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COLUMN: Don’t give up on the ‘late bloomers’

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by Dr. John Lapp

“Will he/she ever amount to anything?”
This question has been presented many times in my four decades as a professional. The parents address this issue when it appears that their child is not performing up to “standard,” which usually means that the child is not keeping up with classroom expectations.
A word of caution is needed: not all children develop at the same rate of learning and/or mastering certain subjects. And, in fact, some subject material is “boring” when the child has little or no interest, while at the same time other subjects are able to be mastered and success is usually much higher.
It is also important to note that some children who do not perform at what is commonly referred to as “potential” may possibly be “late bloomers” and will eventually catch up and even outperform the expectations.
To illustrate this term, I give you two true examples. A close colleague of mine had twin sons who, at the time, were 16 years old. The first-born twin was more studious and had already made up his mind that he was going to be an orthodontist. He was also of a more serious personality and the quieter of the two.
His brother, although also quite studious, was more fun-loving and more sociable. However, much to the dismay and concern of his parents, he seemed to have no real future plans.
My friend and his wife had wondered, “what will become of him, if anything?” Well, eventually our mutual paths parted as I moved to a southern state, but we kept in touch.
In time I found out that the “late bloomer” had enrolled at a university with the goal of becoming a nuclear scientist. So much for “what will become of him, if anything.”
The second example relates to the second son of four, neither parent having graduated from high school and desiring to see all of their sons succeed.
The first and third sons both entered college the year they graduated from high school. The first son went on to be a hospital pharmacist and eventually the department head of a very large hospital. The third son went on to pursue a career as a high school teacher and eventually an administrator of a large private school.
The second son was evaluated by the school psychologist when he was in middle school to determine his intellectual level because he appeared to be performing much below expectations.
When he (just barely) graduated from high school, he went to work and was employed at a warehouse until he entered the U.S. Marine Corps where he served for six years, three of which on active duty. During this time he also got married.
A full 10 years after finishing high school, he now had two children and was encouraged by his wife to enter studies at a local college. To him, this was laughable, knowing his past history of learning.
Studying at the college level also included being employed full-time and working different shifts. His desire to learn finally began to emerge, and he made the dean’s list several times, and his grade point average was high enough to earn state-funded scholarships to enter graduate studies where he soon earned the equivalent of two master’s degrees and eventually a doctorate degree.
Well, so much again for the second late bloomer. Those degrees were earned while maintaining a full-time job that required a minimum of 40 hours each week (often more), as he was now beginning his professional career as a school psychologist and doing a two-year internship in marriage and family therapy.
Yes, I was that second “late bloomer” who many wondered “will he ever amount to anything?” Maybe I was wondering the same thing.
Parent, grandparents and friends of these children:
Don’t give up on the “late bloomer” who may eventually do well to your surprise.