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Is your child a class clown? A smart kid who has difficulty making friends? Mine was one in first grade, and I couldn’t figure out why.

When his teacher told me about this behavior during a parent-teacher conference, I was shocked. He hadn’t acted like that the year before. (I even asked his kindergarten teacher to make sure.)

And when I Googled “class clown,” all I could find were stories explaining how class clowns either have ADHD or their parents are alcoholics. Um, seriously? Neither of those explanations fit.

More than two years later, I finally learned another reason for these antics.

Sound familiar?

Before I explain the reason, read the traits below and see if they apply to your child:

  • advanced vocabulary for his age
  • unusual interests for his age (subjects that normally would be more interesting to older kids or adults)
  • intense inquisitiveness, to the point where the seemingly constant stream of questions exhausts you
  • excellent memory
  • more comfortable interacting with adults than other kids (this may not be obvious if he’s an extrovert and really wants to connect with peers)
  • allergies and/or asthma
  • level of imagination or creativity well beyond his age

Did you answer a resounding “yes” to most, or all, of these traits? If so, I have news for you. Your child may be “gifted.”

Um, what?

If you’re like me, that word made my head spin. I thought the therapist who suggested the possibility must have it wrong.

Yes, my son was smart; quite smart, actually. But gifted?

I’m telling you though, friend, there are a lot of myths out there. And if the clown is your oldest child, you may not know what is (and isn’t) typical for his age.

Just because he’s reaching all the age-related milestones you hear about, doesn’t mean his progress is “normal.”

Little-known facts

When it comes to the intersection of class-clown behavior and giftedness, there are several things to know:

For starters, not all gifted children (I call them kite kids) are introverts; some are very sociable and crave interaction. They may try to connect with peers, but have difficulty doing so because of differences in vocabulary or interests.

Extroverted gifted children who experience this may then try a different tactic – humor. This approach may fail too, though, because their senses of humor can be similar to kids two to three years older (or more). In other words, their age mates may not “get” what’s funny.

The whole dynamic can leave parents and teachers scratching their heads – and the child feeling lonely, misunderstood and desperate.

Another piece of the class-clown/giftedness puzzle can relate to educational fit. According to a research article by licensed clinical child psychologist and special needs expert Maureen Neihart, many kite kids already know 60-75% of the material they’ll be “taught” in a given year. After a while, this can feel torturous – especially because kite kids crave new information. One way some deal with this is to create other ways to entertain themselves. (Enter “class clown” behavior.)

I realize these are a lot of possible contributors to class-clown behavior, but keep in mind the common link – giftedness.

The good news is that there’s a push in education to offer differentiated learning for lesson plans and activities. At first, teachers feared that offering three versions of each lesson (at grade level, below grade level, and above grade level). That would freak me out, too. Who has time to triple their work load, especially when they’re already juggling dozens of kids, parents and ever-changing teaching mandates?

Thankfully, there’s an increasing number of reasonably-priced, ready-to-print differentiated-learning products and “early finishers” materials designed to prevent that. Yet they help teachers meet each student where he or she is academically.

Teachers Pay Teachers is one great resource. (If you want to help your child’s teacher offset the personal cost of these learning products, Teachers Pay Teachers offers gift cards.) 🙂

Digging deeper

If you answered “yes” to most, or all, of the traits I mentioned at the beginning of this article, consider talking to your child’s teacher, or the school psychologist, about scheduling a full psychological evaluation.

It may reveal giftedness, or perhaps something else. Anything you discover, though, is a step forward. Knowledge is power.

If you want to learn more about giftedness, a great place to start is my Kite Kids 101 page. It’s important to understand the basics first.

Best of luck!