Gifted students are often difficult to identify. A child may be gifted, but may not display his talents because he’s not interested in school. A child may be gifted, but he may be too shy to showcase his talents. A child may be gifted, but may not respond to the learning environment his teacher has created. Gifted students and learning disabilities are also closely related, which makes gifted students even harder to recognize.
Because of the difficulty in identifying gifted students, it’s no wonder that parents often worry that their child is gifted, but not identified as such. Gifted students need special attention in school, so it’s important that they’re identified properly.
What is giftedness?
According to the National Association of Gifted Children, giftedness can be defined as “…those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).”
In short, gifted individuals show aptitude, or ability, in one or more areas of the following areas:
Each state has its own definition of giftedness. If you’re curious what the specific definition is in your state, you can find it here.
Characteristics of Gifted Children
All students are diverse, and gifted students are no exception. Because gifted students are different, they may not display all of these traits; however, they should exhibit some. There are many signs that a child may be gifted. I picked out the ones that, in my experience, seem to be the most pertinent and telling. For an exhaustive list, go to the National Association of Gifted Children’s list here.
1. Gifted children tend to be curious.
Many gifted children have an insatiable desire to learn. They ask questions often, which is often in the form of “why” (Side note: parents, don’t get upset with this question! Embrace their desire to learn.). They are interested in experimenting and are often self-taught in certain areas, especially in reading or writing.
2. Gifted students often have advanced vocabulary skills.
Gifted children understand language on a deeper level than other children their age. For their age, they have an unusually large vocabulary and speak or write using complex sentence structure. They understand the nuances of words and can easily grasp metaphors or other figurative language. Because of their advanced understanding of English, gifted children can oftentimes be seen as talkative or chatty.
3. Students who are gifted are highly sensitive.
Gifted students sometimes exhibit deep, intense feelings. Their reactions may seem over-the-top to outside observers, but because they are highly sensitive, they are simply showing what they feel. Students who display this kind of behavior are concerned with injustices at an early age. Sometimes this concern for injustices translates into an interest in social and political issues. And sometimes, this highly sensitive nature of gifted students can lead to behavioral problems in school.
4. Gifted children display wide ranges of interest (or are focused in one particular area).
As I explained earlier, gifted children are naturally curious. This can translate into a wide range of interests or an extreme focus in one particular area. Students who display this characteristics can tell you either about a variety of interests they may have or a lot about one particular thing they’re interested in. And you can also tell that they really know their stuff. Their interest goes much deeper than a simple hobby; for some students, they eat, sleep, and breathe these interests. This can also lead to behavioral problems in school, as these students sometimes do not pay attention to things they are not interested in.
5. Gifted students have vivid imaginations.
Students who are gifted often have abstract and complex thinking, which leads to a vivid imagination. Their thinking can be little atypical, but that’s because they question everything. Gifted children have thoughts that may surprise us but are actually very thoughtful and logical. Their thoughts may be a little unusual, but they’re not wrong by any means—gifted children just tend to put a lot more thought into something than the average person. Besides having unusual thoughts, gifted children’s vivid imagination may make them seem like daydreamers. They’re preoccupied with their own thoughts and ideas and may sometimes not pay attention to the external world, which makes them seem like they have their heads in clouds.
My child is gifted. What do I do?
If your child is gifted, get them into a gifted program in school. I recommend that you discuss your ideas with your child’s teacher during a parent-teacher conference. There are different ways to identify a gifted student: through standardized tests, student portfolios, teacher observations, and even parent observation. It’s not just about how a student performs on a test, so be sure to point out your observations to your child’s teacher. Keep in mind the different domains that are associated with gifted students—while one student may be gifted in the artistic domain, another may be gifted in the academic domain.
If your child still need an extra challenge because he or she is gifted and not receiving adequate attention, enrichment programs are a great choice. As opposed to remedial tutoring, these programs are designed for students who need an extra challenge. They give students an academic edge that they may not receive in a classroom full of 20 to 30 students.
What other questions do you have about gifted students? Are there any other traits you have noticed in your own child?
Author: Becky Adams, Curriculum Manager at A Grade Ahead