How to Tell Your Child Is Gifted

Updated on June 08, 2010
S.B. asks from Spring, TX
20 answers

My son has just completed first grade. His reading scores were at the highest level tested. His teacher stated she couldn't test further but was certain he was reading well into 2nd grade levels. He made straight A's all through 1st grade. He has some of the mental and emotional characteristics of a gifted child. How do you assess whether your child is "gifted?" Once you make that determination, what is the best way to keep your child academically challenged?

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answers from New York on

In preschool my daughter was reading at a first grade level. In first grade at a third grade level. In 5th grade at a college level. She is not gifted.

She is a very bright young lady, who has always been at the top of her class. In grade school she was labeled as "talented and gifted", but that didn't mean anything, other than she was in the top 2% of her class.

I kept her academically challeged by doing work with her at home and working with her teachers (sometimes sucessfully, sometimes not) to address the fact that she was bored in the classroom.



answers from Oklahoma City on

My son just finished Pre-K and was tested and placed in the gifted program at his teachers recommendation. He spent half his time in K for reading and the rest of the time in his Pre-K class. He really liked this and was able to be with his peers and learn too. It has been planned that he will do the same thing next year by spliting his time between K and 1st grade.
I would speak to the principle or his teacher to see if they can have him tested.

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm a homeschooler and my 8yo reads at a 4th grade level. He's also doing 4th and 5th grade math. He has scored in the 99th percentile on the last two standardized tests I gave him, but he's completely unaware that this is extraordinary. I wouldn't tell him how smart he is for the world. We go at HIS pace and he thinks it's normal. I feel that he is happier and less pressured this way.

I would encourage you to avoid labeling your child in any way. Just let him know that you are proud of him and do educational activities relating to whatever he's interested in at home with him in the evenings or on weekends. This will keep him challenged and will also keep him in a socially comfortable situation at school.

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answers from Jacksonville on

The schools can usually test them. They will have a method in place by which children are referred for testing. Often it is by referral by a teacher. In our area, it is by teacher, by standardized testing scores of a certain level in conjunction with grades, and/or by parental referral. If parental referral, the student is required to have been present in class for 6 weeks for the teacher to also be able to contribute an opinion about referral for testing.

If your school system has a gifted/talented program, they will have counselors specifically trained that administer a test (like a Woodcock Johnson III or a Cognitive Abilities Test; something like that).

Whether or not your child is determined to be gifted, you can provide academic challenge to them in many ways. But bear in mind, that not all giftedness is academic. Some is artistic (art and music). Most gifted children display an ability to learn things after just a few repetitions, rather than the normal number required for their age group. Regardless of whether or not they are "ahead" in reading or whatever subject matter, the giftedness is often more in the nature of how quickly they learn and are ready to move on, having mastered the new material. Which, is how they are often so much more advanced than their peers... they don't need to repeat 2 +2 = 4 twenty times to learn/grasp the concept. They only need to do/see it two times (just as an example). Then they are ready for the next thing. This is why gifted children sometimes end up as the class clown or in behavioral trouble with the teacher. They are bored stiff with the repetitions that the rest of the class NEEDS. If your child does test in the gifted range, but there are not any services available at your school (pull out programs, etc) then talk to the teacher in private about having an extra folder that your child can have to work in during times when he is finished early with classwork. It should be something fun, but also stimulating, you don't want them to perceive it as punishment, but something he will enjoy. My child had a folder like that before she started the pull-out program. But also, she was allowed library visits and could sit and read her book when she was finished with her work. Which she LOVED to do. (especially because of the AR program in place).

Also, if you are looking to keep your child stimulated at home, check into music. My daughter began piano lessons in 2nd grade and was a very quick study. She is quite good. Also, her school at the time had a one day a week "special" that was a Spanish class. She LOVED learning a foreign language. She asked me just this past fall to buy Rosetta Stone for her for Xmas actually, so she could continue learning Spanish on her own... (It was too expensive). So check into language programs, music, and art (not just playdough and watercolors.. but real stuff.. like learning to "copy" the masters.... my daughter tried Waterlillies), not just academic type extras. My daughter was really into science for awhile. Did a lot of reading in her older brother's textbooks. She LOVES to catch bugs and watch them. And try to figure out what to feed them, etc.

