Is your child gifted or have you a gifted child in your class?

What does ‘gifted’ even mean?

A gifted child is a child that is highly intelligent, with an IQ in the top 2- 5% for their age (the criteria cut off will vary depending on where you live). The Centre for Talented Youth Ireland (CTYI – identify gifted children as a child that has exceptional skills in one or more of the following areas: verbal, numerical or abstract reasoning.

14 Characteristics of the Gifted and Talented Child

How do you know if a child is gifted? Without proper assessment, there is no easy answer. There are no universally accepted traits that you can look for and no definitive signs that will tell you for sure whether a child is gifted. However, many gifted children share some common characteristics, and knowing these is a good place to start.

Here are 14 characteristics that may indicate that a child is gifted. Needless to say, every child is different and every child will have a unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. The list below is a good starting point with indicators that parents or carers can look for in their child if they suspect giftedness. If your child or a child in your class seems to tick many of these boxes then it is quite possible that they are gifted.

  1. Keen powers of observation.
  2. Learned or read very early, often before school age.
  3. Reads widely and rapidly.
  4. Well developed vocabulary – takes delight in using unusual and new words.
  5. Has great intellectual curiosity.
  6. Absorbs information quickly – (‘sponges’).
  7. Excellent memory – can recall information in different circumstances.
  8. Have the ability to concentrate deeply for prolonged periods.
  9. Very good powers of reasoning and problem solving.
  10. Intense interests.
  11. Unusual imagination.
  12. Have a great interest in “big” questions, e.g. the nature of the universe, the problem of suffering in the world, environmental issues.
  13. Very sensitive – perhaps getting upset easily.
  14. Very concerned about rights and wrongs, concerned about injustices.


Who identifies giftedness?

Identifying gifted children often relies on the results of an IQ test as well as information from other sources (e.g. home, school, child). Schools are in a good position to identify gifted children since they run IQ screening tests on pupils, have access to school achievement records, teacher and parent reports, and observation. However relying on school assessment is not always the most reliable method since many school staff are not trained to identify giftedness in children or do not have all the information they need to do so.  Even aside from this most schools don’t start their assessment process until the child is 7 or 8 years old (or older) but early identification is believed to be important so that child’s abilities and talents can be acknowledged and nurtured from the start. Early identification is also particularly important if a child is showing behavioural or emotional traits that are causing them problems or that set them apart from their peers. For example, it may be that they find it hard to get along with others, they have intense and unusual interests or they seem more distractible and inattentive than others their age. For these reasons parents (or teachers) may want to understand the causes. Such characteristics can be signs of giftedness but can also be signs of autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Gifted but don’t show the signs

Keep in mind too that there are students who demonstrate gifted traits when it comes to language or emotional abilities, but who do not appear exceptional when it comes to schoolwork. Whilst it is possible that some of these children have a specific learning disability (e.g. dyslexia) which is hindering their school performance, others may have quickly learned to hide their abilities so that they fit in easier with others their age, or simply to avoid the pressures of higher expectations. Of course, also there are children who show many of the characteristics listed above but who do not measure in the gifted range once they are tested (on an IQ test). If a child doesn’t score in the top 5% on an IQ test does this mean that they are not gifted? Not necessarily. Many kids don’t shine on IQ tests due to test anxiety – or sometimes because of the very qualities associated with giftedness. For example, IQ tests typically have timed subtests, meaning that the faster a child responds or correctly completes a task, the more points she earns. However, gifted children who are perfectionists may respond more slowly than others, taking their time, working carefully and methodically, and checking their responses for accuracy. A gifted child with a high energy level who has a hard time focusing attention on structured tasks may also be at a disadvantage when it comes to performing in the rigidly structured atmosphere of an IQ test. And of course, children can show gifted qualities in one area (e.g. abstract reasoning) but not another. However, if only their verbal skills are assessed (as is the case in plenty of school IQ tests) then their true abilities won’t shine.

Identifying giftedness is tricky particularly when we use imperfect instruments such as IQ tests to measure it. Your own insight, instincts and information from parents and teachers (and the child) are usually the most valuable piece of the puzzle when it comes to identification.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *