Giftedness is having a natural gift for something. We’ve all heard children refered to as “intelligent”, “genius”, “advanced” or “accelerate”. Often what we mean, without realising it or not, is that that child is gifted.
Giftedness is not a choice, nor can it be ‘taught’; it is natural. And its more common than you realise. Approximately five of every 100 children can be labelled ‘gifted’, but often only a small proportion of these are identified and correctly classified as such.
Giftedness is more easily observed in younger children who haven’t yet had a lot of teaching or external stimulus. In a sense, their abilities are still ‘raw’ and can be more easily identified as advanced. This having been said natural ability, giftedness, still shows itself in older children and even adults. The faster and easier an individual learns new concepts or masters new skills, the higher the natural ability or ‘gift’.
Gifted children often have a natural ability in a certain area. These areas are physical, intellectual or creative. Rarely a child may be gifted across the board.
Signs of giftedness
There are some indicators of a child being gifted. These of course aren’t the be all and end all and by no means mean your child is definitely gifted, but chances are, if your child displays some of these things, then they may be gifted –
- an early interest in surroundings
- super-sensitivity to surroundings
- strong curiosity and powers of observation
- an extensive vocabulary
- an exceptional memory
- may talk early and fluently
- the ability to read early – often self-taught
- can choose to concentrate for long periods
- the propensity to ask shrewd/unusual questions
- the ability to grasp ideas quickly
- a “quirky” sense of humour
Types of giftedness
There are different ways in which a child may be gifted. Betts and Neihart (1988) suggests that gifted and talented students can be grouped into the following six categories –
Successful gifted students
These students achieve highly at school and are the group most likely to be identified as gifted and talented. They are conforming, eager for the approval of others, and perfectionistic. They lack autonomy and assertiveness, and avoid taking risks.
Challenging gifted students
These students are highly creative but frustrated, bored, questioning, and sometimes rebellious. They do not conform to the school system and often challenge school rules and conventions.
Underground gifted students
These students deny their abilities in order to fit in. They may be insecure, shy, and quiet, avoid taking risks, and resist challenges. Many are never identified as gifted.
Dropout gifted students
These students are resentful and angry because they feel that the system has failed to meet their needs. They are often perceived as ‘rebellious loners’, and may be disruptive or withdrawn. They fail to complete schoolwork, and their levels of achievement fall well below their ability.
Double-labelled gifted student
These students are gifted but also have a physical or sensory disability or a learning difficulty. Often their giftedness goes unrecognised because people fail to see past their disability. They can become angry and frustrated, and may feel powerless.
Autonomous gifted students
These students are confident, independent, and self-directed. They are intrinsically motivated and willing to take risks. They set goals for themselves and take responsibility for their own learning.
Bevan-Brown (1999) suggests that a seventh profile could be added to this list:
Culturally diverse gifted students
These are students who are not identified as having exceptional ability. Some may go unrecognised because their performance generally is affected by low self-esteem and low teacher expectations. Their gifts and talents may not be recognised or valued within their school, or the values and behaviours of their culture may discourage them from displaying their abilities.
What challenges do gifted children face?
It’s very important to recognise and cater for gifted children early on as sometimes their uniqueness can pose challenges for them.
Some gifted children can be lonely because their interests don’t match those of the other children their age. Gifted children can often be very questioning and insistent and this may cause difficulties in a classroom.
The gap between a gifted child’s intellectual and emotional development can sometimes cause distress. They may become bored or frustrated with fitting neither here nor there.
In some cases a gifted child may deny their ability and deliberately try to underachieve in an effort to fit in with their peers.
It is for these reasons that seeking and providing support for your gifted child can make all the difference to them and their experience at school and beyond.
How do I support my gifted child?
Identifying and accepting your child’s giftedness is extremely important. They’ll need your help to reach their full potential.
There are several things you can do to support your child –
- Don’t expect too much of them.
- Don’t allow others to make comments such as “Come on, you know everything surely you know this!”
- Let them have some ‘kiddie’ time. Recognise that for all their special ability, they sometimes want to be like everybody else.
- Understand and accept that a gifted child, whether we like it or not, is different from others.
- Do what you can to ensure educational experiences are challenging and stimulating for them. Liaise with teachers, support groups etc to ensure this happens.
Some helpful places to look for support
Check out some of these websites for quick reference and further reading or support. Also talk with your school about what suggestions they may have for you to seek more related information.