Saturday, October 3, 2009

Gifted Children and Imagination

Perhaps the most fun for the parent of a gifted child comes from a gifted child's seemingly limitless imagination and wellspring of ideas. There are different types of intelligences, and therefore different types of gifted intelligences, but we like to categorize them in 2 ways: analytically gifted and creatively gifted. We've said before that our son tends to the former while our daughter tends to the latter. So it might be logical to assume that it's our daughter who would be the more imaginative of the two, but for us that wasn't necessarily the case.

As early as preschool, long before being identified as gifted, our son would come home with the craziest (imagination on the wild side) and most detailed of stories. We still get a chuckle out of one of his stories where he claimed he and a friend pushed their teacher down the hill during recess. "And she rolled, and rolled..." The story went on and on, with incredible detail, enough so that--while we were pretty certain he hadn't actually pushed his teacher down the hill--we asked her about it at the next PTA meeting. His level of detail was quite convincing! And yes, it was all the product of his imagination.

That imagination hasn't abated, either. He's now a 20 year-old college junior who is taking World Literature. One night out to dinner recently he recounted for us the story of Gilgamesh. In amazing detail. On the way to the restaurant, all during dinner, and on the way home. He may still be talking about it, I'm not sure. While it wasn't the product of his imagination, it captured his attention enough that he had practically memorized the story. Somewhat related: gifted children will also converse with anyone willing to listen!

Gifted children can think in much more complex ways than other children. Their thinking can produce the most complex and detailed of ideas, as in our son's pre-school stories, and they can comprehend at incredibly high levels, as in his understanding of the story of Gilgamesh. This may be the easiest way to distinguish between a child who is bright and a child who is gifted: bright children will indeed memorize and recall content with ease, but gifted children will not only memorize and recall, but also extrapolate, infer, and create their own content.

Not to be outdone, our daughter too is a fountain of imagination and ideas, though more practical and grounded than that of our son (which would be really, really surprising if you knew our daughter). Her imagination comes out in her creative writing (she's been working on a book for a couple of years now) and in the particularness of her wardrobe (fortunately she's well beyond the dreadful goth years of junior high).

Gifted children often think much more abstractly than other children, as is the case with our daughter. In the late 90's (when she was around 8 or 9) there was a spate of disaster movies coming out (volcanoes, tornadoes, and storms; I'm sure you remember them). Having only seen the trailers on TV, she would turn to us and ask, "that can't happen here, can it?" She had taken the abstract concept of a volcano bubbling up out of the ground, or a tornado ravaging Kansas, and applied it to our own backyard.

Ah, the imagination of gifted children!

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