Wednesday, March 30, 2011

You know your child is gifted when...

There are lots of books and websites with checklists of characteristics you find in gifted children and infants.  But what does that mean on a day to day basis? What is the difference between "smart" and "gifted"? And how does an exceptionally gifted child differ from a moderately gifted one?

I knew my kids were "smart", but was unsure if they were "gifted". I did not have much experience of young children and we all seemed "normal" in our family! But there were signs....

  • Video Boy had a bit of a lag between his first words (the usual "mama") and further words. But when he did open his mouth - out came complete sentences! At 2, his preschool teachers were amazed by his large vocabulary.
  • Both children loved books - would pick them up (the right way round) and turn the pages before age 1. Wombat Girl was reading books to the other preschoolers at age 4. She amazed the sales assistant at the shops by reading the signs out loud at age 3. Video Boy reading Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy in Year 3.
  • Video Boy has an amazing memory - everything read is retained and regurgitated when appropriate. Wombat Girl was able to describe the colour of the local swimming centre at age 2 (when I certainly couldn't tell you!).
  • Both children loved counting and letters. Wombat Girl was counting the legs on the chairs at a gathering by counting by 4s at age 4. Video Boy asked for "change" after handing over his "coins" at preschool.
  • Wombat Girl sees the patterns in everything. The creche staff at the swimming pool called me over to show me the 50-piece jigsaw puzzle she completed at age 2.
  • They are such divergent thinkers - at her IQ test, when asked to compute how many people were left on the bus if there were 20 passengers and 7 got off, Wombat Girl asked if the number included the bus driver!
  • Wombat Girl loves board games, word games, number games. Her favourite sentence is "can we play a game?" She is always ready to be mentally challenged.

But there is also a dark side of giftedness....
  • Preschool staff were concerned about Video Boy only engaging in parallel play instead of playing with the other boys with the trucks.
  • Ultra-sensitive sensory systems means Wombat Girl cries when I brush her hair and Video Boy can't stand tags on the back of his shirts.
  • They have different interests than kids of their age and make complicated strategy games that others cannot understand, but due to their emotional sensitivity, cry easily and can appear "immature".
  • They can work years ahead of "grade level" in some areas, but struggle to write fast enough to keep up with the rest of the class.
  • The need to know overrides everything - a simple "because I said so" was never enough - I was better off to explain why straight away. Video Boy could argue before he could walk.
  • Video Boy was questioning Biblical versions of creation in Year One at school, basing his argument on evidence provided by scientists.
  • The injustice of the playground frequently became too much for Wombat Girl, who would spend most of the trip home from school in tears.

There are positives and negatives to every situation, every child. Sometimes I think they are magnified with gifted children. They are so different from other kids that they can sometimes think there is something wrong with them. One of the great things about homeschooling is that we are "normal". We can think and feel deeply and that's OK.

Gifted kids are all individuals - they differ from each other as much as they differ from "average" kids. If you have gifted kids, what was your biggest "sign" that something "not normal" was going on?


  1. Chuck was my gifted one. He was telling time before 1st grade and told the teacher on the first day of school when recess was. He read at three and understood numbers long before then. He lacked friends and cried often because of that. I found with him that once he understood any concept, he immediately took that concept to the next level and beyond. He understood humor at a very early age. I didn't have to explain jokes and comics to him. There were so many things I don't remember them all now but I do remember being constantly surprised with what he knew and how he applied it.

  2. Thanks for this post. I don't know much about the term gifted so I found it interesting to read about your children's behaviour. When my son was at school he was labelled as being gifted, he read at a young age, and I disagreed. He is slightly ahead of his peers but that is solely due to homeschooling.

  3. Jane - yep, sounds gifted! I bet you wonder what he would be doing if you homeschooled him too?

    April - there are lots of myths about what gifted is, stereotypes mostly. But I wasn't sure about my two - I knew they were "smart", but the test results shocked me. So, never say never! But yes, you can move so much faster in homeschooling.

  4. What does the testing involve? My youngest appears to be rather clever however I struggle to know if it is from being surrounded by learning, due to her older brother, or if she is really 'gifted' in some way...

  5. Testing is an IQ test. There are a couple of different types, but bear in mind that IQ tests are not designed to tease out the very brightest people. We used a private psychologist specialising in gifted children (as opposed to the other end of the spectrum), but she's in Sydney. It's not cheap, but for us - really worth it. You then at least know what you're dealing with. You might like this link for Queensland Gifted Association

  6. Thanks Ingi for the link :)

  7. Thought I'd say hi and thanks for following my blog and sharing my button on yours :-)

    I'm following along with you now also. I wanted to invite you to add your blog to our Aussie Hme School Bloggers Link up -

  8. I remember the 'injustices' of the playground myself as a girl and wish I didn't have to face up to it (in a perfect world, we shouldn't have to). However, I think what I've learned from those 'injustices' is how to handle the injustices of every situation in adult life eg the workplace, on public transport, in pubs and nightclubs (yes, even at Heavy Metal gigs - which proves that injustice exists just as much in the heavy metal scene as anywhere else), and on the street (where there is definitely a 'survival or the fittest' mentality).

