You may have asked yourself at times, “Is my child gifted?” If your toddler seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to development or far more talented in a certain area than kids of their age, you may wonder whether they are gifted. This term is usually applied to any child (or adult) with an intellectual ability that is extraordinary or significantly greater than that of their peers.
What is a gifted child?
Gifted children typically show a high level of general ability and can adapt and learn across subjects. Intellectual (or academic) giftedness is usually determined by means of an IQ test.
IQ tests measure cognitive ability and provide a score indicating intellectual potential and ability. The average IQ is in the range of 90-110. Where a child has an IQ of above 130 or 140, depending on the test administered, they may be identified as gifted. In culturally diverse communities, IQ tests are not always the ideal way to determine intelligence or giftedness as the tests are often culturally specific. It is therefore important to consider other factors when determining whether a child is gifted.
A gifted child will often experience the so-called asynchronous development. This happens when cognitive, physical, and emotional development occurs at different speeds. Some professionals believe that this, rather than potential or ability, is the defining characteristic of giftedness. A child who is gifted may be far ahead in terms of academic ability but struggle with emotional regulation or social skills.
They may be doing math at an advanced level but have trouble mastering their fine motor skills. This “mismatched” development is one of the factors that may cause a gifted child to feel different or excluded from their peers. It’s also among the key differences between gifted and smart children.
Early signs of a gifted child
Is your 3 year old reading or your 5 year old doing their older brother’s math homework? While there is no universal “gifted child checklist,” many gifted children share some common signs.
In toddlers and preschoolers you might observe:
- Early walking and talking. Gifted kids tend to walk and talk early (although Einstein did not talk until he was 3!).
- Reading. While this can indicate giftedness, many gifted kids struggle to read and many early readers are not gifted kids.
- Interest in numbers. Many gifted kids are interested in numbers and may start doing simple math while still toddlers.
- Curiosity. Are all of those “Why?” questions driving you crazy? Gifted kids are always curious and fascinated by how things work. They want to understand.
- Sensitivity. Many gifted kids show signs of being over-sensitive to environmental factors such as noise or too much visual stimulation.
- Energy. Gifted kids are often not great sleepers and may give up nap time sooner than their peers.
You can find out more about identifying giftedness in children here.
Signs and characteristics of a gifted child
If your child is gifted, by the time they get to school age, you might find them exhibiting a combination of the characteristics known as “Brilliant Behaviors.” These are:
- Special ability: It could be in one or more areas, such as math, computers, languages, music, art, or science.
- Motivation: Persistent in the desire to know, understand, create, or feel, gifted kids have an excellent focus when engaged in a task of interest.
- Good sense of humor: A keen sense of the comical and absurd as well as an ability to understand nuance can be indicative of a gifted child.
- Strong sense of ethics and morals (right/wrong): Gifted children feel an intense need for fairness and justice as well as concern for the consequences of their actions and the actions of others.
- Great powers of observation: They have an increased awareness of what is happening around them.
- Expressiveness: They possess an extraordinary ability to communicate and often have an extensive vocabulary and an advanced reading ability.
- Creativity and originality: Gifted kids have an unusual capacity for ingenious ideas and the ability to adapt concepts and processes to suit their need.
- Above-average reasoning skills: They exhibit an ability to think things through, consider implications and alternatives, and connect ideas.
- Curiosity and insight: Gifted children will look for answers to deep questions.
- Perceptiveness and intuition: They are able to find deeper meanings and connections.
How do you know if your child is gifted?
You should remember that children develop at different rates. Even if one aspect of your kid’s development seems more advanced than that of their classmates, it’s always better to wait until a trait is obvious over an extended period or a number of the characteristics mentioned above are present. Teachers can often identify potentially gifted children in their classes, and a psychologist will be able to administer an IQ test to confirm your suspicions.
What is gifted kid syndrome?
Gifted child syndrome refers to children raised with constant praise and accustomed to high levels of achievement. As these kids grow older, they may struggle to redefine themselves beyond their giftedness. Gifted children often excel at school with little effort and are not used to having to “try.” A child with gifted kid syndrome has difficulty developing a work ethic, self-discipline, and the grit required to succeed.
Research suggests that labeling kids in their formative years creates a fixed mindset: it leads them to believe that certain qualities are cast in stone and cannot change. Dr. Caroline Dweck writes about this in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. By avoiding labeling and encouraging a growth mindset in which a person believes that “true potential is unknown (and unknowable),” gifted kids and adults work towards making themselves smarter rather than accepting their intelligence is fixed and unchangeable.
Gifted children are, by definition, exceptional in that they have extraordinary abilities and potential. On the other hand, they also have unique needs. If you believe your child might be gifted, an early assessment will allow you to become aware that they may need individualized attention and opportunities to socialize with other gifted kids.
If you have a gifted child, how do you make sure that they are stimulated and challenged?