Here are snapshots of three children, each born with a special talent:

Sara (15) is shy, quiet and emotionally sensitive. She loves to draw and paint pictures of horses, zebras and tigers. Her parents rarely comment about her drawings. There are no artists in her family.

Michael (10) has lightening quick reflexes and amazing coordination. He plays basketball, soccer and baseball. His family and grandparents attend every game. His father is the coach of his baseball team.

Zach (11) spends a lot of time in his room, writing stories about alien monsters and space travel. He is also writing a novel about a boy who builds a time machine and travels 1,000 years into the future. Zach’s parents do not read much, so there are few books, magazines or newspapers at home. Zach’s parents do not ask to read his stories.

Now that you know a little about these children, answer this question: Which child, would you predict, will still be active in his or her activity (drawing, sports, writing) five years from now? Yes, it is Michael, but why? Michael’s talent in sports will be developed because his family is committed to him. Going to all his games and being a father/coach will nurture Michael’s ability so it can grow.

What happened to Sara and Zach? Well, NO ONE FOLLOWED THE RECIPE. What recipe?


1. Select one child, boy or girl, under age 10, who has an interest in music, art, dancing, writing, sports, acting or crafts. Be on the lookout for the “hidden artist,” the child who collects and stashes objects such as: downy tufted milkweed pods; cracked geodes; smoky mother-of-pearl shells; pop bottle caps; light brown, black veined monarch wings; robin’s eggs. (Cooking hint — never forget that all children have some gift or talent. It is up to the cook, using special seasonings, to bring the talent out.)

2. Add one grown-up (two is better), large size, who is 100% committed to the child (may substitute with grandparent, uncle, aunt, or another supportive adult).

3. Slowly mix, once a week, lessons, taught by a teacher, for what the child is interested in. The child’s teacher must be kind, gentle and funny.

4. Blend in (do not beat!) slowly, 15-30 minutes practice time, each day. A kitchen timer which “dings” helps children complete practice time.

5. Once fully cooked (may take six to 12 months) all young artists/athletes/writers must have an outlet for performing their work or having their creations viewed, read, heard, published or recorded.

6. Sprinkle final dish with sweet community support. Voila! Serve with ice cream.

This was the recipe my mother used for me. When I turned 8, she took me to speech classes so that I could overcome my fear of public speaking. At 10, my mother set up cello lessons and by 12, I was studying classical music with a University of Illinois professor. My mother drove me to every lesson, attended all concerts, and supported every aspect of my music and speaking development.

While she had no formal training in the arts, she knew the basic recipe: Talent in children must be developed, nurtured and supported if it is to survive and grow.

Every child, regardless of his or her background, IQ or economic status has, hidden inside of them, talents, skills and unique abilities. Only under the proper conditions will a child’s gifts flourish.

What would happen if all children received the recipe of family and community support and fully developed their talents? Well, Sara’s paintings could be hanging in an art museum, and our local bookstore might have Zach’s latest novel entitled “The Boy Who Traveled through Time.”

(The content of this article is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for treatment by a professional. The characters in this story are not real. Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.)

Dr. Richard Elghammer is a clinical psychologist in Danville and practices at the Elghammer Family Center. He received specialty training in child, adolescent and family psychology at Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis, and completed his clinical internship at Indiana University School of Medicine.

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