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Bright or Gifted

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 5.5 yrs old and we have a strong feeling that he is very much more talented. Now the school is starting to do assessment for gifted kids.

My son stared talking very early (7 months - clear words), increased vocabulary then after, amazing memory (some instances really shock us

  • things happened when he was only 3 and have seen only once for a short time

  • he can recall now - exactly where and when), great interest in music, very creative ideas

  • keeps on making something always, always, loves to play with 'bigger' kids - like he loves buddy program (yr 5 kids)

  • is very sensitive/empathetic to others and very caring to others and very self aware

  • he knows his limitations and will try new things after some observation.

  • His reading and writing are good, he is already doing mental Maths - beyond his age.

  • All his school reports have been very rewarding.

I would like to know if these are qualities of a 'bright' child or a 'gifted' child.

A: Parents are in the best position to determine if their child is gifted. I am sure you have seen the various checklists available and are aware of what makes giftedness. From your brief description, I believe that your son may be gifted. You are already doing the right thing by being aware of his gifts and hopefully giving her what she needs to cater for his needs. However, there are no details of his development at the current age, hence; it may be hard to tell for sure. Having said that, as parents we do the best we can to cater to our children's needs regardless of whether they may be gifted or not.

Briefly, some of the characteristics of a gifted 2-5 year old are (from the U.S. Office of Gifted and Talented)

  • Uses advanced vocabulary for age.

  • Uses spontaneous verbal elaboration with new experiences.

  • Has the ability to make interesting or unusual shapes or patterns through various media: blocks, play dough, crayons.

  • Ability to assemble puzzles designed for older children.

  • Sense of humor used in general conversation.

  • Understanding of abstract concepts such as death and time.

  • Mastery of new skills with little repetition.

  • Demonstration of advanced physical skills.

  • Demonstration of advanced reasoning skills through explanation of occurrences.

Keep monitoring his advances in the above to give him the proper stimulation based on his developmental milestone which by now must be getting more stable.

As for the differences between bright & gifted, it is a little hard to determine at this stage, but the fine differences can be seen more clearly when they are older. See the table below:

Comparison of Bright Vs Gifted:

Bright Child Gifted Child
Knows the answers Asks the questions
Answers questions questions the answers
Interested Extremely curious
Pay attention Gets involved physically and mentally
Work hard Plays around, still gets good scores
Enjoys same-age children Prefers adults or older peers
Good at memorization Good at guessing
Learns easily Bored. Already knew the answers
Listens well Shows strong feelings and opinions
Self-satisfied Highly critical of self (perfectionist)

Source: Janice Szabos as quoted in "The Gifted and Talented Child," Maryland Council for Gifted & Talented Children, Inc. P.O. Box 12221, Silver Spring, MD 20908

He would require good guidance to expose him to learning materials that can help further develop and stimulate him. However, make sure you are not pushing him too much. Let him develop his gifts with some help from you as naturally as possible. Expose him to a variety of activities to challenge him and find his passion area. By now, you should have noticed what he enjoys and what bores him. Since he is creative, include activities that involved creativity to challenge him. You may also want to try out various musical instrument to see if he has passion for any specific ones.

Keep monitoring his progress and allow for some guided free play activities. At this stage, activities are more structured. This is also the time to help him develop his social skills especially as he enjoys the buddy program and is empathetic. Whatever you do, regardless of whether he is gifted or bright, all he needs is a lot of love and some guidance to develop his potential. The internet is a great source of information so keep reading to build awareness and understanding to help your child. Here's wishing you all the best!


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