Your two year old just picked up a book you’ve never shown them, and read the entire thing… perfectly! You suspect that your child is gifted when they build a scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of marshmallows and toothpicks, or maybe your five year old asked for a dictionary for their birthday! Does this sound familiar?
How can you tell if your child is gifted or just really smart? Too often we see media reports, or even those who work in gifted education, refer to these kids as kids first and gifted only secondarily. That they’re “just kids” who need a little extra challenge in school. This simply is not the case. Though they are clearly children, with children’s needs for play, nurturing and exploration, they have definite differences and needs.
Many parents and teachers believe that a child is gifted when school tests say that they are. How old does a child have to be before he or she exhibits the characteristics of a gifted child? The truth is that gifted traits show up in toddlers. In fact some of them can even be seen in infants!
Getting fussy when facing one direction for too long, or not needing much sleep, being very curious or mastering toys and games easily and then discarding them; may be early signs to look out for.
Discovering that you are the parent of a gifted child can lead you to a new world of wonder and confusion. Early testing and identification is a controversial subject but many advocates of gifted children believe that they should be identified as soon as possible so that their unique needs and talents can be acknowledged and nurtured right from the start.
So, what are the tell-tale signs of a gifted child? There are no universally accepted traits that you can look out for or no definitive signs that will tell you for sure if your child is gifted. However, many gifted kids share some common characteristics, and knowing these is a good place to start:
- Reading. Many kids learn to read early; however, early reading is not a sign on its own. Some gifted kids struggle to read and many early readers aren’t gifted.
- Numbers. Many gifted kids show an interest in numbers. These are often the kids that start doing simple maths by age three!
- Walking and talking. Gifted kids tend to walk and talk early. They have large vocabularies, and an unusual interest in words.They often speak in full sentences right from the beginning!
- Questions, questions, questions … This is perhaps the clearest sign of a budding genius. Gifted kids are fascinated by how things work and will continually ask questions about everything.
- Arguments. The flip -side of their analytical minds is that many gifted kids question authority and argue about every instruction.
- Bad handwriting.
Often the problem is caused by a child trying to write too fast, but could also be a sign of a developmental delay.
- Sensitivity . They are usually super-sensitive, physically and emotionally. They empathise readily, and some are over sensitive to environmental factors such as noise, and visual stimulants. This could cause them to react badly or retreat into themselves in “busy” situations.
- Creative thinking. They enjoy an intellectual challenge, particularly puzzles, mazes and strategy games such as chess.
- Energy levels. They have high energy levels and many give up naps as infants. As a rule, they are not great sleepers.
- Experiments. Gifted kids love to experiment, they get a kick out of working things out for themselves.
Unfortunately, most schools are geared for average learners. Children are placed in programmes that match their weaknesses, not their strengths. Keep advocating for your gifted child. Maybe your child will have the best possible school experience – classes that meet his learning needs, teachers who challenge him, and maybe he will thrive and succeed… or maybe not. Make sure that you read as much as you can about having a gifted child. If your child isn’t tested at school, have him tested by a psychologist or other trained professionals. Find out if your child’s school has a gifted program and keep record of his growth and progress.
Remember that the term gifted does not define worth. All children are blessings. All children are gifts. Giftedness is a special need and must be accommodated for.