How to Know If Your Child Is Gifted?

Updated on December 12, 2010
O.L. asks from Long Beach, CA
13 answers

Hi, I am just wondering how one would know if they have a gifted child? Is there state testing? Are there special programs at each elementary school?

If you do have a gifted child, how did you know he/she was gifted before testing? Were their signs?

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answers from Kalamazoo on

Every school is different. My kids' school tests the "nominated" kids at the end of 2nd grade. If they qualify, then they begin an academically talented program shortly after the start of 3rd grade. For my son, he is bused every Wed to a different school for the day to participate. For his program, there is not that much extra homework. Most of his homework is puzzles, brain teasers etc - critical thinking stuff. He loves his class. He says it is much more interesting than his normal class.

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answers from San Antonio on

I think each child has their own gifted-ness. Our school has teachers nominate students in January of their Kindergarten year and they are tested.

My son for example is smart but kinda middle of the group in reading and a bit ahead in math. But nothing extra to write home about, but he can draw...yesterday he sat and for about 45 minutes watched our cat and drew her picture...she is calico and he got all of her spots in the correct place and they way her tail hung off the does not look like a six year old drew it at all. He can also draw all the super heroes...spider man, batman, venom, iron man, etc etc and they are easily identifiable, the human form is proportional and faces recognizable.

Right now he is drawing full scale drawings of his favorite video game characters and cutting them out and making three dimensional costumes from his drawings.

I had done nothing but answer his questions and provided books on drawing so he could see how the human form is drawn and faces and clothes, etc. trips to the library for books on drawing.

He has been nominated for gifted testing...I am don't think he will get in because if they are only looking for academic "gifts" then he probably won't qualify. But his teacher said because of his drawing and illustrations she is sending him anyways.

I know his gift...and I am on the look out for what it is that is my daughter's gift. We area all gifted in different ways...

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answers from Modesto on

I believe ALL children have a gift or talent. When you recognize it it's time to run with it for awhile to see how far they will go with it. Many never get recognized it's sad to say.
Some kids are "sharper" at younger ages than others and you might think they are "special" but generally in time that "specialness" will become average when they hit about Jr High school age...... becoming a teenager is a great equalizer in many instances.
However, it is not the responsibility of the school system to feed your childrens gifts, it's ours. Guidance counsellors are a good resource for getting steered into the right direction.

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answers from Washington DC on

Many children are bright or smart, but very very few are gifted. Children who are gifted are usually gifted in one area - be it math or reading or music or an athletic endeavor.
There are "gifted and talented" programs in school systems all over the country. Both of my children were smart enough to be in those GT programs but I chose to keep them out. My children are bright, but they are NOT truly gifted. Why would I set them up for more work? The GT kids always have more homework and less time for extracurricular activities. My children are well-rounded. They are musically talented - they both took private lessons after school. They enjoy some sports - and again, they did them after school. They have enjoyed dance classes, karate classes, and cotillion classes. They have time to be with friends and go to movies. With GT, many of the kids spend their time doing homework or being resentful of the extra work they have to do.
One young man put it this way back in 5th grade, "Mom, if GT is so great, how come I have so much more homework than everybody else?" It really made her think...
It's okay to take the advanced classes in Middle and High School. You expect extra work with those, but do you really need the pressure in elementary school???

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answers from Sacramento on

I think typically, people know SOMETHING is going on with their child long before they have them tested. "Gifted" children are as different from "average" children as children with severe learning disabilities.

They frequently, but not always, reach developmental milestones earlier than average. Many are highly verbal. The main thing would be that they learn quickly with little or no noticeable instruction (ie started reading without being taught, reason through math concepts without explanation etc.). They are usually the students who ASK (not necessarily answer) a ton of questions.

As for testing... some school districts do use the state achievement tests (CST in California) as one way of qualifying students for Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs. However, those students are not necessarily "gifted," though they clearly have some academic talents. The school district WILL test for giftedness (using one of the intelligence scales that measure IQ etc) if it is suspected.

The programs available will depend on the school and the district.


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answers from Lexington on

Of course everyone has different gifts - creative, academic, compassionate, optimism, charismatic. I assume you are referring to academically or what is referred to as intellectually.

