Pro­fes­sor Joan Free­man has ad­vice for par­ents of child ge­niuses: for their ben­e­fit, let them grow up in their own time

The Jewish Chronicle - - PEOPLE -

CHIL­DREN WHO are ac­cel­er­ated be­yond their year group at school are likely to ex­pe­ri­ence so­cial prob­lems later on in life, ac­cord­ing to the psy­chol­o­gist Joan Free­man.

Pro­fes­sor Free­man has spent more than 30 years re­search­ing gifted chil­dren, and Chan­nel 4 has just been high­light­ing her work. She was also re­cently given a life­time achieve­ment award by the Bri­tish Psy­cho­log­i­cal So­ci­ety.

She be­lieves that, un­less there is no other op­tion, chil­dren should not be moved up be­yond their age peers. “It causes so­cial prob­lems which are not al­ways ap­par­ent in child­hood but which can emerge in adult­hood,” she tells the JC. “Peo­ple of­ten feel they have lost pre­cious child­hood years when they could have de­vel­oped them­selves in other ways, in­stead of just study­ing in a rel­a­tively nar­row school area.

“The trou­ble is that once the move to ac­cel­er­ate has been made, it is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to go back.” Mov­ing a child up a class at five may ap­pear harm­less, but the ef­fects may be seen at 16.

A visit­ing pro­fes­sor at Mid­dle­sex Univer­sity, Lon­don, Pro­fes­sor Free­man has been re­search­ing gifted chil­dren since 1974.

Some of her find­ings were shown on last week’s Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary Child Ge­nius, the first of a two-part se­ries which tracks the lives of ten gifted chil­dren. She ad­vises the gov­ern­ment on ed­u­ca­tion and claims to be the first wit­ness to the Par­lia­men­tary Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Ed­u­ca­tion and Em­ploy­ment. Child Ge­nius (part two) is on Chan­nel 4 on Wed­nes­day April 23 at 9pm

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