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Questions on Giftedness

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I found myself relating to a lot of problems gifted people face but the thing is I wasn't tested for one when I was in elementary school simply because my grades were generally average. However, something intuitive clicked past my secondary school years and I wasn't sure if it was due to hormonal changes or something, but:

  • my grades and school position suddenly skyrocketed. No seriously, I did not change my study habits but suddenly I maintained top position through my year 2 examinations. The weirder part was that this occurred during my deepest bouts of major depression. Although now I still do maintain slightly better grades, it's much due to my inferiority complex and atychiphobia.

  • now am suddenly very involved in world issues, much more than my friends and even surprised my teachers -But my vocabulary is still limited (which contradicts most gifted individuals and their diversity and sophisticated vocab.) or I'm generally average in my languages ...

  • I've been philosophising a lot about life: specifically life and death, freedom, time and the repetition/mundanity of everyday life.

  • From young, I was misdiagnosed as having ADD or really daydreamy, forgetful, careless and always playing pretend/conjuring imaginary characters.

  • I am an HSP INFP as well.

With that, I wish to ask:

  1. What defines a highly gifted person? Because I don't seem to find myself especially exceptional in anything, practically speaking.

  2. What makes a highly gifted differ from mildly gifted/averagely gifted?
    Or is that just a psychological term to categorise all gifted people?
    (Because I've read many articles talking about "highly gifted", but rarely do I see the term "mildly gifted" being used.)

  3. Should I not be tested positive for giftedness, what does this imply about me being able to relate to almost all the problems of giftedness? Are some of these problems only experienced by gifted people?

  4. What differentiates a Highly Sensitive Person (I mean the one whom Elaine Aron's studies about, not a common noun) from a gifted person?

  5. I want to voice this subject to my parents and my counsellor, but I'm afraid of being called “presumptuous”/”overthinking”/”arrogant”. How should I go about initiating the conversation? Should I even use the word “gifted”? (I'm certain they perceive gifted people as prodigies or extremely talented people…) But I've nothing to back me up except the problems gifted/sensitive/creative adolescents experience which I can relate to.)

Please take the time to answer the questions, even a few are fine. :)

A: Your letter is interesting and I will attempt to answer your questions and hopefully it would help clear the air a little perhaps.

1. The most important definition of giftedness relies heavily on the single best predictor, which is the intelligence quotient. An IQ of 130 and above would place someone in the gifted range so to speak. However, individuals may have lowered IQ due to various reasons especially if there is a learning difficulty. It must be noted that an IQ test only captures what the testing items are meant to test. Standardised tests are the best as they have been heavily researched and give a rather close indication of intelligence. Read this link to find out some of the characteristics at

2. The difference would be in terms of IQ and ability. The above article would have helped you understand better. In any case, the distinction is usually between gifted and non-gifted. The higher the IQ, the further the individual would be from the mean and the bigger the difference in characteristics and ability from “average” people.

3. It is hard to say either way. You may or may not have scores in the gifted range on an IQ test but it is not conclusive especially if you have a learning disability, which may affect your scores in certain areas and lowers the overall score. Of course the best method is to get tested by a gifted education expert who may use a combination of methods. None of the issues experiences by gifted individuals are experienced by all gifted people; at the same time, it is possible for other non-gifted people to have some of those concerns. The characteristics, traits and problems associated with gifted individuals are distinct to most gifted individuals but can be experienced by anyone - the intensity makes the difference.

4. Anyone can be categorized as Highly Sensitive Person - HSP; gifted or not. And not all gifted people are highly sensitive and definitely not all highly sensitive people are gifted. One can be HSP and gifted at the same time. Gifted individuals are a special population accounting for around 2-5% of the population. HSPs could account for about 15-20%.

5. It is best to discuss seriously with your parents. Especially if you think you need some help. They would be in a position to support you. Bottom line is that you appear quite confused and have been thinking too much - perhaps overthinking. If it is disrupting your daily life, something needs to be done. For now, perhaps refrain from using any term until you are able to explain the concerns without any labels.

Apart from getting some help, it may be a goof idea to control your thoughts and try focusing. Set some goals and target to achieve it in. You probably started doing better when learning became more interesting and perhaps challenging. Forget the labels for now and focus on what needs to be done regardless of if you find out you are gifted or not. To succeed in life we need to set realistic goals, be passionate about what we do and work hard to fulfil that passion. It is also a good idea to start being physically active and do some meditation or breathing exercises. Wishing you a fruitful journey!


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