What is gifted?
Just a three-word question, but I guarantee you it will be a far more complicated answer.
Academics have over 140 different definitions of giftedness.
What does that tell us?
There are some things that are generally agreed upon though.
Firstly, that you can be gifted in different ways: intellectually, creatively, academically, artistically, and gifted in leadership.
Also, that gifted kids seem to have a number of common traits.
Not all gifted kids have all traits, and your gifted kid might not have many, but these key characteristics can be helpful in spotting a gifted kid.
Here are a few gifted characteristics:
- learning quickly – might be an early reader
- highly sensitive – sensory/ emotional/ anxiety/ empathy
- good memory
- strong sense of social justice
- big vocabulary – early talker
- hit physical milestones early (like sitting/ crawling/walking)
- very energetic and difficulty sleeping
- advanced reasoning and puzzle skills
- very curious… lots of asking why!
Gifted kids might be getting straight A’s and coasting through school but are as likely, and possibly more likely to be underachieving, disengaging, and generally struggling to fit in with school.
Why is that when they have so much potential?
As we said before, gifted kids experience the world differently and that needs to be understood in their home and educational environment.
They will most likely have certain strengths that need enrichment or acceleration, and they may have areas that need additional support.
It’s a myth that gifted kids are good at everything.
Gifted kids are asynchronous.
Well, a typical child at school will most likely be in tune with the vast majority of their same-aged peers.
For example, a grade 4 student will be thriving learning grade 4 maths, English, and science. Some of their peers might find things hard here and there or excel but generally, the grade 4 curriculum meets their needs.
A gifted kid is out of whack with their same-age peers. Their level of giftedness tends to exacerbate this.
A gifted kid in grade 4 with other students their same age might be ok in grade 4 English but might be capable of grade 7 science and grade 6 maths, they might struggle with dyslexia and need support for reading.
That is asynchronous.
It means they are all over the place, sometimes gifted kids are capable of more advanced grades for all subjects but more often, each subject will be different depending on their strengths and in how they express their giftedness and their level of giftedness.
The important thing to note is that the kids getting all A’s are as likely to be kids who are highly intelligent but operating in the correct grade 4 curriculum as gifted kids who are capable of higher grades but performing well in their age-based class because they’ve learned to mask or confirm, or might be people pleasers.
Many gifted kids (even the high performing people pleasers) are as likely to become bored, disengaged, and possibly have mental health issues or behavioural issues if they can’t access education at their stage (not age).
And when I say bored, I don’t mean it’s the summer holidays, ‘mum, I’m bored!”.
I mean, just soul-destroying, I can’t exist in this space, it’s beyond me, I’m going to get disruptive. I’m going to get frustrated. I’m going to get angry. Because I just, I can’t cope being in this space kind-of-bored.
Gifted kids’ brains work differently.
There are more synapses that perform faster. They don’t have a choice, it’s who they are.
The many different definitions of giftedness relate to how we recognise gifted kids in schools and how we use tests and scores to determine who is gifted.
Statistically, 10% of kids in each age group are gifted. That’s a lot of kids.
We need to get better at answering the question – what is gifted?