How to identify a gifted child

Is it advisable to assess whether a child is gifted?

The family and school environment are usually the first to detect the child’s intellectual precociousness in their linguistic development, speed in learning, maturity in reasoning, etc.

However, many parents doubt the need to evaluate the cognitive skills of their offspring, perhaps because they believe that such information will not produce changes in their children. In this sense, it is convenient to emphasize that discovering the true intellectual potential of the minor will help, not only to understand their own experiences, but will also give rise to being able to initiate a psycho-pedagogical intervention at the school level.

“It is important to evaluate children who show signs of high abilities early.”

Before this intervention, parents must accompany their child to a psychologist to assess his abilities. Regarding the diagnostic evaluation necessary to know the high intellectual capacity of the child (general or aptitude), the professional should focus the evaluation in order to demonstrate not only his cognitive profile through objective tests, but also the type of intervention that he will require depending on his personality (eg emotional management skills) and their environment (eg school level).

(19 – The gifted child manifests itself very early.

Signs that reveal the gifted child at different ages.

Here are some signs that may mean that it is a gifted child. These signs are different depending on the age of the child:

Up to two years.

  • They are very demanding babies and easily overstimulated.
  • They have a high level of psychomotor coordination (eg they lift their heads before the first month of life).
  • They say their first word around five months of age, being able to carry on a conversation at two years with a wide vocabulary for their age.

“They show a large vocabulary at a very young age.”

At two and a half years.

  • They draw the human figure. They make twenty-piece puzzles.
  • They memorize stories, sayings, and songs.
  • They can count to ten.

“They show a great facility to memorize stories, poems or songs.”

At three years.

  • They learn to read and write in a self-taught way.
  • They show a special curiosity to learn.

Between four and six years old.

  • They have a privileged memory, being able to remember images, sounds and objects with great precision.
  • They show insatiable curiosity and great imagination and creativity (eg they create their own stories).
  • They have been reading fluently from the age of four and enjoy reading.
  • They show a quick and intuitive understanding.
  • They overreact to strong stimuli (sensory hypersensitivity).
  • They experience emotions intensely (eg, they overreact to a sad movie) and tend to worry.
  • They identify the emotions of others with precision.
  • They understand and handle complex abstract concepts, showing concern for existential issues (eg about human origin or death).

“Doubts or abstract concepts are raised that are very rare in children of their age.”

With more than six years.

  • They show little interest in hobbies appropriate to their age (eg sports or cartoons). They enjoy more adult activities (eg chess, calculus, painting or music) and therefore feel more comfortable interacting with older people.
  • They are independent, self-critical, perfectionist and competitive, so they can have tantrums when losing or not knowing how to do something (this is because they are used to performing tasks that they are able to solve easily, thus not having developed a tolerance for frustration ). They also have leadership skills.

“They tend to be perfectionists and competitive.”

  • They have their own sense of justice, so they can question the rules or authority if they think the rules do not make sense.
  • They show great metacognitive ability (they remember solved problems, connect different concepts, pose and solve new problems). They like to find different solutions to a single problem, showing great creativity.

(2) – The chess player Samuel Reshevsky playing simultaneous at 5 years

Possible mistakes when diagnosing a gifted child.

The behavior of gifted children bears some similarity to other diagnoses, something that should be taken into account by both the psychologist and the teachers. Therefore, a very precise differential diagnosis must be carried out.

How can intellectual precociousness be distinguished from giftedness?

It is necessary to clarify that intellectual precociousness is an evolutionary phenomenon, since the child demonstrates abilities, aptitudes or capacities before what is biologically expected (for example, he begins to walk before the year, to build sentences before the year and a half, to control his sphincters before the year and a half, etc.). Thus, these children show a behavior and learning capacity similar to older children.

Although it is true that these children have a greater number of intellectual resources compared to their peers, their intellectual capacity is completely normal , since it is not a cognitive phenomenon, but the youngest has a greater maturity of the neuromotor and neurosensory systems . So how can you tell the difference between intellectual precociousness and giftedness?

“Intellectual precocity is not always synonymous with being gifted.”

In this case, it would be essential to monitor the child’s development over time since, in the case of intellectual precociousness, the minor would end up equating himself with the rest of his classmates once the maturation process of physical and intellectual resources is completed (unless the child suffered additional psychological distress). However, when in doubt, it is recommended to carry out an educational intervention according to its present level, regardless of its future evolution.

How to tell if he has ADHD or is a gifted child?

The behavior of a gifted child in class has common points with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) , for example, inattention, little persistence in irrelevant tasks for him, disorganization or conflicts with teachers for forgetting homework, asking excessively, or annoying colleagues.

In the first place, the child with ADHD is distinguished by his difficulty in maintaining his attention level in all tasks, even when it is of interest to him . In addition, the child with ADHD needs to be rewarded for the tasks that he does little by little; while the gifted child responds in a normal way regardless of whether he will be rewarded before or after completing the task.

“Inattention in class can lead to the mistake of confusing the gifted child with the one with ADHD.”

