How can I tell if my child is gifted?

Boy Giving a Thumbs Up

If your child is intellectually gifted, you probably don’t need to ask the question. Gifted children often run as fast as they can, intellectually, and leave parents and teachers trying to catch up! Here are some things to look for in children who seem a bit more than average. We will consider children with high IQ here, although the term “gifted” is often used in other contexts such as music or athletics.

Uneven Development

Psychiatrists use the term “asynchronous development” to describe children who may be reading chapter books at a fifth grade level while working math problems at a second grade level and displaying the social skills of a preschooler—all while assigned with normal age mates to a first grade classroom. While some gifted children are “globally gifted” in all academic areas, many are not. One-size-fits-all barely works in a normal classroom—much less does it work with children who fall outside the average range of IQ scores.

Highly gifted children may be late talkers (see Thomas Sowell’s book The Einstein Syndrome for information) or do other things at the “wrong” time according to typical child development and parenting books. Their social skills and communication skills might not keep up with their mental skills such as calculation and reading comprehension.

Excitability and Sensitivity

Gifted children may display unusual sensitivity to sounds, sights, or social situations. Their intense thought processes may lead to behavior that seems extreme at times. Ellen Winner describes a “rage to master” in which a child shows an intense or even obsessive focus n a concept they are determined to understand. This intensity may be seem to people of more normal IQ to be disobedience, inattention, or even autism. It is important for children with signs of giftedness to be understood by parents, teachers, or other professionals familiar with the unique qualities of the high IQ child.

While many believe a myth that gifted children can just be left alone while others get special help, the gifted child does need special treatment—in the form of people who understand him or her and provide opportunities to feed the great thirst for knowledge and understanding these children poseess.


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