Gifted children, so the saying among their parents goes, are a gift. Parents may often consciously remind themselves of this fact when their children are wreaking havoc in the house or classroom. What does it mean to “be gifted?” Is it just a number on the I.Q. scale? Is there a set of characteristics or behaviors that set a gifted child apart from a child who is just bright? Is it an attitude? Or a cross to bear?
About Gifted Children: What Makes Them Gifted?
To be “gifted” doesn’t mean that a child possesses a particular quality, ability or aptitude. Instead, high, exceptional intelligence or “giftedness” may mean one thing in a small school district in a small community. It may mean something completely different in a large school district of a large city, according to the National Association for Gifted Children. Even the concept may not be well understood. A gifted child develops differently from other children. The mind of a gifted child develops faster than their physical skills. Within the gifted child, their emotions and social skills may develop much slower than their cognitive abilities. To make it easier to understand, the child whose test scores are off the charts may not be as socially or emotionally mature as their classmates.
Concerning school performance, a gifted child may do exceptionally well in one grading period, then see their grades drop in the next grading period.
The National Association for Gifted Children defines a gifted child in this way: “Gifted children demonstrate exceptional aptitude, meaning they have strong reasoning and learning skills. They are also exceptionally competent, achieving performance scores in the top 10 percent or higher in one or more domains (structured area of activity, such as music, math or language). Their sensorimotor skills (dance, painting or sports) are also exceptionally good.
A gifted and talented child is one who shows high achievement capability in intellectual, artistic, creative or leadership skills or in academic fields. These children need services not otherwise provided by the school to develop their capabilities.
Characteristics of Gifted Children
The signs of gifted children can set them apart from other children. They:
- Are highly motivated to learn and explore. Want to learn on their own.
- Learn to read earlier than other children, are able to comprehend he nuances of language.
- Are able to tackle problems in an organized, goal-directed way.
- Read a wide variety of topics, have large “$50 “ vocabularies.
- Love to learn new things and question the unusual.
- Learn basic skills quickly and with less practice.
- Respond and relate well to adults, teachers and parents. Prefer the company of older children.
- Are able to construct abstractions and handle them.
- Boundless energy (can lead to diagnosis of hyperactivity).
- Pick up and interpret nonverbal reactions. Able to draw inferences from these cues.
- Eclectic interests. These children focus intensely on their interests.
- Look for the “how” and “why” of a question.
- Able to work independently from an earlier age and can concentrate for longer time periods, according to the Rhode Island State Advisory Committee on Gifted and Talented Children.
Psychology Today lists these characteristics of the gifted:
- Exceptional language skills.
- Natural learners.
- Emotionally intense.
- Treasure time alone.
Additional traits can include:
- Excellent memory.
- Able to see relationships between ideas, facts and objects.
- Flexible thinking.
- Excellent problem-solving skills.
- Unusual and vivid imagination.
- Concerned with fairness and injustice.
- Interest in philosophical issues.
- Well-developed sense of humor
- Intellectually playful, according to About Parents.
The National Association for Gifted Children
The National Association for Gifted children is a nationwide organization that advocates for better learning and educational policies and practices for gifted children.
Some common myths about gifted children:
- Gifted students don’t need help. They’ll learn fine on their own.
- Teachers challenge every student. Gifted students will function fine in the regular classroom.
- The presence of a gifted child in the classroom means all other children in the class will become smarter because the gifted child is a role model.
- Every child is gifted.
- Accelerated placement socially harms gifted students.
- Programs for the gifted are elitist.
- He can’t be gifted because he’s earning such poor grades.
- Every gifted student is popular, well adjusted to school and happy.
- If that child has a disability, he can’t be gifted.
- Our AP courses can serve as a gifted and talented program.
- A gifted education program means our district has to provide even more resources for students in the gifted program.
All of these myths are false, according to NAGC.
The Gifted Children Test
If you believe your child is gifted, you should talk to their teacher. The teacher may see some of the same traits. In many school districts, it’s up to the teacher to refer a child for testing for potential inclusion in an acceleration program. Some traits of giftedness may seem to go against the popular perception of being gifted – underachievement, for instance. This can make identification of a gifted child difficult.
School use certain criteria to determine whether a child is gifted or not. The often look at standardized testing. However, they should also consider a child’s ability rather than achievement, according to NAGC.
A child who may be identified as gifted will also take several assessments and tests. These are necessary so the school district can arrive at a specific identification – this includes the child’s I.Q. score. The tests should include:
- Intellectual measures.
- Leadership potential.
- Testing in specific academic fields.
- Artistic ability.
Achievement tests are specific for academic subjects as well as tests designed for the gifted. Two examples include Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary Students and the Test of Mathematical Abilities, according to NAGC. Tests to measure the child’s I.Q. and cognitive abilities can include the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, and the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability.
Some gifted children are economically disadvantaged, which may make traditional testing inappropriate for them. These children receive nonverbal tests, such as the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, the Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, Hammon-Nelson, CogAT, Matrix Analogies Test, Otis-Lennon and the Ravens Progressive Matrices.
Why Your Child Must be Tested for Inclusion in a Gifted Program
The hallmarks of gifted children aren’t set in stone. Because a child scores high on a standardized test given to every child in the district, the parents may believe this indicates their child is, without doubt, gifted.
It takes specially trained and educated school psychologists and diagnosticians to identify that child as gifted. Once they have administered all of the appropriate tests, the test results need to be collated and interpreted, according to Family Education. It is only then that the child’s test results will identify them as gifted or not.
Is Your Child Bright or Gifted?
Because the line between being extremely bright and being gifted isn’t always clear, Family Education provided a worksheet that explains certain gifted children traits:
Bright – knows answers to questions.
Gifted – asks the questions.
Bright – copies accurately
Gifted – develops a new design.
Bright – attentive.
Gifted – gets involved, mentally and physically.
Bright – enjoys their peers’ company.
Gifted – prefers being around adults.
Bright – interested.
Gifted – highly curious.
Bright – answers questions asked.
Gifted – will discuss question in detail, then elaborate on the answer.
Bright – grasps meanings.
Gifted – will draw inferences.
Bright – works hard.
Gifted – plays around during class time, then tests well.
Bright – learns easily.
Gifted – already knows the material.
Bright – belongs in the top group academically.
Gifted – has progressed beyond the top group.
Bright – Completes given assignments.
Gifted – Begins projects.
Being Gifted and Having Attention or Learning Issues
Just because a child is gifted, this doesn’t mean they won’t have learning issues. Some children are gifted, yet have learning disorders, emotional issues or attention issues. For these children, you need an accurate diagnosis of both giftedness and the learning disability. Once the diagnosis has been identified, the child can receive services for “dual-exceptionality” or “twice-exceptional” children. Once they are receiving such services, they are more likely to be successful in both regular classrooms and in accelerated environments.