Raising and nurturing a gifted child can be an exciting yet daunting challenge. Unfortunately, these complicated little people do not come with instruction manuals.

As a parent, you may have noticed that your child differs from other children his/her age in surprising, often delightful ways. Sometimes that means your child is “gifted.”  As you try to decipher what “gifted” actually means, you discover there is no single definition. Unfortunately no one source exists to give you all the answers you would like or need.

What does ‘gifted’ mean?
While no single definition of “gifted child” exists, Francis Galton first used the term “gifted children” in 1869. Later, Galton became known as the “father of behavioral genetics.”  Galton believed gifted adults existed who had an exceptional talent in one area or another.  Because of these gifted adults, their children could genetically inherit the potential and be a “gifted child.”  Galton established the first mental testing center.  At this center, people would complete a battery of tests and then receive a written report of results.  

Lewis Terman furthered Galton’s ideas including a child’s IQ (Intelligence Quotient) score as one of the identifiers for a “gifted child.”  Terman used scores from the Stanford Binet scale and defined gifted with an IQ score of 140 or higher. The IQ range for “gifted” today includes an IQ of 115 as mildly gifted to 180 or greater as profoundly gifted. The idea of a child who demonstrates an exceptional talent carried on from Galton’s original description of a gifted adult.

As the concept of gifted has continued to develop, task commitment is often included as a required trait for gifted.  Linda Silverman added the idea of “asynchronous development” to the mix.  This term simply acknowledges that while most children progress at the same rate with intellectual, physical, and emotional development, gifted children often develop out of “sync.” Gifted children’s cognitive development is advanced, while the physical and/or emotional development may prove to be average or delayed.

Some of the signs of giftedness include:

  •     Unusual alertness in infancy
  •     Less need for sleep in infancy
  •     Advanced progression through developmental milestones
  •     Smiles and/or recognizes parents early
  •     Intense reaction to noise, pain, frustration
  •     High activity level
  •     Early and extensive language development
  •     Extraordinary memory
  •     Long attention span and the ability to concentrate intensely on an interest
  •     Fascination with books
  •     Submerges themselves in a task
  •     Highly creative
  •     Natural leadership ability
  •     Strong interest in problem-solving
  •     Ability to processes information quickly
  •     High task commitment
  •     Superior abstract reasoning ability
  •     High level of curiosity
  •     Wide range of interests
  •     Develops one interest in depth (an expert on something)
  •     Interest in the subtleties of language
  •     Avid reader
  •     Learns quickly and easily
  •     Retains and comprehends information readily
  •     Vivid imagination (e.g. imaginary companions)
  •     Self-critical
  •     Flexible thinker
  •     Observant
  •     Keen sense of humor
  •     Sensitive and compassionate

If a child exhibits a majority of these characteristics, parents may wish to have the child assessed by an experienced professional examiner to find out if the child is gifted. Firstborn children tend to be recognized more often than their siblings. When one child in the family is gifted, it is quite possible that others may also be gifted. Early identification is recommended (ages 3 through 8) because it permits early intervention, as important for gifted as for any other children with special needs.

By Kristie Brown – Kristie currently teaches a Gifted Program in two elementary schools. She is also the mother of two ‘gifted’ children.

Reference: Giftedness and the Gifted: What’s it All about? What Does Giftedness Mean? (1990) ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children, Reston, VA

Is your child gifted? What signs did they show as a young child?