Posted on: 02.09.2015.

Author: Ana G

Is Your Child Gifted?

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If your child possesses a vocabulary beyond their age, can learn and retain information quickly, or displays exceptional skill in a particular area, you may have wondered if your child could be gifted. There is no universally-accepted definition of giftedness. The lack of a clear definition of giftedness leaves many parents confused as to exactly what it means to be gifted.

Defining the Term “Gifted”

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The term “gifted children” was coined by Francis Galton in 1869. Galton considered adults who displayed exceptional talent in a certain area to be gifted. Galton also believed that the children of these gifted adults would inherent the potential to be gifted from the parent and referred to these children as “gifted.”

In the early 1900s, Lewis Terman, the father of gifted education, took Galton’s definition a step further. Terman expanded the definition of gifted to include an IQ of 140 or more; Terman also believed that intelligence tests could be used to predict achievement patterns of an individual over a long period of time.

In 1926, Leta Hollingworth expanded the definition yet again in her book Gifted Children: Their Nature and Nurture. Hollingworth believed that a nurturing home and school environment were instrumental in developing a child’s potential. Hollingworth’s book is considered the first textbook on gifted education.

Kids of above-average intelligence and ability have been described as “gifted” since Hollingworth’s time. Unfortunately, the different ways of defining and characterizing giftedness, even within schools, have muddied the word’s meaning with many nuances.

Determining if Your Child is Gifted

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The idea that gifted kids should be identified as soon as possible is widely accepted. Early intervention allows the child’s unique talents and learning needs to be addressed and nurtured. Determining if a child is gifted requires a collaboration between parents and educators. 

Schools typically use traditional methods such as IQ tests, past grades, and achievement test results to evaluate for giftedness. Unfortunately, conventional tests and grades may overlook some gifted students. Some gifted students are even misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or other learning disabilities. 

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else, and are in a position to spot characteristics that may identify your child as gifted. By becoming familiar with the signs of giftedness, you can collaborate with school officials to ensure your youngster’s potential is not overlooked.

Common Characteristics and Signs of Gifted Children

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Identifying gifted children can be challenging since no two children are the same or exhibit the same traits at the same time. A gifted child may meet certain developmental milestones earlier than other children. On the other hand, development in other areas, such as physical or emotional development, may lag behind.

There is no standardized set of traits or signs that will definitively tell you if your child is gifted; however, there are some characteristics shared by many gifted children that are easy for parents to identify.

Learning Skills

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A gifted child will usually display above average learning skills and abilities.

  • Rapid learner – A gifted child typically can think through situations or solve problems quickly. The child will often be able to pick up new skills with little effort or practice.
  • Highly focused – Gifted children often display an intense interest in an area. Sometimes this interest is limited to a single subject, such as space or animals, or it may cover a broad range of topics.
  • Naturally curious – Gifted children are keenly observant and want to know about the world around them. They love to ask questions and demand thorough and accurate answers.
  • Superior memory – This may be the easiest way to identify a gifted child. As a parent, you will probably notice that your child has an unusual ability to recall a large amount of information in great detail.
  • Enjoys learning – Most gifted children consider learning to be fun. A gifted child will often seek out opportunities to learn new information.
  • Does things differently – Gifted youngsters often march to the beat of their own drummer. They typically like to experiment and think through problems on their own. The gifted child’s thinking may be logical and insightful, but also elaborate and original.
  • Enjoys reading – Many gifted children love to read. The child may prefer a book over engaging in physical activities such as sports.
  • Concentrates for long periods – A gifted kid can typically focus on a topic of interest for unusually long periods. The child will shift their focus when they become bored or disinterested in the subject.
  • Self-taught – Gifted children frequently teach themselves to read and write. The children usually pick up these skills as preschoolers.
  • Enjoys solving problems – A gifted child may have an aptitude for solving problems and puzzles, especially involving numbers, in creative ways.
  • Identifies relationships – Most gifted children can quickly spot connections between ideas, objects, and facts.

Language Development

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Another characteristic of a gifted child is early language development and advanced communication skills.

  • Early talker – Many gifted children begin talking at a young age, some as early as nine months. Not all gifted children start talking early, so you should not consider late talking as a sign that your child is not gifted.
  • Learns new words quickly – Gifted children tend to develop vocabulary easily. The child may have the ability to learn new words quickly and use them appropriately.
  • Advanced vocabulary – Gifted children usually have a much larger vocabulary than other children. For example, the average child will know 100 to 300 words by the age of two, whereas a gifted child may know up to 150 words by eighteen months. Gifted children will also use more complex grammar and sentence structure than other children. For example, a typical two-year-old will use simple sentences of two or three words. A gifted child will use fuller sentences and may sound similar to an adult by age three.
  • Early reader – Many gifted children are eager to learn how to read. If given the opportunity and basic instruction, most gifted children will learn to read before starting school.
  • Ability to change the language – Because of their advanced vocabulary and language skills, gifted children usually have the capacity to adapt their speech to the audience. They may use simpler language with other children and adopt more advanced mannerisms with adults.

Emotional and Behavioral Traits

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Gifted children typically exhibit emotional maturity and behavior characteristics well beyond their age level.

  • Intense – A gifted child may demonstrate deep, intense feelings and reactions to situations. The heightened reactions may be due to a highly developed sense of empathy, fair play, and justice.
  • Highly sensitive – Most gifted children can identify and understand the feelings of others. These children tend to be very empathetic and care about others.
  • Idealist – Gifted children typically develop a sense of what is right and wrong at an early age. They tend to have a strong sense of justice.
  • Persistent perfectionist – Gifted children usually set high standards for themselves. They tend not to give up on something until they accomplish it and have a low tolerance for mistakes.
  • Very active – A gifted child may appear to have endless energy. They are always moving, questioning, and exploring in order to stimulate their mind. A gifted child will often think and talk very fast. Because they are so energetic, many gifted children are mistakenly diagnosed as having ADHD.
  • Well-developed sense of humor – A gifted child typically has an advanced sense of humor. They will often enjoy more subtle and verbal humor, such as puns.
  • Ability to relate – Most gifted children act more mature than their age. They typically are comfortable with and relate well to older adults and authority figures, such as teachers. Gifted kids usually enjoy connecting and learning from those older than themselves.
  • Imaginative – Most gifted youngsters are highly creative. The child may invent elaborate fantasy worlds, tell vivid stories, and have an uncanny ability to imitate others.
  • Leadership skills – Most gifted kids are natural leaders. They typically have a strong sense of responsibility and like to see projects through to completion.
  • Enjoys solitary activities – Gifted children may relate well to others; however, they also enjoy being alone. Gifted youngsters often spend considerable time engaged in solitary activities such as reading, writing, or just daydreaming.
  • Enjoys the arts – The majority of gifted kids enjoy beauty and the arts. A gifted child may show interest and unusual ability in activities such as music, painting, or dance.

In the End

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Identifying giftedness in a child can be difficult. There are no clear-cut criteria for defining giftedness and children are diverse, so the process of determining if a child is gifted can be tricky. That is why it is important to rely on your parental instincts. You know your child better than anyone else. You have insight into your child’s behavior and thought processes that teachers and school administrators may miss.

For example, you may see your child solve complex math problems in their head when they are at home; however, they may not score well on standardized tests due to test anxiety. If you believe your child exhibits the characteristics of being gifted, talk to their school right away. Your involvement is an important part of making sure your child’s unique gifts and potential are recognized and developed.