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What Does it Mean to be Gifted?

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The term gifted has undergone some changes in its history when used as a label applied to people. Originally created to describe an adult with a specialized talent, gifted then made its way into the public school system as an identifier of children who showed exceptional or elevated potential. Today, gifted children are generally identified by schools as those children exhibiting high academic abilities relative to their peers. The problem with this method is the peers will change from one school to the next, so the criteria seems to be somewhat dubious.

Gifted children are generally identified in one of several ways. If the school is the identifying entity, then there are several key people and methods used. The process can begin with a teacher/counselor recommendation for the student's review. Also, a child's standardized test score on a test taken by the class or school may be an identifying factor. There are several tests, including IQ tests and standardized achievement tests, that can be used for identifying gifted children. Students who score above 100 on IQ tests are generally considered gifted on a sliding scale, with those scoring above 160 being identified as exceptionally gifted. Children can be identified as gifted in one or more core areas and not necessarily in all core areas. For example, a student may be gifted in math but not in reading and writing.

Challenges of Having a Gifted Child

Did You Know

Some researchers believe there are as many unidentified gifted children in the US as there are those who are identified as gifted.

While gifted children certainly seem to have great potential, it can seem a bit intimidating as you, as a parent, wonder how to best nurture and foster the child's strengths. The first thing to remember is that you are a parent first and foremost, and your child will benefit from all of the physical, emotional, and social experiences that help all children develop. Additionally, gifted children must be challenged. Many gifted children, even when tracked into accelerated classes, find themselves bored and unchallenged. Parents can turn to any number of academies, tutors, after-school programs, or community programs to aid in enriching the academic experience. Research is key to finding a program that will challenge your child and foster his/her growth.

Gifted children often have an inherent sense of motivation and will learn without being coaxed. But there are many gifted children who do not consider academic success to be a high priority. As a matter of fact, these children often still love to learn, but they do not like the constraints of typical academic assessments, homework, class work, and lectures. These children will require parental influence and involvement, often in the form of increased parent/teacher/counselor dialogue.

Another challenge that many gifted children and their parents face is that many have a heightened sensitivity to emotional and/or physical stimuli. As a result, some gifted children will have disproportionate or extreme reactions to things other children or adults say or to situations that normally wouldn't warrant much reaction at all. This is where it is important for parents to remember that children still need parental guidance and love, even when the child seems sophisticated and intelligent.

If You Think Your Child is Gifted

One of the benefits of having the gifted label applied to a child is that the child is then eligible for special services, programs, and resources in the school setting. If you believe your child is gifted but has not been identified, it is important to open a dialogue with the school about this. Begin by contacting the school guidance counselor and discussing your thoughts and the school's processes. The school psychologist and the teachers may be involved in the evaluation as well. Ask about the evaluation techniques and find out the school's criteria for the gifted label, for they differ from one school to the next. Maintain contact with the school counselor throughout and after the evaluation process so you know exactly what service your child can take advantages of in each grade as he/she advances.

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