What Exactly Does Being a 'Gifted' Child Mean?

What are the myths versus truths of the gifted child?

In my line of work, I get asked the question a lot “What exactly IS a gifted child?” There are a lot of misconceptions and misdiagnoses surrounding this issue. I like to refer to the following two lists that I’ve adapted from College Planning for Gifted Students: Choosing And Getting into the Right College by Sandra Berger, who articulates the myths and truths of this topic very well.

Some common myths about gifted children:

  • They are all high achievers and super smart.
  • They do not need help and are self-contained.
  • They have fewer problems because they are superior to others mentally.
  • The future of a gifted student is guaranteed to go well and they will succeed at anything they try.
  • They are disciplined and self disciplined.
  • They develop socially and emotionally at the same rate as their intellect.
  • They are outcasts and loners.
  • Their greatest asset is their smarts.
  • The gifted student's family always champions and supports them completely.
  • They need to be leaders for others and assume that position as part of their lives.
  • They are naturally creative and do not need much instruction.
  • They are well behaved and role models.

Some truths about gifted children:

  • They are often perfectionists who see their academic achievements in direct correlation to their self-esteem.
  • They can place unreal expectations on themselves to do well and feel personally responsible as failures if they don’t reach those expectations.
  • Their chronological age, social, physical, emotional, and intellectual development may all be at different levels at any given time.
  • Some of them are "mappers" (sequential learners), while others are "leapers" (spatial learners).
  • They may always be steps ahead of their classmates and peers, causing them to grow bored within the school setting.
  • They are problem solvers and sometimes have trouble being in the academic environment where curriculum is so structured and predictable.
  • They often think abstractly, which oftentimes makes studying and test taking difficult for them even though they may know the material.

Dr. Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Summit Center (http://summitcenter.us/), which provides psychological and educational assessments and counseling for children and adolescents, specializing in the gifted, creative, and twice-exceptional.

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Triple Canopy September 14, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Interesting! I was in SFUSD's gifted program from grades 3 to 8. My two cents based on my experience: ....TRUE. Sometimes I feel it borders on OCD so I have to tell myself to stop. I assume those that actually have OCD cannot. ...TRUE. ...TRUE. But I still want to believe in Santa Claus. ...TRUE... I'm a mapper... read/research, observe, test/experiment, do. .....TRUE. That's why I was transferred out of the "regular" classes. ...I don't know if I would call it "trouble". We are problem solvers but found the regular curriculum too easy. I blew through an entire math book in two weeks... it was supposed to take the whole quarter. ..TRUE. Calculus and physics explains much of the world. Then ya throw carbon-based biological units into the equation and everything goes amok and awry!!! I study 'til I was mentally "ill" from the subject material. That's when I knew I had studied enough and any more wouldn't do any more good. Some other characteristics or signs not noted above: ...We tend to ask questions based on deductive reasoning. ...We are intellectually curious. ...We are academically competitive... socially not so much. ...We preferred conversing with adults and, of course, other gifted classmates. ...We understood the consequence of actions. ...We strive to continually learn and apply knowledge and skills. ...We tend to be really good at trivia.
Tom Brody September 16, 2012 at 05:18 PM
The term "gifted child" encompasses several things. If a child possesses only one of these things, I am not sure if the child could be considered to be gifted. It is probably more accurate to define "gifted" as a child who possesses at least three of the following qualities: (1) Having a great memory; (2) Free of drama (not being a drama queen); (3) Great ability in "issue spotting," that is, the abilty to detect connections between things that are apparently unrelated. "Issue spotting" is a skill that is taught in law school; (4) Great natural sense for how the world is put together. Having a great intuitive sense for how the world is put together is essential for doctoral programs, for example, in molecular biology. If you lack an intuitive sense for how Mother Nature put things together, you will not be awarded your Ph.D.; (5) Creativity. Creativity is something that does not need to be taught, as is evident from the world's most popular and wealthy composer of popular songs. Paul had no formal training in music, and yet he is the most popular and wealthy of the bunch; (6) Motivation. If you possess all of the above-listed qualities, but are only motivated to play computer games and to do nothing else, it can be questioned if you are gifted. The issue of motivation was highlighted in the film, "Good Will Hunting."
Marguerite Meade September 20, 2012 at 01:24 AM
shirley kirsten September 24, 2012 at 03:40 AM
I'm having trouble with gifted as being intellectually driven. Example there are autistic children with amazing compensatory acuity--like brilliant video editors-- Musically gifted children who devote hours to sculpting a phrase-- artistically endowed.. and the spillover into other areas--like cross-fertilization--All defy the stereotype of THE GIFTED CHILD
Chris J Kapsalis September 24, 2012 at 06:42 AM
I think I was very non gifted, everything I got good at I had to practice for ever at, even being creative.


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