Another former student came to visit today. He now goes to another school, and is in fifth grade. We'll call him "David." David is definitely gifted, but LAZY. But two years ago, when he was in my class, I figured him out. One thing I noticed is that he hated to write in pencil, but would always writing in pen. (Generally, third graders aren't supposed to write in pen because they have to erase a lot.) It turned out that he just hated how pencils felt when you wrote with them. Once I started letting him use pencil - with the caveat that subs and next year's teacher probably wouldn't be quite as accommodating - he stopped complaining about writing.
Another thing about David is that he was very picky about what he read and wrote about. He hated the reading program and would just sit there, not reading, not writing, nothing. It didn't matter what I said, how much trouble he got in; nothing changed. However, if the subject had anything to do with science - particularly inventions and animals (especially dangerous/poisonous ones), he was quickly the most interested child in the room.
He was also really good with computers, and other gadgets. We had these Leapfrog electronic educational toys in the classroom (typical of my school; spend tons of money on them, use them for one year, and now they're all in cabinets because no one wants to deal with them). The kids were constantly having problems with them and David spent so much time fixing them that I just started calling him "Tech Support." He liked that - once I explained to him what tech support was.
David also had one of the most out of control tempers I have ever seen. Most of the time - the vast majority of the time - he was a shy, really soft-spoken child. It was hard to get him to raise his voice enough to be heard. But if anyone picked a fight with him - especially if they mentioned his mother- he would turn into someone completely different. I don't think he had any control over himself when this happened. People would try to reason with him, but I think he was just as confused as we were.
Fortunately, I think David's story will turn out better than a lot of other kids'. His mother is aware, and willing to take advantage of counseling. She is also willing to do extra things like take him to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, which is probably his version of heaven.