With most very highly academically/intellectually gifted, even when combined with learning disabilities, parents don't have to ask how to know because it is obvious. And the reason for "accelerated" classes is the same as why we should not subject most of our children to the same pace as someone with severe intellectual disability. The result can be meltdowns, learning to NOT learn, not study, etc. It is like leaving a child with sudden profound hearing loss in with children who hear (that actually happened to a child I know many years ago).

If, on the other hand, you are referring to moderately to highly gifted, they usually thrive with a little more challenge and using their brain to think. But not having it may not doom them to being a high school drop-out although statistically, I have read that may be a higher probability.

One incredible girl I knew in one daughter's class was doing advanced math in elementary school. But in order to continue that in school, the teacher said she would have to do BOTH her higher math PLUS her simple class arithmetic work, so she said NO to the extra work. She wanted to do the "instead of" not the "in addition to". In spite of that, in middle school she made a perfect score on the college entrance exams.

It is not a matter of "what's the rush" but providing appropriate work rather than leaving the child to languish for years and hate school and develop emotional and stress-related problems from forcing them to do tedious work for years on end that they already know. That can be cruel. I thought it was cruel to that girl in my daughter's class.

And yes, they can have problems at the same time, and even be LD-- I love one book called "Uniquely Gifted" about that. And yes, there may even be more illness associated with it (like in the book but not necessarily.

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answers from Seattle on is my favorite article of all time about identifying gifted kids.

For myself... my son is perfectly-normal-boy. But (probably because he's ADHD) he falls quite solidly in the "gifted range". Reading fluently by 3, chapterbooks like the Jack & Annie and the Black Stallion by 4, algebra by 7... these are all very normal / nothing exciting things in my family. ((We've had 3 honest to god geniuses in my family... so reading by 3 but only in English and not War & Peace, algebra at 7 but not advanced calculus/applied mathmatics, etc., so forth & so on... just isn't extraordinary. It's normal fun childhood stuff. My husband, for example *is* a genius in patterns he absorbs them like a sponge. It took him a year to master everything for a Comp Sci degree -but he got degreed in dead languages-, he's been signed and preforming music since a teenager -about 2 years after he started playing-, he speaks more languages than I can count. Music, languages, programming, anything with a pattern just makes sense to him without having to think about it... my uncle had his doctorate by 22... my cousin was building working computers by 5 and viruses by 7 and is the definition of 1337 grandfather was world reknowned blah blah blah... those are the "preformers" btw that are mentioned in the above article. And they are almost inhuman. But they're genius range, not gifted range... which are two different playing fields.)).

But even though my son is perfectly normal to ME, and in my family, nothing "special" we ran into major problems in school. The reason one doesn't hear the phrase "gifted adults" (although one does hear about brilliant adults) is that as adults we get to choose our paths. The brilliant diplomat or film director or mechanic or astrophysicist or athlete or dancer or teacher is following a *chosen* path. Kids, however, are all put into a homogenizing place known as school. And in most schools what one can do/work on is strictly defined by age.

Preschool was GRAND. A montessori school, kiddo was able to work on what he chose for how long and in as much breadth or depth as he liked. He'd come home showing off the cool new thing he learned in math, or talking excitedly about the "Mom! Did you know the brain has a big CRACK in it! It's called the longitudinal fishy!" (longitudinal fissure) In areas he *adored* he soared as far and as fast as he wanted, or he could stay on one thing and do it to BITS (I have over 50 hand drawn maps of the world from when he was 4, and that's after tossing out most of them). In areas he didn't much like he wasn't forced to do them for hours on end. But as soon as we went into public K... whoops!. Misery. (Sort of... kiddo is an extrovert, as long as he's surrounded by people he can keep himself amused). Academically, he was bored out of his mind, which is a double curse being ADHD. I was rather horrified to find out that the school's curriculum wouldn't "catch up" to what he was doing in preschool until the 3rd grade! And that was the *lower* end of what he was doing academically. Mathwise (kiddo has always been a "numbers guy"), they wouldn't catch up until grade 6 or 7. (Now part of this is a "geography" thing. In some states/schools those numbers would be much lower, but he was at one of the "top" schools in our state.)

A bare minimum of 3 years before he learned anything NEW? 6 or 7 years before he got to work on the things he LOVED?

Even as an adult that's a heinously long time. For a child... that's literally a lifetime.

