People tend to use the word ‘gifted’ very liberally, to mean any child who is talented or has above-average intelligence. There are also those who say that ‘every child is gifted.’ While it’s true that everyone is endowed with talents and skills, ‘gifted’ is a special term that has a very strict criteria. What does gifted really mean and how can parents support a gifted child?
Gifted children must have above average intellectual ability with superior achievement in a particular area: Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence; Logical / Mathematical; Body Kinesthetic; Musical / Rhythmic; and Leadership. The talent must surpass anyone from that age group—like Mozart composing sonatas at the age of six, as opposed to a child who can just play pretty darned good piano.
Giftedness does not just refer to talent. It can mean excellent reasoning skills, abstract and conceptual thinking, advanced language an reading skills, extreme imagination and curiosity, and a perceptiveness that leads him to ask hard ‘what if’ questions.
Gifted children also tend to be frustrated with kids of their own age, and seek the company of older people. They also tend to be oversensitive and over emotional, and may also seem distracted. They are motivated, but can be stubborn, using their intelligence to argue what they want or negotiate a rule.
If you suspect your child is gifted, have him tested by a developmental pediatrician and psychologist who can assess IQ.
Parents may be overwhelmed by the challenges of raising a gifted child. Placing the normal child in a special program can be frustrating in the same way that ‘under-stimulating’ the gifted child can lead to boredom and impatience. A common problem for the gifted child is that they may be underachievers.
Most gifted children have good social skills. Some have trouble getting along with others because of attributes of their giftedness such as: low tolerance for the thoughts of others, belief that their way is the only correct way, higher knowledge level than their peers, and attempting to organize people to the point of being bossy.
Parents must decide whether to accelerate a gifted child to the next grade level, but his has its pros and cons. Gifted children may be bored by the ‘easy’ work but they may not be socially and emotionally competent enough to be placed with other children beyond his years. Some children, on the other hand, can keep two sets of friends – those of their same age and those older than them. Supporting the child’s emotional needs is also crucial when thinking of what benefits the child most.
But whatever the parents’ decision, it is crucial for them to support the gifted child emotionally and provide a holistic environment. Expose him to diverse experiences and teach him important values like accepting different ideas or opinions, being considerate of the feelings of others, and behaving appropriately in various situations.
Photo from psychologytoday.com