The Spelling Bee Whiz

031312_an_spelling_640Confession. When Steve and I watch the National Spelling Bee contest, we often play the game "Spot the Autistic Kid." 

A six-year old has qualified for the National Spelling Bee this year. She's the youngest contestant ever. She was too smart for a gifted and talented school, so she is homeschooled. She hit all her milestones early and was reading at age 2. (Ian read at three, btw. How do you spell hyperlexia?) The little girl is actually a little annoying, and there's already a backlash against the kid

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9 thoughts on “The Spelling Bee Whiz

  1. The line in the interview about how she trounced the competition at the two year playgroup and left them in the dust made me want to throw up a little. The thing is, the reporter wasn’t there which suggests that Mommy made sure to tell the reporter how her daughter always trounced the competition at playgroup. I’m really glad I wasn’t in that playgroup, since I don’t actually think playgroups should be about competitions — they should be about playing. Mommy sounds like a piece of work.
    Also, I wonder if the director of the extremely gifted preschool really said “Your daughter is much too brilliant to be in with mere peons like us.” or whether he said something along the lines of “You and your daughter might be happier elsewhere ” — which also translates as “Go away. You’re annoying.” Sometimes us non-Southerners take something as a compliment when actually a deft Southern person has just insulted us.
    My first thought was also hyperlexia — though the kid does sound well-adjusted if braggy and annoying. (We also play “spot the autistic kid” at the spelling bee and I am also looking forward to seeing this kid in action).

  2. “We also play “spot the autistic kid” at the spelling bee and I am also looking forward to seeing this kid in action”
    Me too. And, an added bonus is watching the “style” reporters who are assigned these stories (and are on the opposite end of whatever spectrum we’re talking about) try to talk with the kid with autism. As someone who lands around in the middle of that spectrum, I’m always truck by how different both of the people I’m watching are from me.
    You can play this game with Intel science fair winners, too.
    Oh, and read the NYT article by a (now) writer who was eliminated on the first word in a spelling bee 17 years ago (she’s a non-autistic spelling bee contestant).
    (but, I don’t think the six year old is autistic, just a coddled and smart six year old.)

  3. There’s always a backlash about stories like this one; the story is the problem, not the kid participating in the bee (which she seems like she’ll quite enjoy), in the same way that Tara Lipinsky (15 year old gold medalist in 1998) enjoyed the Olympics.

  4. “How can you not be a little annoying when you are that out of step with your peers?”
    Well, you can not expect the world to revolve around you. That’s I think one of the biggest skills kids evolve as they grow older (and, one wouldn’t expect a six-year-old to have it yet), but if you’re generally bright, part of what you learn to reign in is the six-year-oldness as well as showing off the skills.
    You’re still going to annoy some people (for example, the people who think children should be seen but not heard or 10 year olds who just can’t do what you can do — or their parents), but you’ll annoy fewer of them.
    There’s a difference between showing off and showing what you can do, and that’s what you try to teach extraordinary kids.

  5. bj – I was a bit harsh – I was on my way out the door. What I really meant to say was that it must be a challenge to be both a kid and into kid-type things while also having this other gift that very few kids can relate to. Makes it a little hard on the playground.
    So you have the social skills/interests of a child with an exceptional talent. It would take some skillful parenting to ensure that a super gifted child finds his/her “tribe” and isn’t isolated. Also that they aren’t treated older than they are despite the intellectual gift.
    I wonder if homeschooling IS the best thing and if regular school plus gifted enrichment would be better.

  6. What Louisa said.
    Parental ego can play a large role for gifted children. This child has been attending spelling bees since she was 3? Why?
    Also, no six-year old should be talking to the media. The parents had to consent. They obviously consented, and gave the reporters extended access to their daughter. What the what?? This is Toddlers & Tiaras–Spelling Bee Edition.

  7. Yah, clearly there’s a bit of media-courting going on. OTOH, it may be that this kid attracts attention for the rest of her life and her folks are giving her a chance to grow into dealing?
    I dunno. I always wind up thinking how grateful I am that my kids were pretty damned smart but not quite that precocious. It was hard enough finding playmates when my eldest got interested in chess years before kids his age wanted to play.
    When the asynchrony is as severe as it is for this kid, it really does start to resemble disability. Social skills have to be developed among other people, but who the heck does a six-year-old connect with to discuss literature written for people who have twice her time on the planet?

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