His K teacher was one of those you dream about. Amazing woman who would simultaneously challenge the advanced kids (breaking school and district rules and getting reprimanded left and right for it... advantage of being tenured and over 30 years experience she *could* choose to be on the outs with the district and they couldn't sack her) while making the ESL kids or kids who didn't even know their colors like they were a million bucks.

She strongly recommended that we get kiddo out of the public school system as fast as possible and either send him to the private gifted school or homeschool him. The gifted school was *amazing* and would have been perfect for our "2e" kiddo (kids grouped by age but working at their own level, breaks every hour for recess, running/skipping/cartwheels/stopping to play with a rock or a slug ***encouraged*** between classes, off the wall questions receiving applause instead of "We're not talking about that right now"... utterly, utterly amazing)... but with a pricetag of 15k a year, even though he was accepted... we chose to homeschool.

My son is perfectly normal (sigh, for a massive extrovert, it's not 'talking to strangers' that we have to discourage... it's inviting them and their kids and their neighbors and their 2nd cousin twice removed HOME... kiddo is a natural host)... but he amazes me every day. He hates handwriting. He'll grump about having to do anything he doesn't want to. "But Mooo-oooooom...." and trying to define him by grade is almost impossible (so we define it chronologically). What he works on in school spans 7 or 8 grade levels. We're doing highschool physics in science and and 1st grade work in English at the same time. History we can't even quantify as to grade level (he'll tell you all about the Old Kingdom in Egypt for 2 hours without taking a breath, but not be able to write a paragraph -yet!- about it. We've spent over a year on Ancient Greece -personal gripe-) We have a *lot* of perfectionist and adhd issues we deal with on a daily basis. I often feel like I'm raising a young Robin Williams (did Robin's mother survive his childhood??? Is there hope?) We have an absolute blast.

I don't think of my son as gifted, but he falls quite solidly into the range.

For the best info on gifted kids... do check out

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answers from Columbus on

Our school does the same thing as another poster mentioned. Kids are nominated by the teacher, then tested in 2nd grade. They go to the TAG class for half the day on Wednesdays. It's not really much for extra work, since the homeroom teachers usually opt them out of some of the more repetitive classwork and worksheets. The TAG class offers them some "extras", like Spanish and projects that make them think, by still being fun. All my kids enjoyed the program. That being said, it's more of an "extra", than it truly being about them being exceptional over the other students. These kids are able to time-manage a little better and get bored in the classroom doing the same things, in order to make sure the lower half of the class "gets it". The TAG teacher even said that once out of elementary school, many kids catch up and the class isn't necessary. Middle school offers different tiers, to make sure the kids are working up to their potential and being challenged enough (usually). I agree with another poster, by saying all kids are gifted in something.
Here are some of the signs I saw/see in my kids - I was given some information by the TAG teacher, after my oldest did run into issues with his "perfectionism". I am not a counselor or expert, so I'm just telling you what I noticed in my own kids.

1. Perfectionism - it HAS to be right and perfect or there are tears/anxiety. This has actually cause more harm than good lately....:/
2. Not needing help with homework - friends would say their kids were having to ask for help- mine didn't until at least 5th grade
3. Bed wetting- crazy, eh?? My kids were at least 8 before they stayed dry at night. They were SUPER heavy sleepers . This was because they were so intense during the day - brain always going a mile a minute, they just crashed at night. It was in the literature ...seriously.
4. Busy. Not hyperactive so much (at least mine weren't). However, they do need an outlet for all those thought processes. Sports, exercise, legos, drawing, etc. something to focus on so that they weren't getting into trouble all the time
5. Obsessions- my 10 year old would get so obsessed with one thing and focus on it to the point where it kinda drove us crazy. For example, he loved Star Wars- he could tell you such trivia about all the movies, that we were always amazed. It was all Star Wars, all the time. Before that, it was Batman. After Star Wars, came Legos.......

If your kid does these things, does it make them "gifted"? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not diagnosing, just giving you the information I received.
Good luck- hope some of this helps!
* I wish I remembered the name of the book the teacher gave me. I'm sure there are many out there. I would check out the local bookstore/library, etc. I didn't think much about the kids being in the program until my son's perfectionism started to become an issue. There was so much information out there. It made me realize some of the things my kids did were, in part, due to the way they saw things differently. I found myself thinking, "So THAT'S why he does that......" It opened my eyes to some behaviors we thought were them being difficult on purpose. Understanding their brains a little better helped us to be better parents.

