\u201cNathan loves words, numbers and flags,\u201d says his father Philip Tan. \u201cHe often says his brain is 70% words, 30% numbers.\u201d Nathan Tan may only be a kid at 6 years old, but his vocabulary is so vast he may be able to beat the dictionary any day. Not only that, he knows the order of letters that form words so well he can easily rearrange them into another word to make anagrams\u2014which explains why he loves Scrabble. In fact, Nathan was recently the youngest competitor at an international Scrabble tournament competing in the under-12 category, and did exceedingly well. Describing his son's love for words, Philip says Nathan is a logophile. Not only that, the little boy also has a strong sense of numbers. \u201cHe learned many Math concepts on his own, knows the multiplication table up to 12 and is able to square numbers up to 30,\u201d says Philip. Which 6-year-old loves to read dictionaries? This 6-year-old called Nathan Tan does! Nathan is the third gifted child in our series on gifted children. Motherhood speaks to his father to gain deeper insight into the workings of the minds of gifted children and to learn more about Nathan's uniqueness. Understanding Giftedness Through Nathan Tan 1.Motherhood: Please introduce Nathan as well as yourself and your family. Nathan\u2019s family \u2500 (Clockwise from top) Philip, Siow Yen, Nathan, Lauren and Shannon. Nathan\u2019s Father: I'm an executive director for an international bank in the field of Data Management. Siow Yen, Nathan\u2019s mum, was previously an IT consultant and project manager. In 2014, she decided to take on the calling as a stay-at-home mum to meet the needs of the family. Nathan is our youngest child (6 years old). We also have two daughters, Shannon (11 years old) and Lauren (9 years old). 2.Motherhood: Are you and your wife Mensa members, too? Nathan\u2019s Father: I\u2019ve been a Mensa member since 2020. Yen (my wife) has not done the Mensa admission test yet. I'm still quite new to the society. My main goal was to understand what resources and help that are available for gifted young children in our country. Through the Mensa resources available, I've since gained a fair bit of understanding of gifted children. I've been quite active in the Gifted Youth Special Interest Group building awareness on giftedness and creating a parent support group ecosystem. 3. Motherhood: How did it all begin for both of you as parents of Nathan? When did you first realise there was something different about him? Nathan loves solving puzzles in the form of words and numbers. Making anagrams out of words is one of his favourite activities. He approaches numbers in the same way. Nathan\u2019s Father: Nathan has an insatiable need for knowledge even during his early childhood years. He mastered alphabets and numbers to more than 20 before the age of 2, mainly through reading books and asking questions. \tIndependence: Since young, he showed a high level of independence. By 18 months, he was already able to self-feed with a spoon. He is opinionated and takes convincing to change his mind. \tLinguistic precocity: Began reciting Chinese poems at 3 years old. He could recognise more than 100 Chinese characters by age 4. Chinese Tangshi Recital https:\/\/youtu.be\/k4KAryqed9M \tInquisitive: We recall Nathan's preschool teacher telling us that during class, children were taught about plastics. Most of the children just accepted plastic as a material, but Nathan continued to ask where plastic come from, which eventually led the teachers to explain the origin of oil, exploration and extraction of crude oil, and so on. When he came home that day, we remember he told us all about oil and gas! 4.Motherhood: By now, you would have read up a few things about giftedness. How did you feel when you first noticed Nathan showing the signs of giftedness? Recognising 100 Chinese Characters by Age 4 https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v3ZoOxaMMkDw&listPL29Hi9nLQM0t9kV5jbuAaL_MFEaKD-xVa&index2 Nathan\u2019s Father: First of all, there is no one definition of giftedness, but here's one that we think makes a lot of sense (From Understanding Your Gifted Child From The Inside Out by James R. Deslisle, Ph.D): \tTalent invokes the idea of demonstrable skills in a specific domain, like Math or soccer or dance. High academic achievers exhibit many of their talents through the curriculum that is offered to them, and we often identify children with these attributes for inclusion in gifted programs. \tGiftedness is an innate ability to both detect and comprehend the world in complex ways that differ significantly from age-expected norms. High academic achievement may or may not be present, but a lack of academic success does not "disqualify" one from being seen as gifted. In other words, a gifted child often has the ability to understand concepts ahead of their age expectation. A big notion that we learned is about overexcitabilities: Overexcitabilities are inborn intensities indicating a heightened ability to respond to stimuli. We recall that whenever we played sentimental pieces on the piano, Nathan's tears would well up in his eyes. Often he