As parents, we adore our children. In the beginning, we think everything they do is amazing! and wonderful! and exceptional! This doesn’t change much as time goes on, mind you, but there does come a point when you wonder:
Is this actually exceptional? Is my kid really gifted?
When you’re alone with your child or children, it can be tough to gauge what’s normal for development. You’ve got your own experience, plus advice and expertise from parenting books you’ve likely never finished reading.
Even if your child IS gifted, what does that mean?
In one word, I’d describe giftedness as INTENSITY. That intensity could be channeled into many areas of life. Contrary to popular belief, gifted kiddos are not the perfectly well-behaved, good-graded children we all imagine we’ll create. They may be destined to win the Nobel prize in Physics or barely survive traditional high school with self confidence in tact.
How things play out, fortunately or unfortunately, depends a large part on your parenting skills AND your ability to advocate for their individual needs.
But I digress. Here are the generally accepted characteristics of gifted kiddos. I encourage you to also consider yourself, your spouse, and any other children as you read through this list. It might be that you have one particularly challenging, precocious child, but it’s likely that others are gifted as well. Maybe in an entirely different way.
From A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, by Webb et al., gifted characteristics include:
- Unusual alertness as early as infancy
- Rapid learner; able to put thoughts together quickly
- Retains much information; very good memory
- Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age
- Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors, and abstract ideas
- Enjoys solving problems that involve numbers and puzzles
- Largely self taught reading and writing skills as a preschooler
- Unusual emotional depth; intense feelings and reactions; highly sensitive
- Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful
- Idealism and sense of justice appear at an early age
- Concern with social and political issues and injustices
- Longer attention span, persistence, and intense concentration
- Preoccupied with own thoughts; daydreaming
- Impatient with self or others’ inabilities or slowness
- Ability to learn basic skills more quickly with less practice
- Asks probing questions; goes beyond what is being taught
- Wide range of interests (though sometimes extreme interest in only one area)
- Highly developed curiosity; limitless questions
- Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
- Tendency to put ideas or things together in ways that are unusual or not obvious (divergent thinking)
- Keen and sometimes unusual sense of humor, particularly with puns
- Desire to organize things and people through complex games or others schemas
- Imaginary playmates (preschool age children); vivid imaginations
If you’re saying yes to many aspects of this list, the gifted journey is likely in your future. It’s a good idea to have an open, observant mind that looks for creative parenting strategies and highlights strengths in both yourself and your child/children.
When you don’t fit the typical mold and you don’t behave according to social expectations, life can get difficult. (Elementary school can get very difficult.) Recognizing giftedness, and possible learning challenges that can occur in conjunction with giftedness, can feel like a sea of unknowns because it’s often tough to find a definitive answer.
Giftedness coupled with learning challenges, such as ADHD, autism, or dyslexia, is often called “twice exceptional” or “2e”.
Often characteristics, symptoms, and behaviors overlap, so it becomes difficult to uncover the root cause of any particular challenge. Is it giftedness? something else? or a combination of the two? or more?
And when you’ve clearly got a smart cookie, you don’t always get a lot of help or sympathy from others. Reassurances that ‘things will be fine’ or ‘they’ll grow out of it’ or ‘everyone deals with that’ don’t help you.
You really what to figure out what’s really going on with your child, validate your experience, and find next steps.
If your child is gifted, you’re going to need creative strategies for parenting and life. The traditional models may not work for you all the time. Or ever. (That was our experience with one child. Never did a traditional model work with any consistency. Thanks Obama. )
Knowing your options and having a plan of action early on can save LOADS of frustration later. (And maybe even loads of laundry. Probably not, but maybe.)
If you relate to this gifted/twice exceptional journey, I’m here to support you through the process and craft strategies that work for your family.
I also want to see YOU thrive too.
You love your children, but you’ve got your own goals and dreams too. Gifted children take a lot of energy, so finding support makes a big difference. I wish I had it, and that’s why I do what I do!