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Determining Giftedness in Children

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I'm writing from Athens Greece. I would be very thankful to you if you could help me identify whether my son could eventually be gifted or not. You know in Greece there are few possibilities to get a good expert evaluation or a special program in case a child is gifted.

Here are some facts about him:

  • He was born end of January 2005. Now he is 4 years and 3 months old.

  • He is bilingual but mostly uses Greek.

  • He is a happy and communicative child that likes very much to speak with people. Nevertheless sometimes he looses impulsivity and looks timid in front of children or situations that are too "loud" (noisy places, children screaming and running too fast, etc.).

  • He learns easy (2-3 times of repletion are enough for him).

  • He has good memory and retains details that even I don’t. (ex. a chair changed in the pharmacy)

  • He is very curious and always seems to look for something. He asks many questions. In new places he looks all around, tries to see what is behind doors, upstairs, etc.

  • I think he has a sense of humor and enjoys making his own funny words in order to make us laugh.

  • A sad music or story could influence him more than expected. For example there was a trailer (with an evocative music) on TV, showing poor and ill children in the third world. He got really very upset and wanted to discuss this matter again and again. The second time he even came to tears so from now on we avoid letting him see it again.

  • I think his vocabulary is richer than other children of his age but I cant really be sure. He absorbs easily new words and enjoys using them (ex. the bowels of the earth)

  • He always had little interest to simple sweet picture books for kids. He prefers more stimulating thinks like human body, trains, our planet, some ancient Greek stories etc.

  • He deals easily with educative DVDs for ages 3-5 especially the math’s topics.

  • He likes computers, automatic mechanisms, calendars (he knows months and days) and he knows the time in hours (o’clock only). On the other hand he shows no real interest in puzzles (he simply decomposes them but he doesn’t really try to put them together).

  • He counts easily up to 100 and if you tell him what comes next (101, 102) he can continue with the rest as far as he is interested. He can also count the opposite way from 20 back to 0.

  • He recognizes some 3digit numbers and some 4 digits (simple ones, especially 2000-2009, etc.). o He writes 3digit and some 4digit numbers to his calculator.

  • He seems to understand the negative numbers (that they are numbers below zero) o He does simple additions and abstractions (up to 10 things). He also knows mechanically some bigger additions (ex. 9 9=18, 10 10=20) and knows that x number-x number=0. o He does a lot of sight-reading (TV channels, brand names, car symbols, etc.) and he knows all letters (big and small) in Greek but he cannot yet read.

Finally let me give you now some other clues from the time he was smaller:

  • As a baby, he was very vivid and active and it was really difficult to put him to sleep. Every little sound could wake him up or attract his attention. During the daylight he was taking some quick naps of less than an hour and then he was up again crying and asking to be taken in arms in order to move around the rooms, catch things and open drawers. He couldn’t stay quiet at all. At night he was waking up 3-4 times. Other moms where describing their children as easier.

  • He started walking at 11 months

  • At 20 months he started recognizing colors (5-7 basic colors) and at around two he new basic shapes.

  • At his 1st birthday he was saying only some 10 words in each language. Until his 2nd birthday he was communicating with only 1-word sentences, but just after turning 2, he started to make phrases of even 5 words (ex: Tram comes, doors open passengers get in). At 2 and a half, he was recognizing numbers up to 20 and counting items up to 5. He also knew most of Greek letters and was sight-reading (TV channels, brand names, car symbols, etc.).

A: The best people to determine giftedness in a young child are the parents. And I believe that you have observed your son to have reached developmental milestone ahead of his age mates. What you need is confirmation which in terms of a score can only be derived from a standardized IQ test, preferably when he is in formal school. But for now, it does appear that he is developmentally ahead of his peers, and the best that you can do now is to nurture his abilities as best as you can.

Gifted children need constant challenges; otherwise activities that they have always enjoyed as a child may be viewed as boring when repeated over and over again. Is he attending nursery/preschool? This may be important to help him develop his social skills. He appears to be doing fine so far but you need to provide him educational materials and experiences that are challenging and mind-boggling. He also appears to be very curious from very young and this need, if not fulfilled, may lead to burn-out when he is a little older.

Expose him to different environments to feed his need to explore. Exposure can be very helpful and beneficial. Keep challenging him with questions and try to help him look for answers rather than giving him the answers right away. This will maintain his interest level. He also needs to be introduced to the beautiful world of book. Never mind if he is not reading yet – different children read at different stages. If he is not able to read yet, read to him and slowly get him to be interested in reading on his own. Very curious children usually feed their curiosity by reading a variety of materials. It is also important to see what his interests are and provide him more exposure in his interest areas. If you find that he enjoys numbers, apart from getting him educational books and toys on numbers, introduce him to measurement. E.g., take him to the beach and make a sand castle while introducing him to fractions – half a pail of sand, a quarter, a handful, a pinch, etc. What is important is variety. Gifted children need a variety of exposure to be challenged.

Whether scores indicates above average intelligence, as parents it is best to believe in the abilities of the child and provide him as much guidance as possible to help him develop to his maximum potential. There is a lot of information on the internet on how gifted children can be helped, so you may want to do a search on what is best suited for your child. Good luck!


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