would ask us not to play the music as they are \u201csad\u201d to him. This meant that we had to take extra notice of his emotional sensing. This is his Emotional OE*. *Emotional OE is characterised by heightened, intense feelings, extreme experience of complex emotions, identification with others' feelings to the point of actual experience and strong sentimental expression. Nathan's inquisitiveness and ability to absorb new knowledge is a sign of his intellectual OE. He is constantly asking questions, never satisfied with simple responses and would continue to pursue the \u201cwhy\u201d and \u201chow\u201d to at least three to four levels further. "It\u2019s a feat to satisfy Nathan\u2019s inquisitiveness. Having intellectual overexcitability means that Nathan asks 'Why?' all the time, not satisfied with simple answers and gets bored easily when learning is not stimulating enough." ~ Philip Tan ~ How did we feel? To be honest, we saw this from the onset so we didn't really feel too different. As parents, we are conscious that all children are different and we have not intentionally compared Nathan with other children or his older sisters. What really changed our course was during the MCO in 2020 where Yen needed to be by Nathan's side during online classes. 5.Motherhood: So Nathan is now attending school? How is he doing? Are there schools for gifted young children in Malaysia? Nathan Names All the Flags of the Countries in the World https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?vgAvlkdDehRY&listPL29Hi9nLQM0t9kV5jbuAaL_MFEaKD-xVa&index4 Nathan\u2019s Father: During the period of online schooling in 2020, Nathan constantly complained of being bored at school. We knew he was advanced in his learning, so we started to give him more advanced materials such as year 1-2 Mathematics to satisfy his learning needs. By chance, we gave him a box of country facts and flag cards. In just a few weeks we realised he had memorised all the 196 countries in the world. And in the next few weeks, he could recall all the flags of these countries vividly. Eventually we decided to have an intelligence assessment done by a clinical psychologist and the result showed he has an \u201cextremely high\u201d full scale IQ score. There is very limited educational support for gifted children especially at preschool or even at primary school. Therefore the awareness of parents and communication with the school is crucial. We are blessed in the sense that the preschool Nathan went to was new in the neighbourhood when he first attended at 4. That meant that he received a lot of face time and attention from the teachers. By 5 years old, the teachers realised he was far more advanced than his classmates, and would often give him additional materials to keep him occupied\/stimulated. The school saw his cognitive advancement (even awarded him a \u201chuman calculator\u201d award at 5 years old; but at the same time recognised that he has his emotional needs and would take the time out to encourage him to speak out and interact with other children. This is why awareness on giftedness is crucial to champion the needs for this group of children. 6.Motherhood: Can you give examples of some of his word or Mathematical skills? Nathan Doubling Numbers from 2 to 16,777, 216 https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v-_SgWzpakR4&listPL29Hi9nLQM0t9kV5jbuAaL_MFEaKD-xVa&index4 \u201cHe loves words and numbers. For example, midway in a conversation, if you say the word \u2018CONVERSATION\u2019, he will tell you it\u2019s an anagram of \u2018CONSERVATION\u2019.\u201d ~ Philip Tan ~ 7.Motherhood: How many competitions have you sent him in for? How do you keep continually satisfying his need for learning? It\u2019s not all reading and Math for Nathan. Just like any other child his age, he loves to play and leads an active lifestyle. Nathan\u2019s Father: Just like other boys of his age, he is active and likes to run around. He enjoys scooting outdoors; during the MCO period he learnt how to cycle. \tScrabble: Nathan found a new interest at the beginning of this year: Scrabble. As a 6-year-old, he started scoring 250+ per game initially and swiftly hit the 300 points mark. With guidance from a friend (who is Malaysia's own World Scrabble Champion) we have enrolled him in Scrabble tournaments. In his first tournament in May 2021, he was the youngest (at 6 years old) competing in the under-12 category and finished at the top 10% amongst all other players between 7 to 17 years old. As he is still new to the game, we believe he has a huge potential to develop further, hopefully one day to represent Malaysia in the World Youth Scrabble Competition. For now, the main goal of scrabble is really for him to continue to grow his love of words, learn about resilience (how to handle failure and losses) and persistency (competitive scrabble requires a serious player to know no less than 80,000-100,000 words). 