Young, Gifted and Black: High IQ 6-Year-Old Suspended Twice

There's more to giftedness than just being smart

Isaiah Kasoga - Young, Gifted and Black seriesSix-year-old Isaiah of Waterford, Michigan, taught himself to read before he was 2 years old.

At 6, he reads books for fifth and sixth graders and does math on a fourth grade level. But not unlike many accelerated learners, Isaiah is having a tough time in school.

“He is my first child,” says Asha Kasoga, his mother. “I didn’t know anything about child development. It wasn’t until he went to daycare at 21 months and his teacher mentioned to me that he might be gifted that I learned he wasn’t like other kids.”

[Related: Supporting Your Gifted Child With or Without the ‘Gifted’ Label]

As a toddler, little Isaiah was captivated by the power of language and would spend hours playing with letters and words. He would point them out wherever he went, and could sound out and read big words like elephant and rhinoceros. His daycare teacher, who was white, thought he might be gifted and suggested testing to Kasoga. His IQ falls within the gifted range.

As Kasoga began reading up about giftedness, she learned that accelerated learning is about more than just being ‘smart.’ Gifted children can be hypersensitive and intense. Many develop asynchronously.

For example, Isaiah will watch science programs on TV for hours—and write pages of copious notes. “But he will also throw a temper tantrum like a 2-year-old,” Kasoga says.

Donna Y. Ford, an expert on accelerated learners of color, is familiar with children like Isaiah. “Asynchrony is the term used to describe the mismatch between cognitive, emotional, and physical development of gifted individuals. Asynchronous development is viewed as a major hallmark of giftedness. The more extreme the intellectual advancement, the more extreme the asynchrony.”

Although Kasoga understands her son’s needs, the charter school he attends is unenlightened. His kindergarten teacher worked with him individually to give him the challenging work he needed; however, his first-grade teacher is taking a disastrous approach.

“She said she wanted to focus on his social and emotional development, and since he was already ahead we didn’t have to worry about his academic work.”

Predictably, his behavior has deteriorated—“because he’s bored,” his mother says—and the school wants to have him labeled emotionally impaired.

Kasoga says the school has sent home fourth grade worksheets as a way of providing “enrichment”—without any explanation. “Of course he doesn’t know what the rising and falling action of a story is—because no one has taught him.”

The school has also sent Isaiah home—the 6-year-old has been suspended twice.

Too few teachers are trained in gifted education, says Ford, a professor of education and human development at Vanderbilt University. Unfortunately, Michigan doesn’t fund gifted education. To truly obtain such services, Kasoga would have to send her son to private school.

She is planning to apply for a scholarship to one near her home.

For more about being young, gifted and black, see the other posts in the series on the BE Smart website.

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  • Veronica Cohen-Thomas

    Good she is removing him. I pray for them both to be treated with dignity and fairly. Anything to keep our children down. The school system is known to put our black boys in special Ed or suspended them frequently. The teacher is not there as a counselor, but to teach. It sound like racism to me, and I’m not surprised.

  • CandyG76

    Already establishing the pattern so many minorities encounter — white people don’t know what to do with us so they exclude, separate, lock us up and tag a label that follows us forever

    • Stratcat

      Looking back at history, the KKK and the treatment of blacks, in this country, was disgusting! The fact that people were treated that way makes my stomach turn. That said, no one in my generation has done any of those things. My family came here from Italy in the 1960s. None of them owned slaves, oppressed anyone. I do not feel that I have wronged black people, nor do I feel that I owe them anything for the past that they suffered at the hands of others before I was born.

      • CandyG76

        Where are the history books that show you that blacks stole whites from England & enslaved them, sold their kids, made it illegal for them to read/write own property, kill them for wanting to be free? Where are the documents from when whites were lynched by blacks, beaten, jailed, killed for protesting their treatment after being set free? What laws and acts were put in place to try to keep blacks from discriminating in their hiring practices, living accommodations, education opportunities against whites? I could go on but why?

    • Sherri Hurt

      No Assumptions here that is fact. I see it all the time in my position at a major school district. the truth is not only do black students get punished more for he same thing white students do. BLACK adults do as well. You will NEVER see the truth for what it is. why because then you will see that you are no better then any black man, woman or child. I see your clearly bias racists attitude as a factor that would make you LESS!!!! Much less!!!!!

      • Sherri Hurt

        I’m Stupid? ok I’d rather be stupid then living in my very own personal ignorance like you clearly are. If thinking and being to simple to be educated is what you think is smart? Stupid looks good to me. smh

        • Joey

          I shouldn’t have said stupid but its dumb to believe that this is because of racism. Everyone knows black kids act up more, its a stereotype for a reason. Black kids get made fun of by other Black kids for “acting White” for christ sake, that should tell you something.

          • Sherri Hurt

            No I don’t know that black kids act up more. What I do know is that it is reported MORE and punished to a greater extent when a black child and a white child do the same thing! That’s with kids and adults. perfect example. White teen drives drunk and KILLS 4 people and is give probation. Black kid drive drunk kills 4? What do you honestly think would be his punishment? Be honest now.

  • s k

    Sometimes smart kids get cocky. Any race, any color, any color…its something they have to work through…

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