If Einstein didn’t speak until he was four, and Walt Disney was once fired because he had no good ideas, how is it even possible to answer the question I’m most often asked – What does a gifted child look like? Can there be a definitive answer if Louis Pasteur was rated as mediocre in chemistry as a child?
As Jim Delisle says in an interview about his new book Dumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation’s Brightest Young Minds, we can’t even agree on a definition ourselves, as professionals in the field of giftedness. How can we expect others to confidently tell whether a child is gifted or not?
The gifted child is… smart, funny, argumentative, intense, introverted, sarcastic, extroverted, linear, asynchronous, withdrawn, creative, pragmatic, highly motivated, underachieving, precocious, spatial, sequential, innovative, sensitive, perfectionistic, messy, lazy, concrete, and so much more.
Some gifted children struggle socially and emotionally. Others are easy-going and can charm anyone. The stereotypical teacher’s pet image most people think of when they hear the term gifted is rarely a reality. It’s hard to know what exactly you’re dealing with when your child is so unlike the norm, and nobody around you truly gets your struggles.
Is he gifted? Does she have a problem? Why does he do that? Do all children teach themselves to read? Is it normal for a three year old to know all of the scientific names of every beetle species in the world, and be able to identify them by sight?
What does a gifted child look like?
One accepted definition of giftedness came from the U.S. Department of Education in 1993, “Children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment.”
I like that this definition doesn’t tie giftedness to performance alone…it includes the potential for remarkably high performance. Schools often fail our gifted kids because they see giftedness as academic accomplishment, which can over-identify high-achievers, and under-identify underachievers, twice-exceptional kids, or children from underprivileged communities.
Gifted children – especially those in the highly, exceptionally, and profoundly gifted ranges – just aren’t typical kids. They tend to display their “outstanding talent” in one or more areas. And many of them have additional issues as well; autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, or learning disabilities, among others.
Over the next few Mondays, we’ll take a look at different aspects of giftedness. What giftedness might look like. It will look different to each of us as we walk this road with our unpredictable and different kids.
What kind of child do you have?
Your child might be a creative thinker if he:
- thinks independently.
- tells or writes original stories.
- comes up with multiple innovative solutions to problems.
- has a great sense of humor.
- is inventive.
- is imaginative.
- has a talent for improvisation.
- enjoys being different.
Your child might be gifted cognitively if he:
- thinks abstractly.
- processes complex information.
- intensely observes his world.
- gets excited about new ideas.
- finds delight in hypothesizing.
- learns quickly and insatiably.
- possesses a large vocabulary.
- is inquisitive.
- is a self-starter.
Your child might be gifted in a specific academic area if he:
- can memorize large quantities of information and apply it.
- possesses advanced comprehension.
- acquires skills rapidly.
- has read widely to self-teach in an area.
- high success in his preferred academic area.
- pursues his interest with perseveration and enthusiasm.
Whenever you’re trying to puzzle out just who your kiddo is, remember that the precious child you’ve been blessed with is a gift. First and foremost, appreciate and love on that gift.
Whether he’s a future Pasteur currently failing chemistry, or destined to lead our country to new heights, despite currently using his leadership skills to teach his toddler brother to tackle their sisters every time they lay on the ground, he’s still yours.
And that child is amazing.
What does gifted look like in your home?
For more information about gifted kids, check out: