How to Know if Your Child is Gifted

Most parents believe their child is the most special human being in the world. But how do you truly know i f your child is gifted? A child raised on a farm would be considered gifted if he or she was especially talented in agriculture or raising cattle. A city kid would be considered special for a variety of different reasons. Are there universal standards that hold true no matter where in the world you live?

The term “gifted children” was first used by Francis Galton in the mid-19th century. Psychologist Lewis Terman later developed intelligence tests that measured areas of memory, motor skills, logic, creativity, mathematical skills, and language mastery to distinguish gifted students from the cognitive norm. Working as a school principal in California and a professor at Los Angeles Normal School and Stanford University, he devised a widely used IQ test known as the Stanford-Binet, revised from the earlier Binet-Simon.

Sweet mystery of life
We generally consider a child with exceptional potential gifted. That gift, however, must be nurtured so he or she can thrive. Gifted kids often appear to be a wonderful mystery to their parents. Raising a child with more advanced abilities than others his or her age can also be a challenge. Most teachers are not trained to recognize giftedness. A parent may benefit from being able to recognize outstanding talents in their kids. Many gifted programs in schools don’t even start until the 2nd or 3rd grade. Parents might consider private testing, special programs, or grade acceleration.

Brainchild
Ironically, many of these children fail to conform to typical concepts of high achievement. They may possess poor organizational skills or attention difficulties. These can sometimes mask their boredom with the status quo. They usually possess an ability to concentrate on topics of interest for long periods of time. However, they may also grow bored and unfocused if they find a task unchallenging.

Giftedness appears to be the result of both environmental and genetic factors. Some believe gifted children process information faster than others their age. Each time we humans feel an emotion, look at a picture, or read a book, a specific group of neurons in the brain associated with that particular activity ignites. This stimulates further brain activity, leading to more efficient neural connections. Over time, it becomes easier to perform the task associated with that part of the brain.

Common traits of gifted children
Gifted children are natural learners. Some prefer reading to physical activities, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, they may be talented in many areas, from mental pursuits to athletics. Some of the same expert reasoning abilities can be employed whether planning moves on a chessboard or a football field. In fact, many gifted children are also advanced in fine-motor activities, such as assembling Legos and puzzles.

A highly energetic child may find it difficult to focus on structured tasks and, therefore, won’t perform his or her best on standardized tests. Parents and teachers can provide more insight into whether a child is gifted than IQ tests ever will. Traits to look for include the ability to quickly process new ideas and facts; advanced vocabulary; problem solving in complex, abstract, and creative ways, displaying a vivid imagination; a passion for storytelling and word play; and more.

It may take a village
The National Association for Gifted Children (nagc.org) offers a variety of resources for parents and teachers. They recommend many ways to help your child succeed both at home and in school. It’s important that parents and teachers of gifted students creatively modify the children’s curriculum to keep them challenged. They also stress that gifted does not connote better; it just means they are capable of a higher level of ability and learning than others their age. Although all children possess many wonderful gifts, not every child is considered gifted in the traditional sense. Interact with other parents and their gifted children to socialize, share ideas, and help your kids express their creativity within a group setting and feel part of the community at large.