Identifying Gifted Children

 

“Oh, my son is gifted, so he’s going to a special school now.”IMG_3161

“My daughter’s in the gifted class.”

“My children take all AP classes. They’re gifted learners.”

You know these parents, and they might annoy you. But that’s okay, because at some point, on some level, we all become these parents.

Giftedness is an American phenomenon. As parents and/or teachers, we need to re-examine the classification.

Identifying giftedness is one of the many complex issues imbedded in the culture of modern American parenting and education. Because our culture has placed an inordinate emphasis on producing super-children, we have placed a good deal of pressure on all children to succeed in order to be special. The gifted-identification process has also saddled parents with a heavy responsibility of analyzing the level of their children’s abilities from preschool on up. Parents feel compelled to provide an environment commensurate for their children’s intellectual and physical abilities and potential. I’m afraid we have taken identification and labeling to dangerous levels.

We can’t seem to stop ourselves. No parent wants a normal kid anymore. If you doubt that, you haven’t been to a kindergarten conference or a soccer game for 5-year-olds. Futures are at stake there. Career, college, and self-esteem all ride on the coattails of correctly identifying and addressing the highly skilled, highly verbal, inquisitive and imaginative natures represented by cute little bodies happily kicking balls and chasing butterflies.

But that’s not to say we should ignore giftedness. No, we should learn what it is, in a non-competetive environment.  It’s a controversial, heavily-researched topic. I suggest you do some homework before applying any labels or forming any expectations. Just keep in mind, if you are a parent, you will decide that at least one of your children will fit the description perfectly. (There’s a genius lurking inside one of your children, you know. There has to be!)

Giftedness by definition covers a broad spectrum of characteristics. Some are observable and some are testable. Many oddly resemble characteristics found in bright children, confident children, autistic children, and children with ADD. So diagnose carefully. I recommend reading the following websites to get a clearer understanding of giftedness:

http://www.nsgt.org/giftedness-defined

http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/my-child-gifted/common-characteristics-gifted-individuals

In my research, I also found the following article “10 Myths about Gifted Students and Gifted Programs” by Carolyn Call (http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/14/ten-myths-about-gifted-students-and-programs-for-gifted), which might be a good starting point. Its blog posts ranged from insightful to amusing. (Not everyone with an opinion about giftedness is actually gifted.) The following is a synopsis of Carolyn Call’s 10 myths about giftedness:

  1. Intelligence is inherited and does not change.
  2. Giftedness can be accurately measured by IQ tests or achievement tests.
  3. There is no need to identify giftedness before 3rd grade.
  4. Gifted kids read all the time, wear glasses, and are socially awkward.
  5. Gifted kids are model students; they are well-behaved and make good grades.
  6. Gifted kids work to their potential.
  7. Teaching gifted kids is easy because they love to learn.
  8. Gifted kids don’t need special attention because they can teach themselves.
  9. Gifted kids can tutor their classmates who are behind.
  10. All children are gifted.

These are just 10 of the most common mistakes parents and teachers make when attempting to classify children. Let’s not make assumptions that can erroneously lump kids into categories from which they can never escape. Let’s do our homework and give our children some breathing room.

Perhaps we could just give the labels a break and figure out how to inspire our children to love authentic, organic learning. Learning to create, learning to organize, learning to analyze, learning to communicate, learning to persevere, learning to daydream. Why can’t the quest for excellence be a product of character, rather than an ingredient for success?

In addition to asking the question “Is my child gifted?”, the more important question might be–“How can I help my child continue a life-long pursuit of learning?” 

A love of learning will serve him better in the long run than a label or a special class at school.

Please leave your comments!

 

 

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