It’s natural for all parents to take pride in their young children’s accomplishments – refrigerators in homes everywhere are covered with evidence of their creativity. Sometimes, though, children’s achievements or behavior seem so outstanding that parents wonder if they are gifted. Of course every child has his or her own special gift – that’s what makes each of us a unique individual. But not everyone is a “gifted child,” a term that’s been used since the mid-19th century to describe children who exhibit exceptional talent in one or more particular areas and/or intellectual comprehension that’s notably beyond their years.
How to Recognize a Gifted Child
In recent decades there has been an increased emphasis on educational stimulation for very young children. This has resulted in some children as young as one year old being labeled as gifted (not to mention stiff competition just to get into some preschools!). However, conventional early recognition of gifted children focuses on girls and boys between the ages of two and four. Generally speaking, one of the ways that gifted children are recognized is through their use of obviously advanced vocabulary and learning skills, possibly even without much outside instruction. A gifted child can learn faster than others and understands things on a deeper level than other children the same age. In school, some gifted children are way ahead of the rest of the class, finishing assignments first and scoring highest on tests. But others who are equally gifted aren’t necessarily getting the highest grades. This is in part because sometimes gifted children can be distracted from regular school work by other things that catch their attention and interest. Giftedness is accurately recognized and defined based on behavior as much as academic performance or formal testing.
Characteristics of Gifted Children
There is a broad range of behaviors that are commonly observed in gifted children. It’s important to remember that every gifted child does not exhibit every characteristic. Some of the qualities of gifted children include: original and creative thinking and expression, vivid imagination (sometimes including the invention of imaginary friends), both a variety of interests and intense interest in a particular topic, the ability to concentrate on more than one thing at a time and work independently, a particularly good memory of things learned, a specific artistic talent, a long attention span, tremendous curiosity and the asking of meaningful questions, persistence, sophisticated language and vocabulary, an early and sharp sense of humor, avid enjoyment of reading, good ability with numbers and puzzles, leadership abilities, a quest for perfection and heightened emotional sensitivity, about both themselves and others.
If You Think Your Child is Gifted
It might appear to you that your child is gifted before he or she is old enough to begin school, which is when most children have their first opportunity to be properly evaluated. If you want to know before then if your child is gifted, consult with your pediatrician or preschool teacher (if your child is enrolled) for referrals to child psychologists or other mental health professionals who have specialized experience with gifted children. Check with your health insurance plan to see if it will cover the cost for your child to take tests for giftedness. Bear in mind that many factors, some objective and some subjective, are taken into consideration when children are evaluated for giftedness. IQ tests are just one part of the process (it’s generally believed than an IQ of 130 or more is an indication of giftedness). Most importantly, remember that each child possesses his or her own special qualities whether or not they are formally labeled as gifted.