Just keep offering different outlets for him to try new things. He might even like sewing!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

a lot depends on where you live. Many, but not all states, do free testing for giftedness and have gifted and talented programs of various kinds available. You can look this up on your school district's website or the Dept of Education for your state.
Both my children tested into the GT program in their school district in CO. They were placed by the district in the GT magnet program for elementary school. They had different options for middle school. CO does not have GT programs at the high school level, but does have Advanced Placement and other advanced classes.
there are also several private schools in Denver that focus on gifted children. I'm sure TX has some of these as well, though I don't know where Spring is.
If a school district program is not available, you will want to have a psychoeducational evaluation done by a psychologist who specializes in giftedness evaluations. That person will be able to determine your son's academic and intellectual level and make recommendations about schooling. You can find such a person by called your local University Psychology Dept, or your state chaper of the American Psychological Association.

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answers from Houston on

I would second Victoria's suggestions.

Also talk to the teacher to find out if your son is doing extremely well in other areas also or if it is mainly just reading. Most teachers have GT training and can let you know if this is something you should check into. If it is mainly just reading, take him to the library and let him pick out books that really interest him. This needs to be something he enjoys so he doesn't see it as punishment but a way to explore the world around him.

Now I am going to speak as a mom to another mom. All children are gifted in some way. The reason to have your child in the GT program at school should be because it is the best way for your child to learn. It should not be for bragging rights as a parent.

I have one child that was in the program and one that was not and these are some lessons that I learned both personnally and from watching other parents.

Lessons learned:
1. GT kids usually love the challenge and the academic competition of learning and exploring new things. One thing to watch out for, is it is easy for them to get into the habit of not doing things that they cannot master after only one or two tries. An example of this from our life-- our daughter wanted to learn how to type when she was younger. We bought a typing program for kids and gave it to her. She worked on it for about 15 minutes or so and then asked me to do the typing test for her. She had already tried the typing test for the first lesson a couple of times but couldn't pass it, so she wanted me to pass it so she could go on to the next lesson. I tried to explain to her that is not how typing works. You have to practice until you get it right. They would rather not try something than to be considered a failure at something. As a parent you need to let them know that it is OK to not be successful at everything. No one is perfect.

2. If you really want to drive a GT kid crazy, give them busy work. I homeschooled our daughters one year. My youngest would sit and do all of her math problems with no problems or complaints. The oldest after about 4 or 5 problems she would realize she either understood the concept or I needed to explain it a different way. If she undersood it, she was ready to move on to something else. Frustration with busy work is alot of fun when they start driver's ed and believe that after they have driven once they know all there is to know about driving. It has taken me 30 years to learn everything she thought she knew in 30 minutes. But that is how her brain works.

3. If you have other children be careful in how you talk or brag about your GT child. My youngest is also very smart but she has to work and study hard for all of her grades whereas her older sister barely looks at something and then just knows it. Our youngest thought for a long time that she was dumb or inferior in our eyes because school was not as easy for her. Although we have talked about this on many occassions, she still has self-esteem issues about this sometimes.

4. Get them involved in other things besides academics. My daughter is in the orchestra, takes German, is involved in theater, our church youth group and praise band and most importantly loves to hangout with her friends during any spare time she can find.

5. Finally if they are tested for GT and get into the program you will find that some teachers are great and some are not so great. Our daughter's 3rd grade teachers used unit studies. For example if they were studying Egypt. They read about and did reports on pharoahs. They studied the math and science needed to build pyramids. Then built their own. It was exciting and I was jealous that I never had teachers who taught that way. Other teachers through the years have thought that being in GT meant nothing but a lot of extra homework. One thing that she never got along the way were good lessons in grammar. I talked to one of her teachers about it when she was in jr. high and she told me not to worry about it because they learn it by reading good books. This year she had to write 2-3 essays a week in her classes and she learned that she really did need some grammar lessons along the way. It also showed in her PSAT scores. So that is one of the things she has to work on this summer before she takes her PSAT test for the last time.

I know this is a lot more information than what you asked for but I know it helps me to get insight from someone who has already walked the path that is before me.

