What comes to mind when you think of intelligence? Some may think book smarts, some may think street smarts, and others will argue it’s a combination of both.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “intelligence” as the: (1)
- ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations
- ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria
- act of understanding
- ability to perform computer functions
Clearly, intelligence is not something that we can shove into a single box or fit underneath one umbrella. People can objectively be intelligent, but how we measure intelligence is often subjective.
Don’t think so? Just look at Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, Jay-Z, and Lady Gaga who all dropped out of school and have become incredible success stories. (2)
Granted, you can argue that only a tiny percentage of people can pull that off. But, American politician Chuck Grassley put it best when he said:
“What makes a child gifted and talented may not always be good grades in school, but a different way of looking at the world and learning.” (3)
What Is Giftedness?
It seems impossible to define what it means to be gifted. Everyone would agree that no two children are the same.
The National Association for Gifted Children says that “giftedness may manifest in one or more domains such as; intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or in a specific academic field.” (4)
But, in general, giftedness refers to children whose abilities far surpass what’s expected for their age.
Gifted children all have their own unique personality and set of traits. In her book “Growing Up Gifted,” Dr. Barbara Clark outlines four traits of giftedness: (5)
- Cognitive (e.g., abstract and critical thinking, avid reader, large vocabulary, diverse interests)
- Creative (e.g., intuitive, keen sense of humor, ability for fantasy, independent)
- Affective (e.g., empathetic, heightened self-awareness, seeks justice, unusual emotional depth)
- Behavioral (e.g., spontaneous, highly energetic, insatiable curiosity, non-stop talker)
Similar to the different types of love languages, there are usually two traits that are most dominant in children depending on their unique giftedness.
Related: Meet Joshua Beckford, Kid Genius
Is My Child Gifted?
You child or grandchild’s school might offer a gifted program. If so, they will usually identify potential gifted students based on traditional screening methods.
Dr. David Palmer, a licensed educational psychologist, says these can include things “like group IQ tests… achievement test scores and past grades, observation, and getting input from teachers and parents.” (6)
However, you don’t have to be entirely dependent on school to gauge your child’s level of giftedness. Palmer argues that parents’ insights about their children are important.
“In fact, parents should become familiar with the signs of giftedness even before their child starts school,” he says. “Most school districts do not even start identifying children for gifted programs until the second or third grade.”
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the most common characteristics of gifted individuals.
23 Signs of a Gifted Child
- Unusual alertness from infancy
- Rapid learner
- Excellent memory
- Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age
- Advanced comprehension of language (e.g., language nuances, metaphors, abstract ideas)
- Problem-solving skills (i.e., with numbers and puzzles)
- Usually self-taught reading and writing skills in preschool
- Deep, intense feelings and reactions
- Highly sensitive
- Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful
- Idealism and sense of justice early on
- Concern with social and political issues and injustices
- Longer attention span and intense concentration
- Preoccupied with own thoughts
- Learns new (and basic) skills quickly and seamlessly
- Inquisitive (always asks “why” questions)
- Wide range of interests (or extreme focus in one area)
- Extremely curious
- Enjoys experimenting and doing things differently
- Puts idea or things together that are not typical
- Keen and/or unusual sense of humor
- Desire to organize people/things through games or complex plans
- Vivid imaginations
Identifying gifted children can be challenging. But the sooner parents and educators are able to do so, the sooner a child’s gifts can be nurtured and become talents – talents that they will remember for a lifetime.
So, be aware of how your child is developing. If you notice any of those 23 signs of giftedness, encourage them to keep exploring in their advanced and unique ways. Because it is gifted children who will likely be the ones who help transform our world into a better place.
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