Mensa Kids Can Face Difficulty Finding Right School

PHOTO: The Wilson sisters are the first African-American triplets to be accepted into the MENSA society.
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Victoria, Elizabeth and Kate Wilson share more than just their DNA. The 9-year-old triplets have also all qualified to join Mensa, the exclusive high IQ society.

The sisters scored within the top 2 percent on a designated IQ test, allowing them entry into Mensa. As they approach their next birthday, their parents are considering how to get them into the right education program. The family recently moved to New Jersey from Florida. Jeffrey Wilson, the girls' father, told WABC-TV, ABC's New York station, that moving near the Florham Park area of the Garden State would give the girls greater access to better schools.

"As they approach 10 years old, this could be a place where they continue to blossom," Wilson told WABC-TV.

Although the girls haven't graduated to double-digit birthday candles yet, they are hardly the youngest kids to qualify for Mensa. Last spring a kindergartner named Gus Dorman from St. Louis was allowed entry into Mensa after he was found to have an IQ of 147. According to Mensa, approximately 3,400 members are under 18 and the youngest member is 2 years old.

The organization even launched a Mensa for Kids website, where parents and teachers can download free lesson plans or look up other activities for gifted children.

Victoria Liguez, the marketing manager for the American branch of Mensa, said by allowing children into the organization Mensa officials hoped to offer gifted young people education materials tailored to their talents.

Kindergartner Becomes Mensa Member

"If you've got a smart kid you don't want them to be bored," said Liguez. "We want all children to be engaged, especially the smart ones."

But finding the right education for gifted students can be a problem, even if their IQs are off the charts, according to experts.

Dr. Gene Beresin, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University and director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Training at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that a high IQ did not guarantee success in school.

"The high IQ kids get less positive education because teachers have to spend so much time with kids who need help or kids who are disruptive," said Beresin.

Gus Dorman, who was 5 when he was admitted to Mensa, started to have problems as soon as he started school, according to his father, Robert Dorman, who said his son became restless at being taught things he already knew.

"He goes to kindergarten, and he likes going to school, [but] he gets in trouble," said Dorman. "He really has a hard time sitting there and listening to low-concept stories, because he's used to being able to ask questions and do research."

Mensa Offers Free IQ Tests, Brain Tips

Without the possibility of sending Gus to a school for the gifted, Dorman planned on using online courses to supplement Gus' education.

"As parents we're lost," said Dorman. "I don't think homeschooling is the way to go. He needs the camaraderie in the social portion of school. The books are one thing, but you have to have the social part too."

Mensa's gifted youth section of its website advises parents on how to deal with gifted children who misbehave in school, and also offers help on homeschooling and how to find gifted programs.

Beresin also said that having a high general IQ can mean very little when it comes to school performance. "[Kids] can have a very high IQ and have dyslexia, [or] have slow processing speed and it takes a longer timer to process information. Those kids get very frustrated," said Beresin.

Additionally, Beresin said that some children can score very low on the verbal portion of the test but score very high overall. As a result they may excel in math or science and fail in English, or when writing an essay. Beresin said some people can have high IQs and almost no emotional intelligence, and he has even seen colleagues at Harvard become completely incapacitated from seemingly "normal" interactions with co-workers.

"Some people have to be taught like a fifth grader, 'Don't' interrupt meetings. Don't bring your science journals to a meeting, don't interrupt the chairman,'" said Beresin. "You can have a natural gift, but if you can't do anything with that gift what's the point?"

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