What is Giftedness?

     The word "gifted" is ambiguous at best and often elicits envy or even hostility, especially if people equate gifted with special or 'better.' You may have heard someone say that, "All children are gifted." What this person usually means is that all children are special, have their own unique talents and gifts and have great potential. This, of course, is absolutely correct. Any parent, however, who has lived with a gifted child knows that gifted children do learn and experience life differently than others. Perhaps more appropriate terms to use when speaking of our children might be, "intense learners," "high ability children," or "intellectually talented children,"   (Rivero, 2002) though none seem fully adequate.   At this point in time, the term "gifted" is the one that is universally used and accepted and until someone comes up with a more precise description,  (if that is even possible) it is the one we will use for our purposes here. 

     Gifted children are not a homogeneous group.  It is theorized that gifted children may differ more widely from each other than they do from non-gifted children. (Strip, 2000) Therefor, there is no perfect test for giftedness and there is no defining characteristic that can be relied upon to identify the gifted child. Keeping this in mind, we can find enough common traits and characteristics to talk about them as a group. An individual child may not demonstrate all of the following traits, but he or she will demonstrate most of these traits and behaviors (Clark, 1997; Jacobsen, 1999; Vail, 1979; Winner, 1996):

     - Precociousness, especially early language development
     -Uneven development
     -A creative nature
     -High levels of sensitivity
     -Complexity of thought and personality
     -Perfectionism and high expectations
     -Highly developed or pervasive sense of humor
     -Idealism and sense of justice
     -Exceptional memory
     -Fascination with patterns
     -Unusual ability to concentrate on topics of interest
     -Strong drive and developed sense of self
     -Unquenchable curiosity
     -High levels of energy

     While most children may exhibit, at one time or another, one or several of these traits, the gifted child exhibits most of them and at high levels.  All children are curious, but the gifted child is insatiably curious.  (Think under the bed covers with a flashlight and a book way past bedtime because she just has to know why birds molt. Or, "6 books on Greek mythology aren't enough, we need every book that was ever written on the subject!")  Also, all children like to have their own way sometimes but the gifted child seems driven to fulfill some inner agenda, even if it means they will be disciplined for their actions. (Like taking apart the toaster.)  Most children have areas in which they excel but gifted children generally excel at levels far beyond their age mates.
     Most people can recognize that some children are simply more intense, more sensitive, more self-motivated to follow an inner voice, more divergent in their thoughts and actions.  The term 'gifted' is simply a convenient way to talk about how best to identify, understand,and meet the needs of such children.  (Rivero, 2002)


Strip, C. (2000) Helping gifted children soar; A practical guide for parents and teachers
Clark, B. (2002) Growing up gifted; Developing the potential of children at home and at school
Jacobsen, M. (1999) The Gifted Adult: A revolutionary guide for liberating everyday genius.
Vail, P.L. (1979) The world of the gifted child
Winner, E. (1996) Gifted children: Myths and realities
Rivero, L. (2002) Creative Home Schooling: A resource guide for smart families