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Signs of Above Average Abilities

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I am starting to think that my son Kyler is gifted. He just turned 3 a month ago and can recite and recall the entire alphabet. He knows and identifies numbers up to 20. He can also identify consistently shapes and can tell the difference between ovals and circles, squares and rectangles. He was diagnosed with mild mental retardation when he was 2 because of the lack of speech. Within the last three weeks he has started talking and learning all these things. In comparison to my other children whom are 7 and 10, he is much more advanced. Am I just excited for the speech coming through or is the ability to do these things signs of a gifted child? Thank you for you time.

A: It is possible that he was probably misdiagnosed with mild retardation solely based on lack of speech. Some children develop speech earlier than others and just as in other developmental areas, this is very normal. As long as they are able to understand instructions and show signs of advancing, talking late is probably not a concern unless accompanied by other complications based on average developmental milestones. In Kyler's case, he started talking at three, so this is within the average range of speech development.

There are many signs of early giftedness. From your brief description, it is not sufficient to label a child as being gifted. Some basic developmental milestones for an average three year old are such as the ability to walk up steps, alternating feet; turning pages in a book one at a time; longer attention span (about three minutes or more), ability to remember what happened the previous day; looking through a book on one's own; enjoying being read to; counting two to three objects; following simple commands/instructions; using three to five word sentences; asking of short questions; has a vocabulary of about 900-1000 words; ability to name at least one color correctly; knows first and last name; and the ability to recognize and understand most common objects and pictures. Do note that brighter children may speak late but speech is in complete sentences. If the child is gifted, it would be expected that these development may be accelerated by months or even years ahead of an average child.

It would be best to compare his abilities using a checklist as a guide to determine his advancement (Refer to Austega for general characteristics). Parents are the best judge of giftedness in young children, so if you feel that your boy may be gifted compared to his other siblings, it would be best to observe him and cater to his learning needs. For now, apart from equipping yourself with more information on this, guide him as best as you can to help him meet his maximum potential, regardless of whether he is gifted or not. All the best.


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