Good luck in making the best decision for your child.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Hi S.,
Is your son in a public school? If so, I'm sure they have some kind of gifted and talented program. I would get in touch with the GT teacher at your son's school and speak to her/him about having your son tested. S/he can also speak to you about the differences between a gifted child and a child who is an academic super-achiever. I have one of each, and there really are distinct is challenging to sort out at first, so the assistance of a teacher who is an expert in the area is extremely helpful. I can tell you some of the things that helped me to know that my 10-year-old was gifted...she said her first word at 9 months; she was speaking in 3-4 word sentences at 12 months; she had a huge vocabulary and sounded like a 5 year old by the time she was 2; no one could believe how clearly and well she spoke at such a young age; she has always 'gotten' adult humor when none of her peers did; she's always asked questions that most adults consider strange for a child her age. I could go on but you get the picture. A gifted child normally starts showing signs in infancy/toddlerhood, whereas an academic super-achiever really starts to shine once s/he starts school. But, the only way to really know for certain is to have your son tested. If he turns out to be GT, then he will participate in the school's GT program, which will keep him challenged and help him grow intellectually. There are also GT summer programs available throughout the Houston area. Good luck!

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answers from Houston on

Like most of the posts say- the school will test him. In Ft Bend ISD the parent can nominate him or the teacher will recommend it. My son was also a very advanced reader - reading 4th grade level at the end of 1st grade. He was tested every year for the "G/T" program but never came close to qualifying. (He graduated from high school this morning- and barely made it through because he had no math skills!) My second is dyslexic and- like most dyslexics- she has a very high IQ. But she doesn't want the extra work that comes with being in the G/T class so she "threw" the G/T tests the few times I asked her to take them. (Which in and of itself might be a sign of truly being gifted- she was smart enough to know she didn't want the extra challenge!) My last child came home from 2nd grade begging me to call the teacher and have her give her some decent spelling words because the ones she had in class were "lame". I noticed that she was also spending a lot of time taking the attendance to the office or the lunch list to the cafeteria-when I asked her teacher she said it was because she just "got" everything right away and was done with her work so she got to do all the fun errands. She also just "knew" her alphabet- she could sing the song at 12 months and was very verbal very early. And she is the one that tested G/T and is now in Ft. Bend's Middle School G/T Academy which truly challenges her. From 3rd to 5th grade she was placed in G/T classes at her elementary. But while I thought my oldest was G/T- he could read so well!!- it was SO OBVIOUS with the third that she was truly the "out of the box, beyond normal, gifted, and talented" one.
Soooo- talk to the teacher. She's seen it all if she has taught for a few years and she will be able to give you the guidance as to whether he is just smart or gifted.
And, of course, they are ALL gifted in some way or another. My oldest that barely got out of high school can name any musician, any genre of music, play any instrument and writes fabulous poetry and songs. But he couldn't do fractions or percentages without a calculator if his life depended on it....everyone has their strengths!
Good luck.

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answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,
Having been a teacher for many years I have been asked this question many times. Every parent thinks their child is gifted and every child is gifted in their own special way. It is extremely hard to assess "gifted" at a young age. My school used to (in better budget times) assess all of the third grade. Three quarters always tested "gifted" and were already reading a grade or two higher than third grade. Once every few years we had a student test "highly gifted." These were kids with very high IQs. Often these were your unusual, out of the box thinkers. Most are self-motivated learners with an incredible thirst for knowledge.
If you think your child is gifted, provide an enriching life. Go to museums, national parks and explore. Read, read, read with your child. So much of a child's learning takes place outside of school.
Your child is young. Let them be a child and enjoy the experience. They have many academic years ahead of them.



answers from Houston on

WOW. What great advice! A heartfelt thank you to you, ladies.
My father was gifted and moved up two grade levels during his school
career. He also tested a genius level IQ. When I noticed some GT characteristics, it made me wonder. For now, we are slated to have lots of educational fun this summer.



answers from Houston on

The school should test him. You can request that this be done.



answers from Augusta on

Talk to his school or check with the school board they may have a gifted program. They would test him for it.
To keep him challenged keep him reading. And get him workbooks above his grade level. and Answer any questions he asks no matter how much you think he won't understand the answer.



answers from San Antonio on

Look into your school to see if they have a gifted and talented program, they will test him. My oldest is in that program and the school has GT certified teaches that make sure they challenge the children to that they do not become bored. the school district also has a GT summer program (like summer school but on a voluntary basis) and my daughter LOVES it, its mostly projects and experiments. One thing I DID NOT DO is move her up a grade level, i think at this age they are too young to understand why they don’t fit in, my girl got picked on for being a "nerd" it would have been worst if she was younger and a "nerd". Now she does not mind the term. She laughs "ha ha the kids are calling me smart, they think they are making fun of me" is her attitude now. We do talk to her about her schooling options in High School. And how she can work hard to graduate early or keep going on with her classmates, HER CHOICE. We do encourage her, we take her to the library let her get involved in almost any activity she wants, within reason. Encourage but don’t push, I find most GT students are their own worst critic.



