Is my child gifted?
A gifted child is not a 3 year old who invents relativity. The common myth of a gifted child is unrealistic and may do harm because it prevents so many people from accepting "giftedness" in gifted children they meet.
So, if a gifted child isn't one who toddles about in nappies composing symphonies and inventing hyperspace travel, what is it? This is rather like English spelling: it's a simple issue, basically, but it does get complicated by rules and exceptions. Children may exhibit gifts in a variety of areas, including areas of academic thinking (Maths, Science, etc); social and emotional areas; or artistic and sporting performance; etc.
How do I know if my child is gifted?
Note which points on the list below apply to your child (or a child you know).
Checklist for Giftedness
- speaking 50+ words at 12 months
- speaking 4+ word statements at 18 months
- sitting up at 5 months
- walking at 10 months
- reading before school age
- identifying and solving problems effectively
- reasoning and arguing logically and creatively
- generalising and transferring skills/concepts
- dual focusing
- intolerance of injustice
Ability to understand information rapidly
- advanced reading
- intense focus and drive when interested
- fast and efficient learners of new concepts
Sophisticated sense of humour
- appreciating word play and puns
- loving the ridiculous and absurd
- intensity, sensitivity and complexity
- awareness and empathy
Did you tick many points? If so, you probably know a gifted child.
(Please note that this list is not a comprehensive checklist but aims to raise awareness of some of the many characteristics of giftedness.)
Gifted children may not show all of the characteristics on the list. Giftedness can be 'hidden' by other factors, eg. cultural diversity and learning disabilities.
Giftedness is complex. Formal assessment of ability may be required to ascertain the degree of giftedness and special educational provisions will be necessary to achieve satisfactory intellectual and academic achievement, together with social and emotional wellbeing. Highly gifted children are more at risk if they are not identified and appropriately supported.
Many gifted children comprehend complex ideas quickly, and learn more rapidly and in greater depth than their chronological-age peers. Gifted children require challenging and complex learning experiences and opportunities to explore major ideas at greater depth, to reconceptualise existing knowledge, and to generate new knowledge. Principles underpinning differentiated curriculum for gifted learners are well documented and include acceleration and ability grouping, as well as in-class strategies that provide the necessary extension experiences.
Giftedness is multifaceted and can be manifested in areas other than academic achievement. Characteristics such as heightened emotional intensity and perfectionist tendencies need to be understood and supported.
Remember, what is unusual for the general population may be 'normal' for some gifted children.
For gifted children with disabilities and behaviours that mask their potential, a different identification process is advisable. Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children Inc (QAGTC) recommends that families considering formal assessment of their child's giftedness seek to involve professionals who are experienced with assessing ability in gifted children.
Gifted education policy in Queensland was first developed in 1985, based on the Renzulli definition. By 1993, Queensland departmental policy definition was:
Gifted children are those who excel, or have the potential to excel, in any general or specific ability area.
The latest policy (2004) states:
Students who are gifted excel, or are capable of excelling, in one or more areas such as:
specific academic studies,
visual and performing arts,
interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
Giftedness in a student is commonly characterised by an advanced pace of learning, quality of thinking or capability for remarkably high standards of performance compared to students of the same age.
Arguably of greater value are the accompanying Guidelines for Acceleration which provide a defensible framework for accelerating gifted children at school.
The field of gifted education relates predominately to two major questions. These are:
- Which students are gifted?
- What are their educational needs in terms of school organisation, curriculum content and pedagogy?
Attitudes towards the gifted are coloured by the enduring persistence of stereotypes and myths. As mentioned earlier, a body of misinformation about giftedness continues to contribute to negative attitudes, particularly among educational decision makers, which underlines the need for more effective solutions to the issues of raising awareness and disseminating accurate information. Gifted children need recognition, and an appropriate mix of acceleration, ability grouping and individualised educational planning if they are to succeed in school.
Parenting and families
The role of parents as teachers and the importance of families in the development of the child's potential can be underestimated. From birth, children are in learning mode and development is rapid. Usually around the age of five years, parents are faced with the prospect of relinquishing charge of the child for several hours each school day. During the early years, they have built up a vast store of information about the child which could provide invaluable assistance to formal institutions taking on the role of educating the child through the compulsory years of schooling. It seems that parents do not feel empowered to take a portfolio of children's products or a profile of the early years to the receiving teacher, neither do teachers often think to ask parents what they know about the child's achievements to date. Children who enter school with high performance in any area (eg: reading) may not be recognised and may learn to stop their advanced behaviours because none of the other children exhibit the same high levels of literacy numeracy. Pretesting as a precursor to educational planning is not a regular occurrence. But perhaps it should be.
For the benefit of gifted children, real partnerships between schools and families need to be developed in an open atmosphere of mutual care and respect. It has been noted in studies that the mismatch between the curriculum and the need of the gifted child for a challenging education can adversely affect the child's self-concept.
Examination of the literature reveals major deficiencies, or unexplored areas, within the fields of giftedness and gifted education with particular reference to studies of gifted children in Australia, and studies where the voices of gifted children are heard.
A number of reports suggest that gifted children are not developing to their potential. There are up to 80,000 gifted students enrolled in Queensland schools today (400,000 across the nation). Most are underachievers because there is no established identification process and no defensible gifted education programming in most schools. Long-term well-informed educational planning and increased government funding would go a long way to ensuring more fulfilling schooling experiences and increasing the life-long productivity of gifted individuals.