What does being gifted really mean?


What does being gifted really mean?

A few years ago a friend said to me, ‘you know your son is gifted, right?’.

Errr, no, I did not.

If you’re like me, you’d probably never even heard of it before so it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder what is it to be gifted?

What does gifted mean?

Is gifted just high IQ?

Well, no, nope, nuh-uh.

Gifted is being neuro-diverse or neurologically a-typical (which means your brain is wired differently to the majority of other people) and a part of that diversity is expressed as…

  • learning quickly,
  • knowing intuitively,
  • being highly sensitive emotionally,
  • having highly sensitive senses, like as in our five senses of touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell,
  • being very energetic, intense and often not sleeping well,
  • advanced reasoning and puzzle skills,
  • advanced in reaching developmental milestones like crawling, walking and sitting early,
  • a good memory, and
  • being very curious!

…. which means most gifted folk score highly in IQ tests and giftedness is accepted as being in the top 10% of IQ and to be highly or profoundly gifted is to test in the 98th percentile and higher.

Which is to say that your IQ tests higher than 98 percent of people your age.

So do you have to score highly on an IQ test to be gifted??

Errr, yes and no.

Giftedness results in scoring highly on an IQ test BUT taking a test is fallible and being gifted is more than about just having high IQ.

Maybe you have ADHD, dyslexia, anxiety about taking tests, you’re autistic, feeling sick, or you’re disengaged and your test results don’t reflect your true potential.

Yes you can be gifted and have learning challenges.

We’ve personally experienced one of our kids getting a 44 and 56 point difference in subtests between two different IQ tests just because they didn’t feel well that day. That’s a HUGE difference!

An IQ test can’t be fluked but it can underestimate a person’s intelligence for a whole bunch of reasons (including cultural background).

At the moment an IQ test is the most common way of identifying giftedness but there are ways of identifying giftedness without IQ tests, they are just less common and aren’t the current generally accepted way. Maybe that will change in the future.

So does that mean it’s all about IQ?

Nope. Giftedness goes hand in hand with…

  • experiencing the world through emotion and empathy,
  • being highly sensitive,
  • having a keen sense of social justice,
  • finding it difficult to fit in, and
  • asynchronous development.

These things can be hard.

It can be difficult to fathom that other people experience the world differently to us.

We all assume that the way we see the world and feel the world and exist in the world is the same for everyone else.

But we know that a person’s experience of the world can be different due to their gender, race, culture or sexuality. We are also starting to understand that a person’s neuro diversity changes the way they experience the world, like if you have ADHD or are autistic.

Giftedness is neurodiversity.

So in the same way, gifted folk experience the world differently.

It’s important as a parent and teacher to understand this because then we can start to understand that this child or that gifted adult is having a quantifiably different lived experience to what is considered typical.

And that is what we need to accommodate in our parenting and teaching.

This is a great definition that is a bit of a mouthful but expands on what we’ve been talking about…

 Columbus Group definition of giftedness:

“Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counselling in order for them to develop optimally.”

So what does being gifted really mean?

It means you have a different lived experience of the world and the better we understand this, the more able we are to know ourselves, our kids, our students and provide those absolutely essential modifications.