“Think and wonder, wonder and think”
Many parents may wonder whether their child or teen is gifted. Early signs include evidence of very high achievement or abilities in intellectual, academic or creative areas. General characteristics of gifted individuals may include some of the following:
- Advanced language development (e.g. use of a highly developed vocabulary from an early age)
- Superior reasoning abilities (e.g. being able to solve complex puzzles or showing advanced logical abilities at an early age)
- Intellectual curiosity (e.g. a keen interest in learning and taking in new information)
- Being an avid reader
- Learns new concepts quickly and easily; obtains mastery well ahead of their peers
- Is able to maintain attention on a task for a very long period of time
- Demonstrates very strong artistic or creative abilities
- Shows “intense” interests in particular topics
- May have difficulties interacting with same-age peers
Gifted individuals may also demonstrate some temperamental traits that can cause certain types of behavioural and emotional challenges as well as some difficulty in developing and maintaining friendships. For instance, some people who are gifted may be especially perceptive and sensitive which can make them vulnerable to some emotional difficulties. In addition, there often tends to be an intensity with which gifted individuals pursue areas of interest that can result in some behavioural challenges. Therefore, in addition to their significant cognitive strengths, it may be important that gifted individuals are identified in order to adequately understand all aspects of their emotional, behavioural and social functioning.
Parents and teachers might wonder if a seemingly bright student is simply “bored” in school and not having enough opportunities for enriched learning experiences. In these cases, assessments for giftedness can allow for specific accommodations to be made within the school to create more opportunities for enrichment. In addition, one may want to consider looking into specialized placement programs for gifted students that may allow for more diverse learning opportunities.
Sometimes, even highly gifted students struggle in school. It is certainly possible for gifted individuals to have clinically significant attention problems (such as ADHD) and/or specific learning disabilities in addition to their strong intellectual abilities. It is also not uncommon to find variable patterns of strengths and relative weaknesses with different aspects of thinking and learning skills.
A cognitive or psychoeducational assessment can help to determine whether a student meets certain diagnostic criteria for giftedness and can more importantly help identify their patterns of individual strengths and weaknesses. With this type of information, more specific suggestions can be made to help parents and teachers help the student to optimally develop their abilities.