Is My Child Gifted?
“My child seems to learn new things quickly. Is my child gifted?”
Some children quickly learn to read or write. Others excel at solving problems and puzzles. Still others have outstanding athletic or creative talent. Giftedness comes in many forms, and it blossoms among all demographic groups, cultures, and personality types. “Twice exceptional” children may have special learning needs or disabilities and also demonstrate giftedness in other areas.
One of the challenges for determining whether a child is “gifted” is the lack of a common definition or metric. In some states, such as Illinois, “giftedness” in mathematics and language arts has been defined as the “top 5% locally” (Illinois School Code,105 ILCS 5/14A-20). The top 10% locally or nationally is another commonly accepted benchmark for giftedness.1 And when it comes to school districts, designating which students are labeled “gifted” can vary. For example, students who are in the top 10% on a nationally normed test may not be in the top 10% of students scores for the same test in a high performing district. Conversely, some schools may have a very small percentage of students who score in the top 10% nationally. Accordingly, a child who is labeled “gifted” in one district may not be labeled “gifted” in another.
Schools have different protocols for identifying giftedness, but there is no “one test” that is determinative. Multiple measures such as ability tests, achievement tests, classroom observations, student work products, and teacher/parent/student ratings of gifted characteristics are some common measures used to identify gifted children.
It is generally understood that a child who is “gifted” demonstrates abilities and talents that are well beyond what is expected for his or her age group. Gifted children exhibit “asynchronous” development, and may show abilities far beyond their same-aged peers. If you suspect that your child is gifted, you may want to do some background reading about high ability children, observe your child at home, and talk with your child’s teacher(s) about your child’s experience in the classroom. Is there are particular area that interests your child? Does your child have abilities or strengths that are beyond what you observe are typical for a child of the same age? Is your child curious, always asking questions, highly observant, or imaginative? The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has an informative webpage about characteristics of gifted children: NAGC: Common Characteristics of Gifted Children.
Ultimately, given the diverse ways that giftedness manifests itself and differences in identification protocols, the question “is my child gifted?” may lack a definitive answer. But the inquiry prompts further questions that may be even more pertinent to a child’s growth:
- What special strengths and/or potential for talent does my child exhibit?
- What learning experiences does my child need to grow and feel challenged?
- What are my child’s interests, and how can I help to nurture them?
- Does my child have special social or emotional needs that arise from his or her outstanding talents or abilities?
As parents explore these questions, the Illinois Association for Gifted Children (“IAGC”) provides a wealth of resources, and encourages and welcomes parents along the journey. We hope that you will join us!
IAGC Education Committee, Co-Chair
1. The National Association for Gifted Children. website. "What is Giftedness?" http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/what-giftedness