8.Motherhood: What's a day in the life of Nathan like? Nathan\u2019s \u2018Go Green\u2019 Project \u2500 Awarded Best Project https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?vIuLH1MK8AHI&listPL29Hi9nLQM0t9kV5jbuAaL_MFEaKD-xVa&index3 Nathan\u2019s Father: We have withdrawn Nathan from pre-school to meet his learning needs. Currently, Yen is the de-facto teacher and coaches Nathan in his English, Science, Bahasa while we engaged a Mandarin teacher to provide Mandarin tutoring twice a week. AM: Wakes up at 8:15 AM on his own, he will wash-up and get dressed; eats breakfast, and starts home school for first half of the day. PM: Lunch is usually around 12:30 PM; in the afternoon he will do an online Math programme (BeastAcademy.com) on his own for 60 to 90 min and is currently doing Grade 3 Mathematics. In the evening, we usually get time for scooting\/cycling\/evening walks around the neighbourhood. On certain nights, Nathan gets Mandarin tutorial (through Zoom), Scrabble night with his peers, and watches TV. Usually by 10 PM he will be in bed. 9.Motherhood: Can you give more examples of the feats he has surprised you with? Nathan holding up one of his favourite things \u2500 flags of the world. Gifted children have a keen sense of observation and extraordinary memory. Nathan\u2019s Father: \tHuge Vocabulary - TAENIAE (means a flat ribbon-like structure in the body; also means tape worm in mammal's body). Nate saw this word in a scrabble match online, and played the same word in one of the tournaments. - GESHUNDEIT (German word used to wish good health to a person who has just sneezed). - tattarrattat (this is the longest palindrome, which means \u201ca knock at the door\u201d. - Longest word without repetition of alphabets: DERMATOGLYPHICS, UNCOPYWRITABLE \tNumbers Nathan is able to do big number additions beyond his age expectations. We taught him the concept of doubling (e.g. 1+1 2; 2+2 4, and so on) at age 5. Once he grasped hold of the concept, he was able to double numbers all the way until he reached an eight digit number. \tObservation Recently while watching the Summer Olympics games, Nathan spotted a country flag that was wrongly oriented. 10.Motherhood: As parents, what are your feelings about having such a gift? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by responsibility or uncertain about how you will nurture this tremendous yet sensitive gift? Nathan\u2019s Father: Gifted children often have asynchronous development. While certain areas of his cognitive development are more advanced than his peers, Nathan is still a child at heart and often needs help to regulate his emotions. Due to the perfectionist nature, at times he is not willing to try new things (unless he thinks he can master those areas), or gets frustrated easily when he gets something wrong. These cognitive and emotional development needs are often not met by the standard education system. As parents we needed to equip ourselves to understand the needs of gifted children, advocate for them, and also for them to learn to advocate for themselves. \u201cFor us, the key message is 1) Gifted children are children first, gifted second, 2) Gifted does not equate high performance and, 3) They have many emotional and social development needs often overlooked once they are tagged as \u2018genius\u2019.\u201d \u223cPhilip Tan\u223c One of the most important points we've been stressing is that being a gifted child does not equate with being outstanding in all areas. We need to help people around Nathan understand that so they do not apply undue pressure or place undue expectations on them (for example, "oh, how come he can't speak up well? I thought he's gifted?" or "If the child is really gifted then he\/she shouldn't need help.", and so on). What is key to us is to ensure Nathan is still being seen as a child at his physiological age so that he is given the right space to develop emotional needs, social skills, self-care skills, but also given the right intellectual stimuli and development appropriate to his cognitive capability. \tSchooling: Nathan will be entering Year 1 next year. We are blessed to have found a school which is open to embracing Nate's giftedness and would consider implementing some experimental acceleration programme. Teachers are being equipped on the needs of gifted children and we see very reassuring commitment by the principal. This is not to be taken for granted as the needs for gifted children are generally not catered to. Very often, gifted children and high-performing children are often asked to \u201cwait\u201d for the rest of the class. This may eventually dull their enthusiasm to learn and eventually cause them to lose their lustre. For more about Nathan, Journey with Nate\u2026 On YouTube: https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/playlist?listPL29Hi9nLQM0t9kV5jbuAaL_MFEaKD-xVa On Instagram: https:\/\/www.instagram.com\/journey_with_nate\/ If any parent would like to know more about gifted children or if they recognise giftedness in their own children but are not sure about how to go forward, do give Philip and Siow Yen a DM on Instagram and they would be most happy to answer your questions. *All Images and Videos courtesy of Philip Tan For more insight on gifted children, don\u2019t forget to read about Hana Safiyya bt Hafez Rachwan, Piersce Ong and the Malaysian Mensa Society on Motherhood.com.my.