How can you tell if your child is gifted?

  • His bedroom looks like a mad scientist’s laboratory.
  • You never know what you can throw out - was it an experiment or leftovers?
  • Your van is part taxi, part lab, and a large part Bookmobile.
  • Your 7-year-old has recreated the Roman Empire in elaborate detail . . . with Legos™.
  • Your 14-year-old speaks and writes a foreign language fluently . . . one of his own invention.
  • Your 2-year-old insists on putting together his jigsaw puzzles "color-side down" so it won’t be so easy.
  • At the bookstore you discover your 9-year-old in the check-out line with $500 worth of science books.
  • Your 8-year-old computes how much interest you owe him on back allowances . . . in his head.
  • Your 4-year-old cries when she hears news reports about a famine in Africa.
  • Your outgoing 5-year-old child strikes up a conversation with a stranger on a plane which results in his deriving a mature grasp of negative numbers. You respond, "Thank you . . . I think."
  • You told your son that he and his friends must stay outside to play. Later you find that they took the TV and Nintendo up on the roof. He said that they were, after all, playing outside ...

Perhaps you would like a more formal list of characteristics?

This is a partial list of attributes commonly found in gifted children. Certainly most gifted children will not exhibit all of these attributes. In addition, some characteristics may be hidden and, because of a host of good reasons, may not appear until much later.

  •  Developed sense of humor
  •  Does things earlier than peers
  •  Does things better than peers
  •  Very different perspective than peers
  •  Intense focus on one or two hobbies or interests
  •  Sometimes (but certainly not always) capable and mature for age
  •  Sees patterns - both concrete and abstract
  •  Precocious use of language (if verbally gifted)
  •  Prefers to do math work in head (if mathematically gifted)
  •  Active imagination
  •  Extremely competitive
  •  May show extreme emotional sensitivity
  •  Original thinker - may be a non-conformist
  •  Persistence.

Then there are other characteristics that may be a little more difficult to live with:

  •  Perfectionism
  •  Supersensitivity or heightened senses (can’t stand the toes of the socks to be on "wrong," requires the tags in shirts to be cut off, or overly sensitive to light or sound or environment, etc.)
  •  Very intense emotionalism
  •  High energy levels
  •  May need little sleep
  •  Stubbornness (the extreme side of persistence :-)
  •  Unable to finish all projects begun
  •  Dislikes taking time for precision
  •  Impatient with details.

Intellectually gifted kids are not always the honors students with the best scores. Some kids don’t test well and some gifted kids aren’t academically inclined. Add to that undiagnosed learning disabilities, boredom, behavior problems, hyperactivity, and you can see - it’s not always easy being gifted!

Society’s attitudes:

It appears to be more acceptable in our society to be athletically gifted, or musically gifted, or artistically gifted, or even socially gifted (leadership), than it is to be academically gifted. Parents need to search out the best in education, resources, and opportunities for their gifted learners, just as they would for their athletes and musicians. Use tact when discussing accomplishments, but don’t ignore them either.