Your Mini Professor and their "Meltdowns"
What is "asynchronous" development? How does it affect your child?
Do you or others struggle to understand how your child can do amazing academic tasks like name all the anatomical parts of a tomato plant, or explain life in the Paleozoic era, then a few minutes later they are throwing their shoes at the wall because you opened their cheese stick the wrong way? If your child has some amazing gifts in one area of development, but seem to act their chronological age or younger in physical, emotional, academic, or social areas, we call this "asynchrony".
Asynchrony means that the child is growing "out of sync". This is often something that they will even out in by the time they are fully mature, but it can often mean that they need a little extra support to help that happen.
When a child is academically or emotionally advanced, life can be filled with extra stressors that other children are not as aware of. Sometimes they are exposed to topics that are deeper than their emotional understanding or mental abilities, and this can create a lot of confusion and upset. For example, sometimes children who are gifted readers may read stories that they are not emotionally ready to handle, or understand difficult topics from listening to adults or watching TV that would typically go right over a friend or siblings head. Having more stress means needing more coping skills. It also means that the child may need to grasp other topics ahead of their age such as knowing when to ask for help, or needing reminders with organization and time management because they get "lost" in the flow of their work.
Being physically behind their mental ability can also be frustrating. Imagine if you understood the mechanics of riding a bicycle, but every time you tried you fell over because you did not have the physical strength or dexterity. One example I can give of this is a child that is an excellent "back seat driver." From their car seat in the back they could list every road rule, what every sign meant, how to handle getting on an off the interstate. On paper, they could pass a driver's test. It was cool to see that capability, but this child was not physically ready to be a driver, and they certainly were not skilled with the ability to focus in a manner suited for driving. It would be inappropriate to let a child try to drive a car. Many "meltdowns" ensued because Mom and Dad said, "You cannot drive the car." To that child, this was just chaos. They knew what they were doing and they wanted to do it, but everyone was limiting them. Some of the solution was waiting until the child became old enough to understand that there is a legal system that enforces these things and the law has set an age. Some of it was multiple conversations about growth mindset. A lot of it was learning how to manage emotions of frustration with some help from their grown-ups.
Sometimes as the adults we need to re-adjust our expectations. If an 8 year old who "should know better" is still behaving like they are 8 years old - it is because not ALL of their development is advanced, and it is our expectations that are too high.
So as a parent, what can you do to help with asynchrous development?
1. Recognize that when they are acting out it is important to provide support or discipline that is appropriate for their emotional age.
2. Remember that being out-of-sync in their development can create more stress due to trying to understand or control upsetting and confusing topics.
3. Encourage your child to have several different friends in and outside of school. When a child's development is out-of-sync, sometimes it can be difficult to relate to peers in more than one area. Having a friend they can talk with at an academic level or have a shared strong interest, a friend they can play with close in physical skill, and a friend that they can relate to emotionally can help reduce feelings of isolation or difference.
4. Remember this is usually something that will even out as they age, especially with the right supports and encouragement.
5. It takes a village. If you are noticing signs of depression or anxiety, difficulty with making or keeping friends that are becoming upsetting to your child, or noticing that one or more developmental areas seems to be getting further behind their chronological age, seeking an evaluation can provide additional understanding and be able to open doors for therapy such as mental health therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, or school supports to encourage healthy development.
6. No two children are exactly alike, and what has worked wonderfully for one child may not always work for another. If the stress or confusion of figuring out how to connect with your child and help meet their needs is weighing on you, therapy to work on exploring different stress management and parenting styles can help.
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