Supporting Your Gifted Child
Many people don’t realize that parenting an intellectually gifted child is truly parenting a child with special needs. These needs are founded in strengths, but they do require special attention and extra resources. Parenting a child with special needs, of any variety, requires extra time, money and energy.
You may be wondering whether your child is gifted. Generally, a child who has an I.Q. of 130 or more is considered intellectually gifted. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) defines giftedness as children who have ability significantly above the norm for their age in one or more domains, including: intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or in a specific academic field such as language arts, mathematics or science. Giftedness exists in all demographic groups and personality types.
According to the National Association for Gifted Children (www.nagc.org), in 2014-2015, Oklahoma had identified 97,186 gifted students out of a total population of 688,300. The state mandates identification and services for gifted and talented students (https://sde.ok.gov/gifted-and-talented-education). The website for the Oklahoma Association for the Gifted, Creative & Talented is www.oagct.org.
I’ll share some common signs, and tips for addressing them, in this column. It’s important to remember that each child is unique and may not display all of these traits. Giftedness is often hereditary. The gifted child will frequently score within 10 points of a parent. There are many formal assessments to determine whether a child is gifted, and it’s helpful to identify children early. However, testing is usually not recommended before age 5.
Traits of Gifted Children
- Gifted children often command a large vocabulary. They will frequently prefer adult conversation to those with their peers. It is important to encourage your gifted child to engage with same-age peers. Not doing so can lead to a sense of isolation.
- Intellectually gifted children often display strong feelings and can be very opinionated. Because they are also often very self-aware, they may recognize that they are different. This may lead them to feel left out. Many become introverted. It may be helpful to consider a school for gifted children where the student will be surrounded by others who are similar. Tulsa is fortunate to have The University of Tulsa University School. Both of my sons attended. One didn’t “fit in” socially when attending public school. He truly blossomed when placed with others more like him. I witnessed a substantial jump in his self-confidence.
- Young gifted children may become bored easily. They learn by being exposed to new stimuli. At home, you may find that the gifted child loses interest in new toys quickly. Be prepared to expand your toy budget.
- Gifted children frequently focus intensely on one specific interest. One of my sons wanted to learn everything about dinosaurs. At age 6 or 7, he undoubtedly knew more about dinosaurs than the average adult. I’ve also taught some gifted children. One of these children was fanatical about trains. Everything he drew or wrote about dealt with trains. This was one of the signs I recognized in him when I requested that he be tested.
- Gifted children are able to teach themselves and can remember things easily. Some may be reading and writing before they ever attend school. In my third grade classroom, I can sometimes spot these children because they are often able to solve a new type of math problem by using logic and reasoning.
- These children may have an original way of expressing themselves. You may find that they are able to write extremely well. Their stories may be very complex and well developed.
- Gifted children often exhibit an advanced sense of humor. I’ve witnessed this in my classroom. At times, some of my jokes will go right over my third graders’ heads. However, there will be one or two children cracking up. These are often the gifted children. Gifted children may also be highly sensitive with intense feelings.
- Gifted students frequently prefer to work alone, rather than in groups. This may be due to their unique methods of approaching their work or a feeling of social awkwardness.
- All children seem to ask a lot of questions. However, the gifted child will ask even more! The questions may be very deep and detailed as these children try to satisfy their thirst for knowledge and understanding. At times, this can be challenging for parents and teachers. It’s important to be patient with these children, as we don’t want to squelch their curiosity.
- A parent or teacher may notice that a gifted child learns more quickly. It is estimated that most children need eight to 15 repetitions in order to learn something new. Gifted children frequently need only one or two.
If you suspect that you may be parenting a gifted child, you may have your child tested by a psychologist. However, many schools offer the same tests at no charge to families.
If you learn that your child is gifted, it is important to realize that you are parenting a child with special needs. It does require more from you. You will want to encourage your child’s curiosity. You will need to provide a plethora of stimuli for your gifted child. You will also want to consider the educational possibilities. You may decide that your child can best be served at a school for gifted children. If this is not an option, you will need to check what services are provided for gifted children at your child’s school. If it’s not enough, you may wish to consider hiring a private tutor or providing enrichment activities after school. I also encourage you to visit with your child’s teacher. Inquire as to how your child’s special needs will be met in the classroom. There is such a focus on the students falling behind that some teachers are less aware that gifted children need special attention too. When No Child Left Behind was implemented, I frequently stated that it was my own gifted children being left behind. Work with your child’s teacher to help him or her provide the environment and challenges that your gifted, creative or talented child needs.
Areas of Giftedness in Oklahoma’s State Definition
- Intellectually Gifted
- Specific academic areas
- Performing/Visual Arts
- Creatively Gifted
Why should I have my child tested?
According to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), public school districts often use “subject-specific, standardized achievement or group ability tests to identify students that qualify for gifted programming.” You may decide to have your child independently tested as well.
Ask yourself the following questions before deciding to have your child tested:
- Are there indicators—such as academic performance, social-emotional characteristics, or certain behaviors—that makes me suspect my child is gifted?
- Is my child not thriving or unhappy in his current learning environment?
- Is my child applying to a gifted and talented enrichment program, camp, online course, or independent gifted school where test results are required for admission?
- Does my child demonstrate giftedness, but it’s not recognized because I suspect other factors (such as a learning disability, ADHD, or anxiety, for example) may be getting in the way?
If the answer is “yes,” to any of the above questions, you might want to pursue having your child tested privately.