Special learning 'godsend'

Wanaka woman Kim Nicol says her son Caleb (16), who was identified as being gifted at the age of 4, loves taking things apart to see how they work, which he does regularly in his after-school job at Wanaka Auto Repairs. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Wanaka woman Kim Nicol says her son Caleb (16), who was identified as being gifted at the age of 4, loves taking things apart to see how they work, which he does regularly in his after-school job at Wanaka Auto Repairs. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Having a gifted son was a daunting prospect for Wanaka woman Kim Nicol.

''What the hell do I do with a gifted child? I'm normal,'' was her initial reaction.

More than a decade later, Mrs Nicol says educational programmes specifically tailored for children like Caleb (16), now in year 12 at Mount Aspiring College, have been a godsend.

''At preschool, I thought that I had a very naughty, highly strung child.''

However, Caleb's teachers urged Mrs Nicol to have her then 4-year-old son tested for giftedness, which confirmed what they had suspected. He subsequently joined Wanaka Primary School's One Day School - now known as the Star Programme - for gifted children, before entering the Rutherford Programme at the college.

''[Gifted education] was great for him because he felt more comfortable and I got my head around why I had a left-brained child in a right-brained world, which was pretty much how it felt.

''He went through a long period of kind of feeling different and not wanting to be different so he had to get his head around it, too, about why he did things the way he did.''

Caleb, who indulges his interest in mechanics with an after-school job at Wanaka Auto Repairs, agreed the programmes had been ''awesome'' and had taught him how to manage his differences.

Mrs Nicol had also been given useful coping strategies and had learned to appreciate her son's quirks.

''He is the funniest, most interesting child, which so long as you don't want anything taken to pieces to see how it works, then it's all good.

''He adds a whole different dimension to my life.''