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Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences

June 2013

If your son brings home a report card with “C’s” in math and English, don’t assume that he is unintelligent.  He may be the next LeBron James or Eminem.  Conversely, a student may bring home very high grades in these subjects, but have no ability to get along with his peers, do sports or play music.  His intelligence may be one-dimensional, leaving him isolated in life.

When asked about their child’s intelligence, most parents immediately think about mathematical and verbal abilities, as these are most commonly tested for in school.  However, scientists have identified seven major categories of intelligence.  By understanding these different intelligences, you can help your child develop his or her unique gifts and achieve appropriate vocational and extra-vocational goals.

You have only to think of surgeons, engineers, hunters, fishermen, musicians, dancers, choreographers, athletes, coaches, artists and tribal leaders to realize that each of these roles require different skill sets to solve the unique problems or to fashion the distinctive products that are valued in their settings.  Each skill set is derived from and contains the building blocks of the seven intelligences.  It is important to note that though individuals may differ in their particular intelligence profiles, no single intelligence objectively holds priority over any other. 

Linguistic intelligence is verbal intelligence, exhibited in its fullest form by poets and published authors.  Children who are excited to compete in spelling competitions and are good at them possess high linguistic intelligence.  Logical-mathematical intelligence is as the name implies and includes scientific ability. 

Much of America’s educational testing is based on our society’s high valuation of verbal and mathematical skills.  It is important to remember that if your child happens to perform well in IQ tests and SAT’s, he or she may get into a prestigious college, but whether she does well thereafter will likely depend equally on the extent to which she possesses and uses the remaining intelligences.  They are:

Spatial intelligence, the ability to form a mental model of a spatial world and to maneuver and operate using that model, is found highly developed in, for example, sailors, engineers, surgeons, sculptors, and painters.

Musical intelligence.  From Mozart to the Beatles, any person who loves making music and takes time to become good at it is a candidate for high musical intelligence.

­Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, the ability to solve problems or to fashion products using one’s whole body or parts of the body, is displayed by, for example, dancers, athletes, surgeons, and craftspeople.  Their intelligence is manifested through complicated physical tasks the rest of us simply can’t do.  The exceptional abilities required for the tasks they perform easily eliminate the stereotype of the “dumb jock,” or the “unintelligent artist.”

The last two forms of intelligence are of a personal nature and involve what is commonly known as “emotional intelligence.”  Interpersonal intelligence, the ability to understand other people, what motivates them, how they work and how to work cooperatively with them, is found in successful politicians, teachers, clinicians, and religious leaders.   Intrapersonal intelligence, a correlated ability turned inward, is the capacity to form an accurate model of one’s’ self and to use that model to operate effectively in life.   Know thyself!

 Each child has his or her particular intelligence profile.  Understanding your child’s distinct set of multiple intelligences increases your ability to make informed choices for your young children and to help them make good choices as they grow older.  Through careful observation and loving support, you can help your child understand and develop his or her unique set of intelligences and match him or her with appropriate curricular areas and particular styles of teaching.   As a result, your child will be more engaged, competent and more inclined to serve society in a constructive way.



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