Perceptions of giftedness vary even among gifted-education specialists. Today, giftedness generally includes a wide range of attributes, from traditional intellectual measures to interpersonal abilities. Giftedness can be found in children from all cultural, linguistic, and economic groups.
The U.S. Department of Education (1995) defines giftedness as "children or youth who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities." Many states and localities use this definition or a variation. School districts use a wide variety of methods or tests to decide which children qualify for gifted programs or services. Some school districts use a definition from a specific model, such as Renzulli's Schoolwide Enrichment Model or Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
How Can I Tell If My Child Might Be Gifted?Some early signs of giftedness include:
- Abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills
- Advanced progression through developmental milestones
- Early and extensive language development
- Early recognition of caretakers (for example, smiling)
- Enjoyment and speed of learning
- Excellent sense of humor
- Extraordinary memory
- High activity level
- Intense reactions to noise, pain, or frustration
- Less need for sleep in infancy
- Long attention span
- Sensitivity and compassion
- Unusual alertness in infancy
- Vivid imagination (for example, imaginary companions)
Gifted children develop cognitively at a much faster rate than that which is considered normal for their age. They require modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling to develop optimally. At the same time, their physical and emotional development may occur at an average rate, posing some interesting problems. For example, ideas forged by 8-year-old minds may be difficult to produce with 5-year-old hands. Gifted children typically tend to experience all aspects of life with greater intensity, making them emotionally complex. The brighter the child is, the greater is his or her emotional complexity and potential vulnerability. Parents should prepare themselves to act as their child's advocates.