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answers from Norfolk on

My son understood puns and irony way ahead of other kids in his age group.
His teachers have always remarked about it.
In the 3rd grade when students were finding phobia words to round out their spelling/vocabulary list, he found hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words) AND learned how to spell it from memory.
The gifted programs in elementary school didn't do very much (their budgets always got cut first) but things are picking up a bit in middle school. I've always felt school has to teach to a certain curriculum, but that shouldn't limit your child learning about what they are interested in. Do what you can to enrich learning opportunities outside of school. It goes a long way to reducing boredom when things are moving too slowly at school and it keeps them interested.

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answers from Columbus on

Ok, lets say you are looking at academic giftedness, which is what I assume you are asking about. If you school has such a program, they will all be tested. If not, you are on your own. A Neuropsychological assessment can tell you what your child's IQ is, and how they process information, as well as processing speed and fluency, and academic acheivement. None of this will matter much until they are entering the 4th grade. Good gifted programs don't start until then, and many children will learn the basics very quickly and easily, and by the begining of 4th grade, their school mates have caught up with them, and they all even out when the focus changes from learning to read and write to writing and reading to learn.

If your child is young, just wait and see what happens and enrich them as much as you can.


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answers from Albany on

Personally I think EVERY child is gifted. It's just a question of FINDING what the gift is.

As far as a VERY accelerated academic program, I'm not sure I see the point. What's the big hurry?

That said, bored kids in school can be a bad scene. I think the best plan is to enroll them in any and all AP classes (not neccesarily 'gifted' which can isolate them), and stimulation from OTHER areas, some family inspired challenges.

My oldest son is unusually bright. Whether he's 'gifted' (the way you're using that word) academically I don't really know. He's always taking the most advanced classes, he's currently a freshman at RIT in the Honors program, with merit scholarships, working on a simulataneous BS/MS program. My youngest is going the same route.

I like for them to learn about a lot of things they wouldn't learn about in school. But I don't see any point in rushing them to graduate/finish early or to seperate them from 'regular' kids by going for the 'gifted' testing. Although they have both been asked to apply for it.

The 'signs' for my two brainiacs were unusually mature cognitive abilities at a very young age. Concepts and formulas, as well as exceptional perception and easy acceptance of the human psychee, tehehehe.

Honestly I wasn't even sure the Honors Program at RIT was worth it, but my son likes how it will look on his resume, sigh. As I have somewhat sadly joked about them both if you often find yourself saying
"He/she was born 40", then yeah, they're probably 'gifted'.



answers from Pittsburgh on

There is definitley a difference between a "gifted" child and one who is really smart. My older son has tested into the gifted program and I just always knew from an early aget that he had that something extra. He was an early reader and could do complex math problems in his head at 4 but it was much more than that. In researching whether I should get him tested I found checklists for signs of giftedness and he matched a lot of them. And as a prev poster pointed out-grasping the elements of humor at an early age was a big indicator. Also-the obsession with things...he started out with Thomas and then hit Star Wars and now it is sports. I am sure paretns reading this will say that their child could fit that bill...but it goes above and beyond any average child I have known. It is a quest to know all about a subject. My son knows so much about sports now that he actually corrects newspaper articles or announcers and finds mistakes in books. My son is highly curious and is not afraid to ask questions or seek out more information. He is very sensitive to others and has a keen sense of right and wrong. He learns extremely fast and has almost a photographic memory. Well, I could go on. Here is a link to some checklists that can help

Your school should have a gifted program. Ask for a test. But I will warn you the programs are usually not very good. In this era of No Child Left Behind the gifted learners are definitely being left behind and not having their educational needs met. You can do a LOT at home and in your community by exposing your child to as much as you can. And if he has an interest in a particular subject do all you can to help explore it.

The good thing about being in the gifted program is that your child has a GIEP which will give you MUCH leverage withing the school system.

One more thing....beware of other parents when asking about this. Nothing brings out the jealousy more than this. They will want to call your child awkward and antisocial indirectly by building up how well rounded their child is. A previous poster did a good job of illustrating this.



answers from Tulsa on

they wont test them till 5th grade and it is a special test. my son took it and refused to do it. so he didnt pass

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