answers from Houston on

I think all the moms are giving you great advice. I wondered the same thing with my first child. If you have a good teacher they will usually take the initiative. My daughters kinder teacher had her pulled from her class in the first week and placed her in the GT program in the school. She was not there long before the principal decided that she could take the 1st grade classes and get credit for kinder just to keep her occupied. She is now in the 3rd grade. She made straight A's all year; she made perfect 100's on her TASK tests and read with a lexile score of 1160. Is she gifted, I don’t think so. Is she smart, OF Course! We just try to keep her challenged at home and enriched with museums and other things. Just keep pushing him to the next level so that he can maintain!


answers from Washington DC on

There are many children who are bright, but only a handful who are truly gifted. Gifted children are usually gifted in one area...
In first grade there are often huge differences in academic ability. Some kids are a little older and catch on quicker. Some parents work with their kids at home and those kids tend to excel as well.
As for determining if your child is gifted, your school system can do that. Personally, I never allowed my very bright children to be part of the GT program. My kids are bright. They work hard. They are NOT gifted. Also, as they get older, the GT kids get more homework... if kids are truly gifted, they wouldn't care that they get more homework than the others. There is not one child in the GT program here that does not mind the extra homework... They hate it.



answers from Houston on

It sounds like you've got a great little reader! Congratulations! Yes, that can be sign of a gifted child, but it could also be simply a sign of a great (but not gifted) student. To be labeled as gifted where your son is, you will need to request that he be tested by the school (assuming it is a public school). Testing is generally done once per year, and getting into the gifted program is mainly dependent upon testing scores. Bear in mind that the gifted programs in this area of TX only identify certain areas of giftedness. They do not include gifted artists, gifted musicians, or gifted athletes... So it's a very narrow definition of giftedness.



answers from Columbus on

It is not standard to test for giftedness until the child is well into their third grade year, and services should start at the begining of the 4th grade year. Many children learn quickly, and will not be ahead of their peers at the end of 3rd grade as the majority of the class will catch up and it will all even out. Wait for the testing to be accurate, many children and parents are disapointed every year when giftedness is not really there, and children feel great presure to continue to excel and cannot deal with the change in thier status. If your son is gifted, he will be gifted when it is time to find out too.




answers from Houston on

Most schools leave it to the childs teacher to pick up on the signs of a gifted and talented child. There is a G/T test that a child can be given to determine if a child is gifted And how much so. You might want to ask ur child's teacher if she feels it should be given to yours. Depending on the school district, the soonest this test would be given is during the childs first grade year. I'm not sure why your childs teacher hasn't suggested the test but she may be trying to see how you feel about the child being advanced. Believe it or not, some parents would rather wait another year or two or not at all. Many factors to consider especially if your child is the smallest kid in class already. And of course there are other factors. To answer your last question, I can only tell you that a good school And Teacher will figure out a way to keep a G/T child academically challenged. Good luck :-)



answers from Los Angeles on

I'm sure you can get him tested, that's how you know for sure. Here in California, however, they'll only administer the test once. Even if you pay on your own, the school district won't accept the test scores. My opinion is don't push to get him tested. You can always talk with the teacher to see what she thinks.

My daughter is in kindergarten and has had her IQ tested 3 times privately! It was a part of the testing that is done when she was assessed for autism. I have no doubt she'll test at the gifted level when the school tests her. However, they probably won't test her for another year or 2. That's fine by me. (Just to give you an idea, her reading level was at the third grade level when she was 4 1/2). In the meantime, her teacher will keep her challenged, no doubt! And she has an amazing collection of books to read at home (she's inherited all the Magic School Bus and Magic Tree House books and loves to read them, in addition to about 100 other books!). We keep her challenged in other ways too!




answers from Beaumont on

Now that it's summer y'all can relax. Take him to the library & encourage him to read whatever he wants. Make it fun & maybe point some books out that you enjoyed as a child. When I was a kid, I loved to read the encyclopedia, and my oldest son is that same type of voracious reader. I've taught history & Latin for years, and the really good readers I teach often are the students with the best academic skills.

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