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Gifted or Not?

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have a 4 year old son. He just turned four - 2 weeks ago. At his four year doctor visit, the doctor seemed amazed and amused by my son. He has been his doctor since birth, so I figured it was because he was excited to see my son doing so well. Before the appointment was over, the doctor said that I shouldn't be surprised if they want to test my son to see if he is gifted. I have always felt that my son is special. But I'm his mom, I'm sure that's normal and common. But here is why I've suspected for a long time that he is special...and some of the reasons I figured I was wrong.

First of all, my son NEVER slept as an infant. Until he was almost a year old, he never slept more than 5 hours straight...and that was co-sleeping. I would complain and people said it was normal...NO, I have a daughter now, how my son was, was not normal. He didn't crawl or walk early, but he was in the range of normal. He started speaking in the range of normal, but seemed to start talking then began talking in complete sentences very VERY quickly... He pulls lines from movies from memory, repeats complex combinations of words and says them as though he understands. (not just mimicking). Today (at age 4) he told me 'we should call WOW and authorize new cable mom'...they are a cable provider, anyway, I asked him if he knew what authorized meant and he said yes. He also used the word 'merchandise' today. I asked him what that meant, he said it means 'stuff'.

He prefers older kids, is known to take the reigns and start directing the kids in how/what to play...which is always just a game he makes up off the top of his head. He sings, dances and makes up funny stories and jokes. But at age 4 he is still not particularly physically inclined. He doesn't like to climb or 'show off' on the play ground, THOUGH he loves the play ground.

He is incredibly friendly and doesn't seem to think he is different than other kids (and I read that is a common thing for gifted children) anyway...He knows the alphabet, can pick out letters and numbers, knows his colors...he all of a sudden is refusing to count to 10 and says he can't. however, I truly believe he is doing it cuz he either wants the attention or as he says, doesn't want to go to school and he thinks not counting to 10 will make that happen.

Basically, he is charming, intelligent, and well spoken, but does anything I described sound 'gifted'...I guess I should mention the main reason I've always thought he was son has never been 'taught' or coaxed to learn anything, we worked on colors for about an hour playing candyland and he knew them from then on...and that would be a good example of how he learns everything...when he wants to learn it...he does. and usually with little help from anyone...people ask me how I taught him this or that...well, I didn't.

I told the doctor that he talks so well cuz he had no choice but to talk back to me (I'm a chatty person) and the doctor said he would love to give me the credit but there is something special going on with perhaps he is special in a 'gifted' way. What do you think?

A: From your description, you son does appear to be above average in terms of his developmental milestones but it is hard to say if he is gifted for now. There are some common characteristics that indicate giftedness but some others are age appropriate.

But, it really should not matter if he is gifted or not - you certainly have a very special child and your doctor think so as well. At this stage, the best that you can do would apply to all children regardless of ability. They need to be exposed to a variety of learning materials and based on that, you may be able to gauge how much more stimulation is required. Having a large vocabulary does also depend of how much a child can absorb and his environment - in which case, he must have above average intelligence and his environment (you mention that you are chatty) allows him to apply his learning. A charming and well spoken child would surely stand out and get attention - which is probably the case with your son.

He may not be physically inclined and that can happen to any child perhaps fear of falling or not being confident enough to climb due to lack of practice. Going to school may be a totally new experience for him, hence the anxiety which is again quite normal for children. You may need to help him a little to persuade him to go to school which I think may not be a problem since he is very friendly and would make friends easily. He needs to know that school is important and that he would have to go. It will be hard in the beginning but once he starts making friends, you will find that he would be more than happy to go to school. Once he attends school, speak to his teachers and let them know of his talents so that they are able to monitor his behavior at school and provide some feedback which you may be able to use to determine the best form of learning for him.

I think he is a very bright child who has been able to learn on his own with little and that is also probably because you never coax him to pile him with too many materials like some parents. Thus, he developed most naturally with some guide and is a happy child who appears to enjoy learning. So for now, forget about giftedness for a while and concentrate on helping him to enjoy learning and school. At the same time, monitor his progress and if you (and his teachers) feel that he needs to be tested, you can do so to determine if he needs curriculum differential. My very best to you!


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