Think your child may be gifted? Many people have the wrong impression of gifted children, expecting them to excel at school, be model students with perfect social skills and become rocket scientists or brain surgeons. The reality is often very different to this (though of course some do indeed fit the stereotype) and many are bored at school and can demonstrate acting out behaviours with some becoming so frustrated that they may underachievement and behave in oppositional ways. Their brains race and often their hands cannot keep up so handwriting tends to be untidy, with details missed out and ideas not arranged logically. Melanie Hartgill finds out what it means to be gifted.
Development tends to be out of sync with minds ahead of physical growth, so gifted children develop cognitively at a much faster rate than they develop physically and emotionally, which poses some interesting problems. To illustrate this, ideas generated at a grade 4 level may be difficult to create by a 5-year-olds hands.
Some of the earliest signs of giftedness include:
- extraordinary memory
- enjoyment and speed of learning
- early and extensive language development
- fascination with books
- excellent sense of humour
- abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills
- vivid imagination (especially imaginary companions)
- sensitivity and compassion
Some general characteristics include reading widely and quickly with large vocabularies. Basic skills tend to be learned earlier and with less practice and less is taken for granted, so gifted children are always looking for answers to "how" and "why" questions. Independence is achieved earlier and concentration spans are longer and their interests tend to be varied and acutely focused. Boundless energy is common and may result of misdiagnosed hyperactive disorders and they enjoy the company of adults and older children. Gifted children tend to be inquisitive with keen powers of observation and they have a large amount of information about many different topics, which is quickly and easily recalled.
It should come as no surprise that raising a gifted child is a challenge but, as with parenting any child, the rewards are plentiful. Many schools accommodate and stimulate the gifted child, but often this is left up to the parents. An important point to remember is that they are quickly frustrated as they grasp concepts quickly and like to be treated as adults but they are still children and do not have the kind of life experience and understanding necessary to be as independent and make the decisions they often want to make.
So what can you do as a parent of a gifted child?
- Understand the way that your child's giftedness affects his or her specific needs from an intellectual, social, emotional and physical perspective.
- Make sure you meet with his or her teachers and explain their potential and possibly difficulties that may be evident in a mainstream school.
- Read, as frequently as possible to expand knowledge and areas of interest, even when your child is able to read for themselves.
- Take the opportunity to expose your child to new and diverse subjects.
- Communicate with your child and answer their questions with due consideration and respect, remembering that they often challenge authority but become more cooperative when given explanations and when they feel they have been heard.
- Expose your child to different resources and ways to access information for themselves so they can find out what they want to know independently and learn to problem solve and sort through different types of information.