Have you ever seen those quotes that state “every child is gifted, they just unwrap their packages at different times”? Well this next statement may make you cringe…. That quote makes me cringe! Indeed every child is special and has different gifts, but not every child is gifted. I suspect that most parents of gifted children would also not like that quote too much. Gifted describes a set of traits that not all children possess. Gifted children are not neurotypical children. I don’t like that quote because it belittles the challenges and risks that gifted children face. And raising a gifted child can be extremely challenging and isolating.
There isn’t a universal definition of giftedness but it usually relates to a higher than average IQ and exceptional ability in one or more areas (but separate to talent). You can read below about some different definitions – 5 Different Definitions of Giftedness; published by The Institute for Educational Advancement.
When I have told family that J is gifted, their reaction is along the lines of ‘you must be so proud’ and ‘congratulations’. I know they mean well and of course I don’t hold it against them but it demonstrates the ignorance of the general population about what it means to be gifted. Firstly, I’m not proud of J for being gifted. It’s a clinical diagnosis. Not something she could have helped – she didn’t study or work hard to score highly. It’s just the way she is. The congratulations makes me giggle – being gifted doesn’t make J any more special or valuable than other children. Congratulations to anyone who is blessed with an incredible little human! I don’t know, maybe a ‘wow, that’s great, but man, that’s hard!’ would be appropriate when referring to raising a neurodivergent child.
Giftedness does not equal academic achievement or maturity or poise or a steady trajectory of development. The following link explains a little of what it’s like to be a gifted child – Intense, Asynchronous, Misunderstood; published by the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.
There are different levels of giftedness (along a scale of increasing IQ) – moderately gifted, highly gifted, exceptionally gifted, and profoundly gifted. J is classed as profoundly gifted based on her full scale IQ scores. Different tests report different IQ score ranges for the different levels of giftedness so it’s important to know which test was taken. J did the Stanford Binet Intelligence Scales 5th Edition over three separate sessions. People with an IQ as high as hers supposedly occur at a frequency of less than one in one million in the population. It’s important to realise that not only is she different from children of average IQ, but also from children who are moderately to highly gifted. Some of the characteristics of J’s giftedness are as follows:
- She has an excellent memory and can remember details about people, places, and things that were said or seen quite a while ago.
- She has an uncanny attention to detail and will notice something different, no matter how small.
- When she is interested, she will learn new things very quickly.
- When she isn’t interested, she won’t have a bar of being made to do things.
- She started to speak (the words ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’) when she was five months old.
- She was a very alert baby – it was the number one thing people commented on!
- She has very advanced social skills and a large vocabulary and can have complex conversations with adults.
- She likes to organise people and things. Those who don’t recognise her leadership skills call her bossy.
- She has an incredible sense of social justice and will call out being treated differently or without the same respect as adults.
- She experiences ‘overexcitabilities’ – I’ll talk more about these later.
- She is incredibly curious and has an overwhelming desire to investigate and touch things.
- She is very energetic and finds it difficult to stay still (unless engaged in a task) and to settle to sleep.
- She doesn’t sleep as much as the average same-aged child.
- She loves puzzles and numbers and problem-solving games (and is advanced for her age).
- When asked to do something, she will require a complex and relevant explanation as to the reason. She is not blindly obedient.
- Her imagination is incredible.
- She is intense in every way!
If you think your child may be gifted then I think it’s worth getting a psychologists report because it will help you to advocate for the different needs of your child, especially if your child is in school and struggling. Advocating for your child can be a tricky thing because you might encounter people who simply don’t believe in such a thing as gifted, or they get defensive and somehow think you’re saying your child is better, or they think you’re making it up because the behaviour of your child doesn’t match their uneducated perception of what gifted should look like. It’s something that I have yet to master and I used to feel like maybe I should just keep my mouth shut. But after experiencing a couple of unfortunate situations now, I know I have to speak up! I don’t want to hide who she is simply to avoid making someone else uncomfortable.