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Gifted or Bright

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I'm a 16 year old girl at Secondary School. I would like to ask you some questions regarding the difference between a gifted and a bright child.

First of all, can a gifted child be gifted but still suffer from nerves and thus sometimes have to retake some of their exams?

Also, is it potentially damaging for a gifted child to be told they are just a hardworker (as a result of the odd Bs) ?

Is it possible for a gifted child to do tests and end up with results on A/B borderline from not having revised the material in younger academic years as a result of disinterest, or must all gifted children get 90 % first time round?

A: Hello young lady! Your questions are interesting and I am glad you asked them so you can clarify some misconception about giftedness.

A gifted child is one that has above average abilities, but just like everyone else, may achieve or underachieve. Being gifted does not give any guarantees for straight A's. Gifted individuals who may not be getting the stimulation they require would burn out and underachieve.

Labeling is not good for a start, so it should be possibly avoided. To be told that they are a hard worker rather than gifted should not be damaging if it is taken positively. Gifted children are special and have some distinct characteristics but not all achieve academically. They may be gifted in different areas and would achieve very well when tested on their areas of passion.

It is absolutely possible for a gifted individual to fair averagely or underachieve if they have been used to viewing learning as uninteresting & not stimulating. This can happen to anyone regardless of gifts but may be more pronounced for gifted children as the expectations are higher.

From your queries, I feel that you may be mistaking giftedness being in the same league as in academic excellence. While a good number of gifted children excel academically with the proper guidance and recognition and a specialized education to cater to their needs; there are enough of them who go unrecognized for years and are doing less that what they are capable of. As they grow older, they get used to achieving less but the gifts they have never dies. Most of these gifted individuals whose needs are not met burn out at some point and may deny their gifts. More seriously, they may live in isolation and would be prone to mental health problems.

Doing averagely during primary years for a gifted child may also mean a possibility of having a learning disorder that went unnoticed. Some of these children would adapt and learn how to cope and eventually do well in later years - the late bloomers. Hence, getting 90% is an expectation rather than the rule for every gifted child.

Check out this chart on this site by Dr. Bertie Kingore that compares High Achievers, Gifted Learners, and Creative Thinkers.

Hope I managed to shed some light here.


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