The Gifted Child
The term "gifted child" summons up a host of contrasting images: the quick-witted charmer. the eccentric loner, the artistic or musical prodigy, er perhaps the miniature genius thrust prematurely into the society of older children Any of these descriptions may fit. for like all chil. dren, the gifted vary widely in their interests, talents and personalities. What they all have in common is the fact that nature has en dowed them with a remarkably high potential for achievement. From birth on, it is up to parents, teachers and the child's own temperament and motiva tion to translate that potential into accomplishment.
Obviously, it is not an easy thing to apply objective standards to the creative ex pressions of young minds. It is particularly difficult to detect giftedness during infancy and toddlerhood, when children's mental and physical development is still in a state of flux and cannot be taken as a reliable gauge of later ability levels. As a child grows into the preschool years, however, parents, relatives and caregivers may be delighted to observe her displaying some or many behavioral characteristics typical of gifted children (page 19). But these behaviors are also displayed by children of average intelligence to varying degrees, and there are no firm guide lines for using the traits as a diagnostic tool. In fact, most experts feel that it is neither useful nor desirable for parents to attach too much importance to giftedness or lack of it during the preschool scars
Primarily using studies of school age children, most authorities esti mate that between 2and 5 percent of all youngsters can be truly classi ficd as gifted. Researchers working with gifted children have identified several different areas in which a child may shine. First, there are the children who perform extremely well on general intelligence tests Children with IOS 0 130 to 140 are usually considered to be gifted. and children with IQs over 140 are described as highly gifted
There are other children considered gifted who do not perform as well overall on intelligence tests but have an outstanding aptitude in a specific academic field such as math or reading Still other children are included among the gifted for their leadership ability Starting at an carly age, they seem to understand the feelings and responses of others, are adept at handling social situations and can casily take charge
Exceptional ability in the visual or performing arts is another cate gory of giftedness, as is a talent for creative or productive thinking the latter, of course, being the hardest type of talent to define and measure.
te Just as children possess different types of exceptional ability, they re. A veal that ability in widely varying patterns Some children show signs of giftedness from an early age. As infants, they gaze intently at people and objects and appear unusually alert and aware of their surroundings They frequently reach developmental stages ahead of schedule. While the average child uses a few simple words or phrases by the age of two, the gifted child often talks in complex sentences By four, she may have taudit herself to read by observing printed words on everything from road sign to toy packages
Other gifted children, however, do not it this model Though their potential may equal or exceed that of the precocious toddler or pre schooler, their special talents do not show up anta elementary school or even later. Boys, especially, tend to be late boomers. Year looking back, parents may recall events or trait tize clues, such as an unusually long attention span, or a tendency in a complicated ques tions and demand complex, detailed an
Although it may seem a contradiction, some pitted children are also learning disabled (pages 78.85). It has been noted that Albert Einstein, whose name has become synonymous with genius, was quite late in learning to speak and had a very poor school record in the carly grades While there are probably very few potential Einsteins going unrecognized in the classroom, it is nevertheless believed that a signifi cant number of gifted children are overlooked or misunderstood be Cause a specific learning problem or emotional disturbance masks their talents Greater awareness on the part of teachers, family physicians and parents can increase the prospects that these handicapped gifted youngsters will be discovered
Except in rare cases, testing a younger preschooler for giftedness serves no significant purpose. Results of such tests are considered more reli able once a child has reached the age of four. Some experts suggest that carly testing may have detrimental effects if the parents react inappro priately to test results. For cumple, a parent who is aware that his toddler or preschooler is developmentally advanced, and who there fore becomes convinced that the child is gifted, may mistakenly feel the
need to focus on academic pursuits for which the child is not ready. The occasional child who may benefit from preschool testing is the emotionally disturbed or learning disabled child whose particular problems are covering up his overall abilities If carly testing reveals that he is exceptionally advanced in other developmental arcas, then parents and professionals can work together to help him cope with his problems and develop his potential to the fullest.
