall under this category.
Musical: It is the capacity to appreciate music, to be able to hear patterns, to recognize and to remember them. Some of the famous singers like Mozart had this talent.
Interpersonal: An understanding of other people. This is an ability we all need, but teachers, bureaucrats, salespersons are more skillful in this. Anybody who deals with other people has to be high on interpersonal intelligence.
Intrapersonal: This refers to an understanding of oneself, one’s perceptions, reactions, and expectations. In a nutshell, evaluating one’s strengths/ weaknesses or successes/ failures. Mastering yourself as you become your own judge.
Naturalistic: This is the human ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as be sensitive to other features of the natural world (rocks, clouds). Geologists and botanists are central in such roles.
Parents often fear that if the child is not good at Maths, he cannot be a product for the IITs and IIMs. But little do they realize that every child is a natural mathematician, always counting and comparing sizes and shapes. Recognize what your child is good at. Every child is gifted. Afterall, IQ is nothing but an ability that can be taught through an enriched environment.
Every child can learn. Remember, you as a parent are responsible for helping your child develop these talents. Learning is not fixed, but it develops as a child grows. So, offer this adventure of freedom and experimentation to your child in this Age of Informatics.
Dr. Anupriya Chada, National Programme Manager, Inclusive Education, Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled.