Recognizing Giftedness & Potential in the Early Years

Recent studies show remarkable consistency with those conducted 80 years ago (Hollingworth, 1942) regarding early signs of giftedness and potential. Parents are usually the first to notice these signs. Every child is different, and their environment can play a decisive role in recognition of giftedness. That said, the earliest signs of potential may include unusual alertness, early language and/or motor skill development, and early reading and abstract reasoning. Classroom teachers may observe advanced vocabulary; intense observation, concentration, and curiosity; strong critical thinking; early leadership skills and less need for direction; and self-reliance.

Identifying giftedness and potential is more than high grades and test scores. Observation by all stakeholders (parents, teachers, professionals in the field) plus testing is needed to make sure potential does not go untapped. When young gifted children aren’t identified, they may underachieve in school due to environmental factors, an unchallenging curriculum, or lack of study skills. If a preschooler enters school already reading and knowing basic math, school may not be providing the highest quality of education they need to maximize their potential.

There are several different types of tests used in identifying gifted children. Achievement tests are generally subject specific. Standardized tests (PSAT, SAT, Act) are usually group-administered and compare students to their age-peers. Ability tests are another means of identification. They include tests such as IQ tests, Stanford Binet, Wechsler Intelligence Scale (WISC-V), or Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT3). There are factors which may influence how early tests are administered. Under age 4 is difficult to test due to the child’s reaction to strangers or even the length of test (lose focus, hunger, growing tired).

Twice-exceptionality – gifted with learning challenges – can affect recognition of giftedness and often interventions or accommodations. Some studies suggest that 10% of the population falls in this category. Early intervention is extremely important for students who are gifted, but experience a wide-range of disabilities as their disability can mask the giftedness and thus potential. Twice-exceptional children can benefit from testing for both their disability and giftedness. They may be found to be highly gifted, but not be able to learn at the same pace as their peers.

There are many strategies teachers can use to recognize giftedness and potential in their students including universal, school-wide group testing at the elementary level and individual testing. A widely used tool for recognizing giftedness in young children is the use of behavioral checklists to document signs and behaviors such as learning lessons far ahead of peers, being good problem solvers, and displaying leadership skills. Another way to determine giftedness is through self-directed lessons. Teachers can differentiate the curriculum for early readers, complex thinkers, or those who have large vocabularies.

Parents of young gifted children are always seeking resources. They can begin with their child’s teacher, school counselor or psychologist, or gifted education specialist. Parents can also seek out other parents locally, contact state gifted organizations or dept. of education, or national organizations such as @NAGCGIFTED or @SENG_Gifted for information.

A transcript of this chat can be found at Wakelet.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at 2PM NZDT/Noon AEDT/1AM UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Wakelet. Our Meta Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community.

About the authorLisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


What Are Some Characteristics of Gifted Children? | Paradise Valley Schools

Guide on Identifying Gifted Children | Education Corner

Characteristics and Traits of Gifted Children | Davidson Gifted

How to Get Your Child Tested for Giftedness | Davidson Gifted

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UK: 17 Early Signs your Child May be Gifted Include Talking A Lot and Good Sense of Humour, says Mensa

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Is Your Child Gifted? What to Look for, Why You Should Know | Psychology Today

What Are Signs of Genius? | WebMD

Twice-Exceptional Kids: Both Gifted and Challenged | Child Mind Institute

Gifted, On the Spectrum, or Both? | Davidson Gifted

Self-directed Lessons can Help Educators Identify Gifted Learners

The Rage-to-Learn Gifted Child: Meeting Their Needs

An Early Childhood Assessment Tool to Identify Young Gifted Children (pdf)

95 Essential Links for the Parents of Gifted Children: Websites & Online Resources (2022)

Bright Links

Is My Child Gifted? | Davidson Institute

Image courtesy of Pixabay   Pixabay License

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.


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