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The terms “gifted” and “talented” may often be heard in the school environment these days. Many schools now have screening methods in place to try and identify exceptional children, although some gifted children may still go undetected. So if your child’s teacher suddenly tells you, “your child is gifted”, what does that really mean?
There are many of definitions of the term ‘gifted and talented’. Generally speaking, “giftedness” refers those who have outstanding or high levels of innate ability (even if their high potential has not yet been realised), in any domain of human ability – intellectual, creative, social or physical.
Most children need to repeat something 7 to 11 times to learn something new. A gifted child needs to repeat something in their areas of special ability just 1 to 3 times.
Giftedness is inherited but a gifted child needs support to identify and develop their special abilities. Gifted children are found in every culture and are just as likely to come from low income homes as from affluent ones.
The following are some signs of giftedness:
“Talented” children are those whose abilities have already been demonstrated by their achievements including in areas such as music, art, craft, dance or sport. Their skills are within the top 10% of their age-peers.
In simple terms, gifts are natural abilities whereas talents are developed skills.
There are several challenges facing gifted children. They often develop at different rates intellectually, emotionally, and physically. This means a five year old who can read fluently may still throw a tantrum when he or she does not get what they want. Or a twelve year old may have exceptional mathematical ability but has the same ability to catch a ball as his or her peers. It is important that both parents and teachers recognise this varying development.
Some gifted children face frustration and boredom in a classroom environment. They need work at their level and not simply be given more of a level which provides no challenge or opportunity to learn. When this happens gifted children may actually underachieve – often because they figure there’s no point in bothering if they are not learning anything.
Another challenge facing the gifted child is self-esteem. Acceptance is important, especially during the teenage years. If they feel different or out of step with their peers they may try to hide their giftedness.
Support, understanding and encouragement goes a long way in building confidence and lets gifted children know that they have a right to learn.
Experts agree it is important to identify a gifted child to help them achieve their full potential. Schools can help identify a child who shows signs of giftedness or special talent. However, if you think your child may be gifted you can arrange your own assessment with an educational psychologist or another professional with a special interest in or experienced in dealing with gifted children.