Gifted and talented children

Published by Sarah Horrocks
Published on 18 February 2008

Does your child seem particularly advanced for his/her age and understand everything very quickly? Your child could be gifted. We take a look at the signs and identification of bright children and how to support them.

What is a gifted child?
Gifted, advanced, high potential, talented, bright - there's no shortage of terms to describe children who have high abilities. They stand out for their intellectual development, which is quicker than that of their peers. The initial difference is an IQ higher than or equal to 125, but this is not the only difference.

Recognising a gifted child
- From a very young age, certain clues can alert parents. You may notice your child is a bright baby: most gifted children start walking at around 12 months instead of 14, speak comfortably at 2 instead of 3 and know how to read by the time they start school.
- From a certain age, they look to make friends with older children and perfect their knowledge by asking questions related to human existence and the universe. A gifted child is also a perfectionist, quite anxious, and uses advanced vocabulary for his/her age for expression. Far from being wild, gifted children like to joke and discover new passions, but tend to shun routine activities.
- Is a gifted child a good student? Not necessarily; sometimes the opposite is true. Although gifted children learn to read well early on, they often have problems writing. This paradox is due to a difference between intellectual development and psychomotor development. But the real differences are noticed when a child starts high school. Gifted children are often bored in class, and this can lead to disruption, absence and daydreaming. Such children often fail at school and may suffer from dyslexia.

- Note that gifted children are also more susceptible to behavioural problems. They are often more sensitive than others, experience psychosomatic problems (headaches, stomach problems and eczema), have sleeping problems, suffer from anxiety, hyperactivity, OCD, stuttering and addictions.

Detection methods

Besides a child's behaviour and performance at school, there are two techniques used to detect giftedness:

- IQ tests carried out by a psychologist. IQ is measured using psychometric tests such as Wechsler (one for 3-6 year-olds, one for 6-17 year-olds and another one for adults). This comprises an analysis of reading level, a personality test and analysis of a drawing.

- Identification questionnaires comprised of comparative tables, used to differentiate gifted children from normal schoolchildren, and used in particular by teachers who want to clarify a child's ability.

- It’s important to understand that a gifted child won’t necessarily be brilliant in all areas. If he/she is particularly gifted at maths or in music, he/she won’t necessarily be gifted at art, for example.

Educational and psychological support

As soon as a child is diagnosed as gifted, it is essential for parents to learn about their child’s particularities, both intellectual and emotional, and inform the school and teachers. Then a number of different educational options are available.
- It's quite possible to leave a sociable child in mainstream education and take them out of one or two classes for special support, and you can also give them private lessons at home.
- If a child feels a real difference between his/her peers, you can put them in a specific programme designed for gifted children run by specialists.
- Another solution is summer camps for gifted children, where the goal is to meet other similar children and take part in stimulating activities together (science, IT, art) to prevent boredom.
- Psychological support is also recommended to enable the child to express himself and to flourish in daily life.
- Finally, associations like the NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) and NAGTY (The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth) can help parents support their gifted children and help their development by giving specific advice. More information is also available on the DirectGov website www.direct.gov.uk.