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Characteristic of Gifted Children

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: How do I identify a gifted child?

A: To recognize if a child is gifted, there are numerous characteristics that are distinct to gifted individuals and quite easily observable, especially for parents. The following description would give a rough indication of these characteristics.

By the broad category of giftedness, characteristic traits are listed as general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative thinking and production, leadership, psychomotor ability, visual and performing arts. More specifically, if your child demonstrate about three quarter of the following characteristic traits, it is likely that s/he is gifted.

  • Variety of Interests
  • Excellent memory
  • Long attention span
  • Unusual curiosity 
  • Persistence in attacking difficult mental tasks
  • Creative ability/Divergent thinking skills
  • Good problem solving/reasoning abilities
  • Rapid learning ability
  • Leadership qualities
  • High degree of energy
  • Above average language development
  • Early/avid reader
  • Preference for older/matured companions
  • Unusual emotional depth and intensity 
  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Non-conformity behavior
  • Above average ability with numbers/jigsaw puzzles
  • Keen powers of observation
  • Vivid imagination
  • Good sense of humor
  • Sense of justice and moral sensitivity
  • Perfectionism
  • Apparent maturity in judgment

Researches on giftedness indicate that the best way to identify giftedness in your child is by carefully observing his behavior, not by formal testing of IQ especially if the child is very young. The best age to do an IQ test is still debatable. I suppose, as soon as the child is able to read/write and understand questions; s/he may be able to do such tests without much bias. Most of the indicators of giftedness become evident even before a child turns one! So perhaps that's when you may be able to look out for some of the indications listed above. However, do be aware that your child may not necessary be gifted in all areas.

On intelligence testing, the accuracy of an IQ test is still questionable. Nevertheless, it is still the single best predictor to test general intelligence. Intelligence and giftedness are not synonymous - as thought by many. Gifted individuals have different abilities, talents, and personalities. Even so, a sizeable proportion of the individuals categorized as gifted are distinguished from their non-gifted counterparts by virtue of superior general intelligence, which is measured by intelligence tests. This is how giftedness becomes associated with intelligence.

A note of caution, some parents tend to want to believe that their child is "gifted" as it may associate one with the pool of elitist, especially so within a competitive society. This may lead them to "force" giftedness upon their child, forgetting other aspects of development, especially their affective needs. With proper nurturing and access to educational materials, children would be seen to perform, but if their emotional and physical needs were not met, these children would be at risk of burning out.

Then, to turn the tables around would be rather difficult and requires a great deal of effort as the damage is already done during the critical age of growing. Hence, give your child what you believe would help him/her make the most of his/her abilities, but at the same time allow your child to enjoy growing. Focus on your child's strengths, at the same time pay attention to his/her weak areas and get help.

Believe that every child may not meet the early sign of gifted characteristics that are listed, but every child is special in his/her own way - focus on that specialty and you would be nurturing a well-rounded and emotionally stable child.


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