Gifted Education 101: Is my child gifted? Should I care?

Part 2 in a series

What exactly does “gifted” mean?
All parents know their children are the most wonderful, adorable, funny people on earth. So what is the hype with gifted-ness? There are many official definitions of the word “gifted,” and if you would like an in-depth discussion, check out Hoagies‘ page discussing it. In a nutshell, saying a child is gifted means that the child has intellectual abilities that require educating that child differently than others. In Pennsylvania, children identified as gifted usually have an IQ of 130 or higher, or two or more standard deviations from the mean.

Being gifted is not a good or bad thing; there is no value judgment in the word itself. I think this is a very important point to remember. A gifted child is no better or worse than any other child. She simply needs different services to achieve to her potential. In fact, in Pennsylvania, gifted education falls under the umbrella of special education.

What are some signs of giftedness?
Here are some lists of signs of giftedness. Not all gifted children display all the signs. As an example, I will list some of the signs that Audrey exhibited as a young child.

  • She had an incredible memory.
  • She was extremely curious, and would follow through to learn about things in depth.
  • She often saw problems in a unique way and would find her own solutions.
  • She had a very advanced vocabulary. At fifteen months, she could say over 125 words.
  • She had a very long attention span.
  • She enjoyed doing complex puzzles.
  • She had a great imagination and frequently daydreamed.
  • She had a high level of concentration that was difficult to break into.
  • She often transferred her understanding from one context to another.
  • She preferred to play with older children.
  • She was emotionally sensitive.
  • She loved playing with numbers.
  • She had an imaginary friend that she described in detail.
  • She was an early reader–she was reading Henry and Mudge books at 3 1/2.
  • She learned quickly, with few repetitions.
  • She was a perfectionist.

Everyone has heard about those parents who are sure their perfectly ordinary child is a genius. But the truth is that parents are usually right about their children’s abilities. According to Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center,

Parents are excellent identifiers of giftedness in their children: 84% of the children whose parents feel that they exhibit 3/4 of the Characteristics of Giftedness in our intake procedure test in the superior or gifted range. Over 95% show giftedness in at least one area, but are asynchronous in their development, and their weaknesses depress their IQ scores.

So you have read through the checklists and think your child may be gifted. But this may be the most important question:

Does it matter that my child is gifted?
Short answer, it depends. If you have a young child who is not yet in school, I think the most important thing for any parent is to follow the child’s lead. Although some may disagree, I don’t really see a need to test a preschool aged child in most situations. As long as parents are reading to their child and exposing her to a variety of interesting things, the child will be stimulated.

But if your child is school-aged, I think it does matter. It is highly possible that a gifted child is not being appropriately challenged in the classroom. Consider this. The average IQ is 100. If a gifted child has an IQ of 130 or more, and is being instructed in the same way as the rest of the class, it is like teaching the class at the level of a child with an IQ of 70 or below and expecting the average children to stay challenged. Just as a child who is struggling deserves support to learn to the best of her ability, gifted children deserve to work hard at learning. Without identification, it is possible that a child’s teachers will not recognize or accommodate a child’s needs.

Come back next week for “I Think My Child is Gifted. Now What?”

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