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Gifted Child Characteristics

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 4 and I was recently told by his teacher after mid-year evaluations that he is "brilliant". I looked up characteristics of gifted children and was quite confused. He is a bit of an introvert and on the quiet side so characteristics like bossiness and early talking don't apply (though his teacher says he talks at a greater than 4 years old level).

However, he has always had an extraordinary attention span (he looked at books for 1/2 hour to a full hour at 6 months of age - this time estimate is for looking at one book each time though which book it was rotated), he loves puzzles and does ones intended for older children, he is wonderful on the computer (we started him at 3 and he picked up the basic concepts immediately), he has an excellent memory for concepts but also incidents in his life (he has remembered things that happened when he was 2 or younger), he is very creative and is constantly surprising me with the unique ways he plays with toys (or even objects not considered toys), he is very curious with a wide range of interests and loves watching scientific programming (he started watching Nova at 1 and would sit for the whole 1 hr show - at 2.5 years old)

I decided to ask him questions about what he was watching to see if he understood the material (i.e. what do Whales eat?) and he could answer. He also loves classical music and is very interested in what instruments are used in particular musical pieces (even rock music!). He is also very sensitive to how other people are feeling and understands/ is sensitive to fairness and humor.

I guess ultimately my question is whether it's possible that my son is gifted despite the fact that his skills seem to be more analytical than verbal. Also there seem to be many questions on the different sites about physical abilities/ coordination. My son started walking at 14 months (relatively late). He has normal physical abilities/ definitely not advanced in this area. This is partly due (though not entirely) to the fact that he is so cautious. Thanks for any info you can provide.

A: From your description, it does sound that your son has above average qualities in comparison to his age group. The characteristic checklist for gifted children is meant to be used as a guide and not absolute. There are many exceptions and no one child may have all the suggested characteristics, so it would be better if you concentrated on the characteristics that are indicated instead of being concerned with ones that are not there.

Different children develop in different paces, and there is very little evidence that relates early developers to being gifted, just as slow developers as being average. Each individual is different and it is important that parents refrain from using the checklist too religiously and instead look for ways and means to enhance their child's strengths. As a parent, you need to really encourage him as his abilities can be develop further. He may not be advanced in all areas and there is no cause for concern here. As children grow, they usually catch up in terms of their physical abilities. In no way a delay in physical advancement puts a child in any danger of not being of normal ability range. In your case, your son's physical development is normal so there does not seem to be a cause for concern here.

Your son appears very able so just enjoy his growing and help him with his gifts by providing a stimulating environment for learning. That will ensure a wonderful learning journey for the both of you. Try not to take word for word that these sites have to offer as the advice given is usually generic in nature, however, our children are not. Only you as a parent can decide what is good for your child by making an effort in understanding his qualities. If you have any further doubts, consult a qualified child psychologist.


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