Intellectual giftedness is defined by the U.S. Department of Education as, "Students, children or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities." However, applying that definition to your own child may not be all that easy, so we asked experts — including moms of gifted kids — how to determine if a child might be gifted.
Psychologist Dr. Gail Gross, Ed.D., Ph.D., was on hand to answer a few questions about gifted children and what both parents and educators can look for in a child's day-to-day life that can indicate that he may truly be gifted. "Gifted children are highly intuitive learners," she explained. "They have a sense of humor, are sensitive, and they pick up social nuisances. For example, if a teacher doesn't like a gifted child, that child recognizes her attitude."
Brigetta, from North Carolina, has two sons who are gifted, and she was able to tell from a young age that this was the way they were. "I think with some children you just know," she told us. "They both read by age 4 and were very interested in learning."
Dr. Gross also told us that gifted children need creative quiet time and often like to be alone, and that they don't always fit in with the crowd but will compromise their giftedness to be accepted. She also noted that gifted kids catch onto concepts easily and as a result can become "lazy learners," and this can lead to underachieving.
Shelly, mom of two, has absolutely experienced that with her oldest child, who is gifted. "It's made her overconfident — bordering on arrogance — and at times lazy," she shared. "Things come so easy for her that she rushes and will often make mistakes because she doesn't check any of her work. If I find a mistake and point it out to her, I have to convince her that it's wrong because she doesn't think she could have possibly made a mistake on something so easy."
Giftedness can also lead to perfectionism, which can be hard for the parent and the child to deal with. "Zeke is your typical gifted perfectionist," explained Kimmy, whose boys are both gifted. "He's almost in tears if he struggles with anything. Usually the case is he reads the directions too fast or something little like that."
If you, or your child's teachers, suspect that he's gifted, most school districts offer testing to determine if he is, and the results can place him into a gifted program that caters more to his unique educational needs. Kimmy, for example, really appreciates the programs her boys are in. "I love that they both get to work at their own pace and that class work is more tailored to their needs and wants," she said. "I feel like all kids would thrive in the hands-on, long-term learning style the gifted program is styled in."
Dr. Gross agreed. "Gifted children may display inappropriate behavior in their efforts to express themselves comfortably within a non-gifted community," she told us. "As a result, gifted children thrive when surrounded by other gifted children, rather than mainstream."
Observing your child and having a good relationship with his teachers is vital to helping your child get the most out of education, as well as life itself. Take note of behaviors that might be deemed rowdy or disruptive — it may be an expression of giftedness. "Giftedness presents itself in many domains," summed up Dr. Gross. "The importance is to know your child and listen to your child."