Why do bright children make poor decisions and get into trouble?
In my Speech Pathology practice I frequently meet children who are brought along because they are not achieving their potential at school. They have often had psychology assessments that have shown that they are bright kids. But in real life they are just not functioning well.
All the language assessments can show that they have good skills in comprehension, following instructions and remembering what they hear.
So why do they often get things wrong at school and get into trouble with teachers and at home? Usually the children can not explain their choices or behavior or lack of action. Parents are looking for answers.
So the next area I usually look at is the ability to answer questions that involve inferential reasoning. I use an assessment tool called "Test of Problem Solving", commonly known as TOPS. This test presents a child with a series of situation pictures involving other children. They are then asked a series of questions about each situation.
The answers to the questions rate a child's ability to answer questions that involve:
· Explainingferences (for example, How do you know the boy is sick?). This skill is needed if children are going to be able to gather evidence, understand implications, realize what a situation is likely to mean or explain their own behavior. It is also crucial for answering written questions about texts at school. If this skill is not developed children miss information, miss the main point of what they see or hear and do not understand non-literal speech such as sarcasm, jokes or figures of speech. They can misjudge other people's actions or intentions.
· Sequencing (for example, What will the dad do next?) This skill allows people to learn to plan and organize and to do tasks logically without missing out vital steps. It also ensures that children can orient their listener and tell a story that makes sense to others, rather than just launching into the middle of a story without saying when or where it happens.
· Negative questions (for example, Why would not you shake his hand now?) Negative questions use more complex language than Why questions, and need a change of perspective to understand. People around us use these types of questions consistently (Why do not ..?. Why should not …?)
· Understanding causes (for example, What might have caused the lights in the building to go out?) Children who do not see how they got into a difficult situation often can not explain causes. So they are illegally to learn from their mistakes. They will have difficulty answering school topics that involve, say, History or English, where they need to analyze what lead to certain events.
· Suggesting solutions (for example, What could the girl do the next day?) Some children find themselves in tricky situations and only make things worse, because they can not work out the best thing to do in the circumstances. Children (and all of us!) Need to be able to evaluate a range of solutions and choose the one that will make things better, or at least stay the same, not worse.
· Preventing problems (for example, What could these children do to prevent germs from spreading in their classroom?) Often the answers to these types of questions involve children having some knowledge about the world and then being able to generalize it and apply that knowledge to specific situations. Children that do not understand about preventing problems, of course, end up in trouble frequently.
If your child has any of the difficulties discussed in this article, it is probably worth while not to simply assume that they are naughty. This may be the case, but check out whether or not they can answer these types of questions first. Behavior management strategies may need to be put into place, but if the unchanged reasons for the poor choices are not fixed then, in the long term, little is going to change.
Academically a child may progress much faster if these inferential reasoning skills are working well for them.