Is My Child Gifted?

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – Albert Einstein

It’s true! Every one of us has at least one special something – one thing in which we really excel – and for some it is many things. Some are artistic, some are athletic, some are amazing at math, some are great with people.

But when do we cross the line from bright or talented to gifted? What does the term gifted even mean? And if my child is gifted, what, if anything, should I be doing about it? If you’re not sure, you’re in good company! Even the experts don’t all agree. Some say the term gifted is useless, because as noted above, we are all gifted in certain ways. Others say that the term does have use, because it describes a certain subset of people who excel in many areas.

How is Giftedness Measured?

IQ tests? Scholastic achievement? Performing at an adult level while still a child? Yes. All these things may be indications of giftedness. But another facet of giftedness can be asynchronous development, meaning literally that developmental areas do not develop in sync – they develop at different rates. So a 3-year-old may be reading fluently but still struggling with motor tasks, or a child may struggle with language but solve complicated math problems with ease. Sometimes gifted kids struggle socially, because their thinking abilities and their interests don’t always line up with those of their same-aged peers.

How Would I Know if My Child is Gifted?

When your 3-year-old is asking, “Mom, is there an end to the sky?”, using sarcasm appropriately, saying words like “preposterous”, or snatching up the older sibling’s chapter books, you start to wonder. There are many different characteristics that children who are identified as gifted share, but remember every child is unique. Not all gifted kids will show every trait on this list; but if your child shows many of these traits, chances are you may have a gifted child on your hands. Some of the traits include:

  • strong reasoning skills
  • rapid learning
  • excellent memory
  • advanced vocabulary
  • early reader
  • sensitive (feelings easily hurt)
  • compassionate
  • good with numbers
  • perfectionistic
  • and more characteristics that young gifted children often possess.

There is a scale developed to help parents and educators identify gifted children. We also perform evaluations for giftedness here at Beaumont at the Center for Human Development.

I’ve Been Told My Child is Gifted. Now What?

I can tell you from both personal and professional experience, that giftedness is a wonderful thing, but sometimes doesn’t feel much like a “gift”! Some gifted kids do very well in traditional schools, and are able to meet their learning needs alongside their peers through accommodations. However, other gifted kids need specialized educational environments, just like kids who have learning disabilities or developmental delays.

A one-size-fits-all teaching approach won’t work for them. Particularly for gifted kids who are far from the norm (sometimes called “profoundly gifted”), their needs simply won’t be met in a general educational setting, and it becomes a challenge to find a setting that fits them.

And remember that asynchronous development? That can sometimes mean that gifted kids struggle to learn in one area, while excelling in another. So again, a traditional classroom moving at a normal pace may be too slow in one subject and too fast in another. So another important piece is identifying what your child needs and how to get it! Gifted education is different in every district, and unfortunately, funding cuts have often trimmed these programs to the bone or eliminated them entirely. Private education is expensive and just because a school is private does not mean it is tailored for the needs of a gifted child. Parents must do their homework and advocate.

Where Do I Go for More Answers?

There are some great websites – my personal favorite is the Hoagie’s site, because it’s so comprehensive. There are also local organizations like the Michigan Alliance for Gifted Education (MAGE) and national ones like the National Association for Gifted Children. In Michigan, we have several schools for gifted children.

For more information about giftedness, feel free to contact the Center for Human Development at 248-691-4744.

—Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D; Director, HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital

2 Responses to “Is My Child Gifted?”

  1. 1 Anonymous November 9, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Awesome article!!! It is jam packed with so much great information.Thank you, Dr. Warner!

  2. 2 Lori Warner November 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks! Feel free to share this with anyone it might help – and we’re always available for questions! – Dr. Warner

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