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Signs of Early Giftedness

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have a 16 month old daughter and we were told by a teacher in our playgroup that she is gifted. She has always been extremely alert. She smiled at me when she was 2 days old. She said her first word at 6 months (hello) and her first sentence at 7 1/2 months (mumma, bird cheep cheep cheep) in response to a bird chirping outside. She said about 100 words by 1 year of age, and over 1000 by 14 months. She is making 3-4 word sentences now (mummy, diaper wet, change it) and knows the full sentences of many songs (let's go fly a kite, happy birthday to you). She knew about 15-20 animals and the sound that they make at 13 months, and knew 10 body parts at 13 months. She could count to 10 by 14 months, understood the concept of big and little by 13 1/2 months. She knows and understands the concept of opposites (front, back, hard, soft etc).

She knows her shapes and colors, recognizes some letters of the alphabet, and we think she may be able to read a few basic words (day, no, yes, own). She can remember something that she has seen once a month later, and knows what is on the next page of many books she reads (including books that I haven't read to her in months), and remembers a lot of things that I have forgotten. There are other things as well, but I cannot recall them at this time. Overall though, I was in the gifted program as a child and I feel that she thinks like me.

I guess we have a few questions; Is she gifted? Is this something we would know at this age? What should we be doing for her? We are kind of at a loss in terms of what else to do with her (i.e. what is the next step). I read to her, take her on outings and show her things, play with her, but I don't think she is being challenged. I don't want to miss something that I should be doing for her at this age and haven't thought of. Also, she really wants to learn how to read - should I be teaching her how to read at this age?

Any help in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

A: From your description, she is most certainly showing developmental milestones ahead of her peers and is potentially gifted. Especially so if you realize similarities between you both when you were a child - then, there is a very high chance that she is indeed gifted. In fact, this is a great age to explore with anything and everything as children are most curious and you would be able to monitor their interest in any particular area. For now, you have been doing a great job but if you feel she may not be challenged enough, then there is more that can be done.

Reading is something that is so crucial and if she wants to read, all the more it should be encouraged and guided. Gifted children are almost always known to be avid readers as books are means for them to look for answers or their ever-inquisitive minds. Research supports reading and board games as ways to increase vocabulary, math skills, comprehension and also critical thinking skills. It is always better to start early - as early as the child is ready. In this case, she is asking for it so please don't hold back any longer.

Allow her to follow her interests at this point. In case you find that she is fascinated with something, do more of it and gradually increase its complexity. Having said that, more work of the same kind may sometimes bore gifted children, so it is always important to try to have variations of the same activity. This involves creativity on your side. You must also know when to stop - a good cue is to observe when she starts to lose interest (irritable, distracted). If this happens, drop the activity and allow her some free play time.

Ensure that she remains challenged all the time so as not to have any time to be idle (which may cause laziness in future). The following are a few tips that you can use at this stage and later to encourage her learning:

  • Help her determine differences; compare and contrast things/people. This helps with critical thinking skills.

  • Use measurement words often: little, more, many, half, quarter, etc. . This helps with introduction to early math.

  • Instead of reading stories from books all the time, create your own and try to get her to contribute. This helps with creative thinking skills.

  • You can also watch educational programs with her and ask her the “whys” and “whats” - and then explain without correcting her.

  • Look for similarities and differences and have her group things that belong.

  • Create a scenario and ask her about what could happen in certain situations; situations familiar to her (e.g., safety issues in the house).

You may also want to look out for play schools which may be a great environment for her to develop her initial social skills.

Hope the tips are helpful and have a great learning journey with your little one. Keep up the great work; don't worry too much about not doing enough at this stage. Also keep monitoring her progress and encourage her to learn positively. Best of luck!


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