Likewise, the gifted child is characterized by planning tasks. He has a high practical intelligence and excels in abstract reasoning. In contrast, a child with ADHD shows normal values ​​and has trouble planning tasks.

However, a child can be gifted and have ADHD simultaneously ( double exceptionality ). Therefore, to ensure the correct diagnosis, when in doubt, it is advisable to go to a psychologist. In this way you will be able to evaluate the child correctly, offering parents and teachers a series of guidelines with which to improve the child’s academic performance.

(3) – Differential diagnosis with ADHD is necessary

How do gifted children behave in the school environment?

How do gifted children behave in the school environment

If there is something that characterizes the gifted child, it is their interest in learning , so that they learn quickly, relating the contents of the different subjects. However, their great motivation and ability to memorize can turn into reluctance when the task is not challenging or does not arouse a special interest in the child as it is considered boring or routine.

“His keen interest in learning can turn into apathy when the task is not challenging for him.”

This reluctance is perceived by the teacher when the child does not finish the tasks that are not to their liking or when the student is bored and distracted in class. It is important to note that, although the child is apparently not attentive and is doing other activities, he is still able to grasp what is happening in his environment and, furthermore, to stimulate himself through other activities (eg movements).

Some typical traits of the gifted child in school.

In this sense, it is possible to perceive the great autonomy and independence with which the minor develops, who is equally demanding with himself and with others , which can lead him to be uncompromising with those less gifted classmates and to test the teacher, questioning the standards or the teaching method.

“The gifted child is as demanding with himself as with others, whom he measures with his own abilities.”

The gifted child can give the image of being a disobedient and challenging person , who seeks to impose his criteria at all costs. However, although he may appear to have a certain arrogance and disdain for the rules, in reality, the only thing he wants is to follow those rules that have a reason for being, that is, that he is capable of understanding.

In fact, such is his logical and oral ability, that his interventions in class are usually outstanding – thus demonstrating his skills for negotiation and his leadership skills -, even confusing teachers and classmates.

In contrast to their brilliant exhibitions, teachers may find students with dysgraphia , that is, they have greater difficulty in reflecting their ideas in writing due to the characteristic dyssynchrony of the gifted (lag in the development of their intellectual capacity with physical development , emotional and social).

With regard to social relationships at school, his main problems may be due to a lack of common interests and / or his lack of tolerance for frustration , which can lead him to be overly critical of others (eg. losing in a group activity) and having a bad relationship with their peers.

(4) – The gifted child can show boredom in class.

What can parents and teachers do to contribute to the proper development of the gifted child?

Explain the rules and mandates that are given to you.

The gifted child wants to understand what is being asked of him to carry it out. Therefore, it is preferable to answer the child’s doubts rather than impose authority without answering their questions.

Do not fall into overprotection or hyper-demand.

Like other children, he needs to be allowed to be who he is, without being overwhelmed with expectations so high that it creates anxiety.

Help you channel your intellectual and emotional potential.

Like any other child his age, he needs adult support and care. To avoid boredom for children, it is necessary to offer them a range of interests with which they can develop their intellect at their own pace, without slowing down their intellectual voracity or forcing them to participate in numerous extracurricular activities that are not of interest to them.

“The intellectual voracity of the gifted child should not be restrained, but neither should aim him at activities that he does not like.”

Allow you to develop your own interests.

Parents sometimes try to get the child to adopt interests of other children their age (eg doing sports instead of studying the solar system), in order to improve a social adaptation that is often not impaired, since that gifted children tend to have high emotional intelligence.

In addition, this attempt to change their tastes will only generate misunderstandings and feelings of misunderstanding and loneliness in the child, who will grow up with the message that he must pretend to be like the rest in order to fit in, which will have a negative impact on his self-esteem.

Tell him what happens to him.

Understanding why you are different from other children and why you perceive much more information than others (which you are sometimes unable to manage) will help you to know and accept yourself.

What strategies can be carried out at the educational level to enhance the capacities of the child?

  • Grouping : In this case, gifted students are grouped in a subject, classroom or even in a school. Currently Spain does not have this type of schools. In other countries such as Israel, Russia and the US it is done. For its part, England has a long tradition of bringing together talented children.

(5) – It is a good educational strategy to group gifted children.

  • Curricular flexibility : It consists of advancing the child one school year by early school admission at five years of age or by passing to a higher grade, which does not correspond to their biological age. Given the ease of adoption of the method, most countries have accepted it.

“However, bringing the child forward a school year is the last educational measure that is usually applied due to the possible emotional and social imbalances that this measure may entail.” 

Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that the child is psychologically prepared for change, that is, that he or she has sufficient physical and emotional maturity.

  • Enrichment : It is about providing school learning opportunities to the gifted outside the normal program, which can be developed during school hours (without replacing the ordinary curriculum), weekends or during vacations.

Unfortunately, Spanish educational centers are not yet sufficiently trained in the intervention with this type of students. However, regulations have begun to be developed on how to apply these educational support measures, since personalizing education favors the development of children’s capacities , which can only occur when intellectual diversity is respected and considered.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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