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Is My Child Bright or Gifted?

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 5.6 yrs old. He is a very active child. I wish to know if he a bright child or gifted one. Here are his progress details so far.

  1. He started walking just before his first birthday and started speaking complete words or 2 -3 word sentences when he was 13 – 14 months old .

  2. When he was 14 to 16 months old, he could do 15 – 20 pieces wooden puzzles (shapes, animals and alphabets).

  3. By age of 1.8 yrs, he could recognize more than 150 brand logos from newspaper and could read sign boards. He could recognize almost all the cars on the road. He could solve 27 pieces shape puzzle.

  4. By the age of 2.5 years, he could point out countries on the world map.

  5. He started reading at the age of 3.5 yrs and now read anything from early reader series( Enid Blyton) to newspaper.

  6. He is very good with spellings. He can write sentences and can do simple addition and subtraction.

  7. His teachers say that has very good memory.

His school does not have program for gifted children but they encourage him to read books (when he was in the play group, his class teacher use to send him to Jr Kg or senior K.G for reading).

I would like to know if these are signs of a gifted child or a bright child. Hope you can advise us on what can be done to encourage him. We don't want to formally assess him. Thank you.

A: Based on the developmental milestones, it does indicate advanced ability. However, there are many more factors involved. There is just so much one can conclude based on the basis of developmental milestones alone. Of course a formal assessment would tell you objectively where he stands but perhaps you are not ready to formally assess him. Try filling in a checklist for giftedness, which may give you a better idea.

As a matter of fact, bright children are able to learn quickly and it may be a little easier to teach them. On the other hand, one may find that they do not usually exhibit the kind of curiosity and intense rage in learning in comparison to gifted children. What I would advise is that whether or not your son is considered “gifted” or “bright”, go ahead and nurture him as if he's gifted. Spend time with him, guide him with learning that interests him, expose and explore new areas of learning try to make his educational experience as fulfilling as possible. Do view past newsletters on activities to nurture his potential.

For nurturing his learning in school, help the teachers understand his needs. If he is getting bored or appears to be disrupting others while learning, he may need a lot more stimulation and challenging work. Help his teacher to provide more meaningful work (e.g., worksheets from home that you had printed out). Acceleration (subject or grade) may help as well is he is emotionally and socially ready especially for grade skipping.

More importantly, regardless of whether a child is gifted, bright, or even average, you would want to provide the best environment possible to nurture him abilities as best as you can. Just follow his lead and do not force him to produce results that you expect. Allow him to explore on his own. Gifted children are self-learners, intrinsically motivated and often need some guidance but prefer to explore independently.

Below is an interesting comparison table by Szabos:

Gifted vs. Bright: A Detailed Comparison

Bright Child Gifted Child
Knows the answers Asks the questions
Answers the questions Discusses in detail, elaborates
Is interested Is highly curious
Is attentive Is physically and mentally involved
Works hard Plays around, yet tests well
Has good ideas Has wild, silly ideas
Top group Beyond the group
Enjoys Peers Prefers adults or older peers
Good memorizer Good guesser
Learns with ease Already knows
Listens with interest Shows strong feelings and opinions
Self-satisfied Highly critical of self (perfectionist)
Six to eight repetitions for mastery One to two repetitions for mastery
Understands ideas Constructs abstractions
Grasps the meaning Draws inferences
Completes assignments Initiates projects
Is receptive Is intense
Copies accurately Creates a new design
Enjoys school Enjoys learning
Absorbs information Manipulates information
Technician Inventor
Enjoys straightforward sequential presentation Thrives on complexity
Is alert Is keenly observant
Is pleased with own learning Is highly self-critical

Source: Janice Szabos, Challenge Magazine 1989 Issue 34


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