Whether they are carly or late bloomers, mot gifted youngsters are first officially designated as such by tests administered during their years - ten tests given to determine eligibility for acceptance no special sted pupil programs, which many public school system sponsor Mont such programs focus on children with high intelle what ability and academic aptitude, partly because they are the casiest dentily. To determine which youngsters are gifted, mot schools rely primarily on a combination of a child's achievement and IQ kores, with consideration given as well to the child's emotional and social abilities In some programs children who are not among the upper 5 percent in intelligence tests but show themselves to be academically talented are abo included Where this criterion is accepted. it expands the con cept of a gifted group considerably often up to 15 to 20 percent of the school population
The stereotyped image of the child prodigy misst hardly fits the majority of gitted children Exceptionally cand youngsters are generally well adjusted and well liked by the pets They often be come self reliant at an carlicr stage than other children Because they can succeed morc caly at tasks they tend to wait for frustrations than their peers to see them early in life as a source of pride to their parents and to enjoy high self esteem
However, gifted children are diferent from other children in certain respects. They often seem older than their years, and they tend to be more questioning and philosophical in their outlook on life. These differences may give rise to problems for the pitted child in the class room on the playground and at home
Gifted preschooler may be advanced intellectually, but he often acts his age emotionally. As a result, parents and teachers may sometimes put excessive demands on his behavior, expecting him to act more mature thun he really is Also during the preschool years when his creative abilities may far surpass tis manual dexterity, he may become caddy frustrated if he cannot carry through with his hands a project he has tension in his mind.
The gap between his intellectual and chronological age also puts him in a difficult pot with other children Some pied children suppress their talents in order to fit in with their peers Other withdraw and become loners, or gravitate toward older children. But a child who is miller and les physically able than older companions may develop a pasine personality or feelings of inadequacy
Problems for the child my born in schoot Many tend to be nonconformist thenkersor to demonstrate an intensity that rubs teach ers the wrong way in the classroom, they may tay dream or makr mnchict And an eceptionally bright child may not do well on routine schoolworkand on tots if his divergent creative style of think ingproduces central ideas and solutions instead the one right anet the teacher in looking for m
Many parents react to the discovery that their child is gated wth a mister d pride and concern They are pleased that he has been recog mired an special yet they may also worry about how his giftednes will ect eher anpecs of hes le.Or they are intimidated by his potential and worry that they are not doing the things to dechy
than an Moea hed child will probably demand more of your time I want him with den and cities that are challenging cch to hold his interest even if they scm far too old for him For example, if he is intrigued by din s, you might take him to a muscum that has prehistoric fossils or perhaps help him mold dinosaurs out of clay.
At the same time, you do not need to go overboard in finding ways to keep him busy developing his interests He also needs to have ample quiet time alone, for thinking and daydreaming These periods when he seentis to be doing nothing may be the sery moments that pawn creative insights
Perhaps the most valuable thing you can do for him is to be a good and patient listener Gifted children are generally great talkers they often develop detailed ihoons about what they have cred and seek answers to longings of complex questions One mother of a gifted chuld admitted she was guilty of half hearted listening until the day her three car old son grabbed her face with his small hands and insest cd Mommy listen to me with your eyes
Although your gifted child needs the freedom to explore and experi ment, do not make the mistake of being ctly permissive or indulgent because of his exceptional talents A child who is led to believe that he is entitled to special treatment and rewards may develop a superior atti tude that will only handicap him in later life. Many gifted and talented youngsters hunc fallen by the wayside simply because they expected everything to come easily and did not carn curly the importance of hard work sctf descipline and commitment to achieving grus
Some parents also develop excessively high expectations of their gifted child and feel disappointed if he does not line up to them tr is is important to recognise the fine line between encouraging a child to do his best and expecting him to be perfect and to excel at everything he does Such demands can arouse feelings of anger and guilt in the child. who begins to see his worth as dependent on how well he performs Some gifted children become chronic underachiences as a way of retail ling against parental pressure
As a parent you should keep in mind, above all. that a gifted child is still a child Like any other youngster, he needs encouragement and stim ulation, plenty of time for physical activity and play, and the continual reassurance that his pur cnts love and accept him for himself alone. ot for the talents he display