    How do I handle people who treat me unfairly? I learn not to give them the time of day, quite frankly, regardless of what walk of life they are from.

    Night Owl

  9. Hi Ingi,
    I have spent a lot of time looking at the site you recommended and several others. My children {one more so than the other} display a lot of characteristics outlined. I think I may go ahead with testing and then I will know a definite yes or no. Due to homeschooling I don’t have a ‘benchmark’ to compare my children against others, so I’m not sure if I am on or ‘way off’ the mark…
    Smiles, April :)

  10. I'm glad to have helped a bit April. As with any 'special needs', you need to know what you are dealing with. Let us know how you get on :-)

  11. Hi Ingi
    Well, I had my youngest tested yesterday. As you recommended we used a private psychologist specialising in gifted children. She was in Brisbane and I found her through the Qld Gifted & Talented website. Yes, she scored in the 'highly' level of giftedness. We will be sent a full report in the near future with more info. It has answered many questions but now what to do???? Wow, I think I need to start researching... Any ideas what I should do first? :)

  12. Hi April - well there you go! Now - what to do? Here are some links to some good articles about the "highly" gifted: (especially the "Homeschooling the Highly Gifted)

    In a nutshell, you will need to take her lead on where she wants to go academically - it may be several years ahead her age peers in her areas of interest. And you can do that much more easily homeschooling - you don't have to "negotiate" through the school system.

    Also bear in mind she is likely to be more intense and sensitive (which you already probably know!) and will need adults around her that can support that gently (another bonus of homeschooling).

    Hope that helps a bit!

  13. Thanks Ingi! I'll have a look at them tonight when it is quiet...

  14. Your kids sound so much like my son! He can't wear socks, no tags in clothes, and if I can keep him in pants for more than a few hours straight while we're home alone it's a good day. He could find loopholes in the legal arguments of Supreme Court Justice ("because I said so" would never work in our house), and although he turned 7 this week I have to look up the answers to most of his questions about science. As we were watching the latest Star Trek movie when he was 5 or newly 6, they created a black hole with a drop of red liquid. Geekling got very upset and said that what they had done was not possible! He said, "Mommy, they have to make the particles go lightning fast in a circle until they smash into each other." LOL He wanted the Enterprise to carry a Large Hadron Collider. He's also determined that, "somewhere in the multiverse The Doctor is saving people." We are big Doctor Who fans! He fully understands that the show is fiction, but the Doctor is real for some reason! Loved your post, sharing it on my blog.

  15. I know this is an old post, but giftedness is something i've been thinking about lately and this was interesting - thanks (and thanks for visiting my blog - or I might not have found yours! lol!). Many of the above signs are common to K - early and complex speech, crazy questions that are very hard to answer (as a once evolutionary biologist, you'd have thought i'd have dealt with 'Where did the first humans come from, mum?' a little better!)and amazing memory....he is also super sensitive to clothing, super sensistive to noise, and a bunch of other indicators. He's certainly gifted in many physical areas (he could ride a bike without trainers and swim by 3 - today at swimming he did a handstand in the water and said 'I can only do a handstand in the water mum, because the water helps to support my body weight'! lol!), and also science.....But, he is also a very right brained learner, and i feel he'll be a late reader (he could prove me wrong, of course)...But i feel like with unschooling, it doesn't really make a difference to what we do and how we do it, and I doubt i'd get him tested unless there was a specific reason...he has a few home/unschooled friends who are also gifted, so i think that helps to challenge him also...(they are all older than him, too).

  16. Hey Jo - sounds pretty gifted to me! The testing thing can be a point of contention - we got it done because we thought it would help us negotiate the school system better for our kids (didn't really make a difference). But I'm glad I know. But as truly, ruly unschoolers - yep, it doesn't matter because you can go where you want to go, when. As an ex-teacher I still think in "grades", but at least I know that we don't have to follow them, and that's nice not to have to battle teachers every step of the way.

    And I also think it is really important (and no surprise) to have gifted friends - someone he can bounce his weird ideas off and no-one thinks their weird!

  17. Yeah, i totally get that you'd want to get them tested when your children were at school...I guess some schools are more responsive than others though - some would see the 'g' word as something not to mention, i guess - Kai's cousin is in an accelerated learning program at school in Melbourne, but i don't know much about it...I wondered if you were heading to the Unschooling Conference, Ingi? We'll also be travelling around a lot in the next month or two (helping DH with his field work - he's doing research on lizards) - so we'd love to catch up sometime - there are a few home/unschoolers i'm hoping to catch up with around your way!

  18. Unschooling conference in tropical north Qld...I wish! We are going on a cruise soon, so flying up north is going to bust the budget - I would love it though (might be the force that tips me over the unschooling edge!).

    But if you are heading through the south coast of NSW on your way - let me know!


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