I have a feeling this post may be like opening up Pandora’s box and I want to first be clear that my intention is not to offend parents. Of course, every child has her/her own special talents, the things that make us unique. Right now I’m talking about being academically gifted.
How should I know? My credentials: I have a master’s degree in education, an additional gifted specialist certification, and I served for a few years as a gifted teacher in Florida’s public schools before staying home with my own kids. I spent my summers in trainings about identifying gifted learners. I’ve also been published in the Gifted Educational Press quarterly. Often, other parents will come to me and ask if I think their children may be gifted. So, if you are wondering the same thing, here are some points to consider…
How To Tell If Your Child Is Gifted
A few things to know about gifted learners:
1. What we think of as “smart” is not always the same as gifted. Neither is high-achieving. Getting straight A’s is awesome, but it does not necessarily mean a child is intellectually gifted. He/she might just be very motivated and work really hard- and that’s great too! Actually, sometimes gifted learners do not perform well in school at all for any number of reasons including not being stimulated enough, not liking authority, or knowing the correct answers but simply refusing to do the classwork.
2. Ask yourself, “Does ability match performance?” Often gifted kids are the ones who seem like they are not paying attention, are disruptive and uninterested, but can still get every answer right on a test. Many gifted children actually struggle in school and get bad grades because they lack motivation. On the other hand, some gifted children can earn excellent grades seemingly without even trying, it just comes naturally to them.
3. Gifted children can be socially awkward. They sometimes prefer the company of adults instead of their same-age peers.
4. Making up secret languages or talking in nonsense words on purpose is a sign of giftedness.
5. When I was working as a gifted teacher, in order to be considered academically gifted a child would need to have an IQ at least two standard deviations above the mean. That means IQ test results of 130 or higher.
6. Gifted children very often have a heightened sense of empathy. They hear about global problems like hunger and feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. This can, understandably, be very overwhelming for a young child.
If you think your child may be gifted:
- Supplementing academics with fun brain puzzles like Sudoku is a great idea. If your child often completes school assignments much faster than his/her classmates, ask the teacher if you can send in a book of crosswords or math puzzles for your child to keep in his or her desk and do while waiting for classmates to complete their work.
- Discuss current events in an age-appropriate way. Find a newspaper article or a website that does not contain graphic pictures and read it with your child. Let her develop her own opinion about it and ask why she feels that way. I utilized Time for Kids this way in my classroom.
- It is important to remember that just because children can do something, does not mean that they should. Even if your first grader is able to read the dialogue in Romeo and Juliet, strongly consider whether or not to let him do that just yet. Adult themes in literature are not always appropriate for young children. Particularly graphic or violent scenes in books or movies can very negatively affect those children with that heightened sense of empathy.
- Ask your child’s teacher if the text books used in the classroom have accompanying websites that can be used to supplement the curriculum at home.
- Journaling with your child can give you some great insights into his or her mind and personality. Use a marble notebook and have your child draw a picture or write you a letter on one side, then draw or write a similar letter to your child on the other side. This also makes a great keepsake!
- Connecting with other parents of gifted children also helps. See if there are any private Facebook groups for families of gifted children in your area. Joining them can lead to some lasting friendship and give you much-needed support.
If you need additional resources, The National Association for Gifted Children (http://www.nagc.org/) is a great place to start.
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