How to Identify and Educate a Gifted Child


The distinction between a “very clever” child and a “gifted” child is unclear. Some psychologists regard a child as gifted when she has an IQ of above 130, whereas oth­ers require an IQ of at least 140. Estimates suggest that about one or two children in 200 are gifted.

The stereotype of a gifted child is a humorless, precocious, and bespectacled young person who is more concerned with knowl­edge and worldly matters than she is with typical childhood inter-ests. Not all gifted children conform to this pattern. They have the same psychological needs as any other children—the need to be loved, to feel secure, and to fulfill their potential. What does dif­ferentiate a gifted child is her exceptional thirst for learning.

A gifted child usually shows her ability in the preschool years, often in the following ways:

  • Early developmental milestones. The child may attain bowel and bladder control early, and may walk and talk at a younger age than would normally be expected.
  • More energy than usual. The child may need less sleep at night than other children of her age. (However, this is also a common characteristic of hyperactive children, and there­fore should not be used as the sole criterion for assessing giftedness.)
  • An insatiable curiosity. The child may show great interest in the world around her, asking lots of questions about abstract issues—for example, about life and death.
  • Well-developed language. The gifted child often has an an extensive vocabulary, and she is probably able to talk flu­ently about a wide range of topics, long before other chil­dren of her age are able to do so.
  • Keen powers of observation and reasoning. The child may be able to see relationships between events, and to understand general principles on the basis of a few examples. A gifted child’s memory is often quick and retentive, and her imag­ination may be unusually vivid.
  • A preference for the company of older children. Chances are that the child enjoys spending some of her time with older chil­dren and adults because they are better matched to her intellectual level.

Bear in mind that a gifted child may not be good at every­thing. Her handwriting skills can lag behind her reading ability. Some gifted children are better at seeing and doing than they are at talking and listening; they may have difficulty expressing themselves in words, yet show exceptional mechanical ability.

Never push your gifted child too far, or become concerned only with her educational achievements while ignoring her per­sonal and social development. A six-year-old who has the intel­ligence of a fifteen-year-old is unlikely to feel at ease in the com­pany of teenagers.

A Canadian study found that most gifted children have no social difficulties. The results showed that the typical gifted child is a well-adjusted individual, able to manage the social and emotional demands of childhood. Much depends on the atti­tude of the child’s parents. Parents who attend to all aspects of their child’s development, and who don’t simply focus on her intellectual needs, are less likely to create psychological hazards for her than are parents who place their child’s intellectual skills above everything else.

Following are three approaches to the education of gifted children:

  • Segregation, which involves the child attending separate classes (or even separate schools) for children of exceptional ability, where every child in the class is categorized as gifted. The drawbacks with an approach based on segregation is that the child loses contact with most others of her age and has little contact with children of other levels of ability.
  • Acceleration, which involves a gifted child progressing through the ordinary school curriculum at a faster rate than the other pupils. She may even skip one grade entirely. Like segregation, this approach carries with it the danger that the child will be thrust into situations that she can deal with intellectually, but not emotionally or socially.
  • Enrichment, in which the child has mainstream schooling for most of the week, but in addition attends enrichment classes to increase knowledge and understanding. The advantage of enrichment classes is that the child’s intellec­tual ability is stretched, and yet she is still able to spend most of her time with her peer group.

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About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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