Characteristics need to go beyond simple checklists to determine the extent of a child’s giftedness. Observation is often the first step in deciding whether or not to begin the identification process. It’s important to know what you are looking for and why. Checklists aside, characteristics may include mastery of a particular discipline that begins much younger than in age-peers, more easily, and much faster. Gifted children may display ‘near obsessive’ interests which go well beyond those of age-mates. They may be drawn to others with similar approaches/interests.
Understanding what to look for when identifying a gifted child has implications for both teachers and parents. Teachers need to know how to modify learning environment and curriculum based on unique characteristics of their students. Parents need to understand characteristics of gifted children to inform parenting decisions that go beyond consideration of academic performance and also considers the importance of their child’s all around environment. They should understand that gifted children need to be nurtured with attention paid to their child’s gifted characteristics.
Incorrect diagnosis is often the result of professionals lacking information and experience about what it means to be gifted. It’s important for professionals to have foundational knowledge of gifted characteristics and parents should question anyone dealing with their child beforehand to determine if they are qualified to assess the child. Different abilities may mask each other making a diagnosis or determination more difficult; especially when identifying gifted children with learning differences.
How do Dąbrowski’s Overexcitabilities relate to characteristics of gifted children? Dąbrowski’s work did not originate in the area of giftedness, but has been subsequently recognized and applied to the study of gifted individuals. Although not originally posited for gifted individuals only, Dąbrowski’s Overexcitabilities were adopted by gifted advocates and academics as a way to explain many of the behaviors they saw in the gifted. Dąbrowski’s Overexcitabilities included Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional. Creative and gifted individuals appear to express OEs to a greater degree through increased intensity, awareness and sensitivity.
As a field, gifted education is often criticized for its lack of diversity in gifted programs; especially in public schools. What characteristics of GT children should we look for in underrepresented populations? Intelligence tests are notoriously biased both in fairness to diverse populations and the scope of which they test; in areas, such as, math or verbal reasoning. Skills and characteristics that can be overlooked in diverse populations (ethnicity, low SES) include a child’s ability to make intellectual connections far beyond age-peers or possessing a voracious curiosity.
Defining what it means to be gifted has evolved over the past few decades. Has this been reflected in what we look for as being gifted in the 21st century? Do preferred educational outcomes influence what is thought to be gifted characteristics? What one looks for influences the questions asked; take into consideration how assessments have changed to look beyond how quickly content/knowledge is acquired or remembered. In-demand skills such as the ability to think critically, creativity, collaboration, learning from failure, problem solve … these require rethinking how we see who is gifted. High achievers do not always meet the definition of gifted individuals. Today we look for a child who is able to assess their own strengths and weakness, determine their own learning goals, create learning objectives, and communicate what they know in novel ways.
A transcript of this chat may 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 Noon NZST/10 AM AEST/1 AM 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 Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
About the author: Lisa 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gifted Children: What to Look For? Why You Should Know? (YouTube 16:11)
Giftedness 101 (Silverman)
50 Common Characteristics of Gifted Children (Slideshare)
Kazimierz Dąbrowski Interview 5 – University of Alberta (YouTube 1:00)
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad