Saturday, September 5, 2009

Your Child Is Bright, But Is He Gifted? How to Tell...

There are significant differences between bright children who are achieving great things in school and truly gifted children. The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act defines gifted and talented students as “Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.” [Title IX, Part A, Definition 22. (2002)] Many states follow the federal definition. The definitive measure of course is the child’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Depending on the state you live in, “gifted” may be defined as having an IQ of 121 (100 is considered an average IQ) or higher or the combination of a number of factors including mental ability, academic performance, and creativity.

All parents think that their child is special, but short of having your child tested, how might you tell that he is truly gifted? Having an idea of whether your child is gifted gives you, the parent, a head start on giving him the guidance that he needs and deserves; the educational needs of gifted children are as important as any other special learning need, indeed we believe that gifted children have a right to appropriate educational guidance.

The following five areas should give you an idea of whether your child is bright or more—gifted. In this article we assume your child is old enough to have had some formal classroom work, but it is possible to detect whether a younger child—even an infant—is displaying qualities of a gifted intelligence; this latter topic we’ll save for a future article.

1. Academic Performance – Bright children naturally perform well in school. They get A’s, willingly complete their assignments, are pleased with learning, and work hard to achieve. Bright children will learn with ease, are attentive, and remember answers. On the other hand, gifted children may not be motivated by grades, will initiate their own assignments, are frequently very self-critical, and simply know without having to work hard. Gifted children may seem inattentive but are actually selectively engaged, excelling at that which interests them most. Gifted children don’t just remember answers, they pose their own questions. Bright children perform at the top of their class or group, but gifted children are beyond the group or are in their own group. Bright children are typically teacher pleasers, whereas gifted children can be the bane of a teacher’s existence.

2. Social Behavior – Not only can gifted children be beyond, or in their own, academic group, they may create their own social groups. Bright children seek peers of their own age and interests; gifted children seek peers of their own intellect and therefore often prefer the conversation of adults. Bright children understand complex and abstract humor, and enjoy school and other opportunities to learn. Gifted children, however, create complex abstract humor (or enjoy off-the-wall humor) and tend to prefer self-directed learning over formal schooling.

3. Imagination and Ideas – Bright children generate advanced ideas and comprehend at high levels. Gifted children generate highly complex, often abstract, ideas, and their ideas are often in great abundance; they also comprehend ideas at a much more complex and abstract level than other children. Bright children tend to memorize and recall well, while gifted children guess, infer, and produce their own unique ideas well; gifted children are natural brainstormers, fountains of original ideas. Gifted children will create complex stories and will often converse freely with practically anyone willing to listen.

4. Curiosity – Bright children exhibit interest and respond with opinions, gifted children are thoroughly curious and exhibit opinions from multiple perspectives. While bright children explore problems in detail, gifted children ponder the problems in great depth. Bright children are receptive to exploring problems and are alert and observant; gifted children are intense in their exploration of problems and are not merely observant, they anticipate (predict) and relate their observations.

5. Learning – Bright children master tasks in 6 to 8 repetitions while gifted children master the same tasks in 1 to 3 repetitions. Bright children easily grasp the meanings of topics, produce accurate and complete work, and seem to easily absorb information. On the other hand, gifted children infer and connect concepts, not just meanings; they produce work of an original nature; and they don’t just absorb information, they manipulate it. Gifted children often balk at having to do repetitive practice of skills; they just don’t see the value of practice when they have already mastered the task.

Does your child exhibit behaviors and qualities that are more like bright children or gifted children? If the latter, the first thing you should do is meet with his teacher and ask as many questions as you can, though keep in mind that your child’s teacher is likely not an expert in gifted education. Recognizing that your gifted child needs special attention is a critical first step in their education.

Sources: “High Achiever, Gifted Learner, Creative Thinker” by Bertie Kingore, Ph.D.; “Note the Difference” by Janice Szabos, Challenge Magazine.


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