How to Tell if a Child Is Gifted

Three Methods:Noting Situational and Internal FactorsUsing Assessment AidsDefining Gifted Theories in Children

The concept of “gifted” in children is subjective, fluid, and contextual. Even within the educational field, this term has a wide range of beliefs and meaning. However, a general meaning of a gifted child is that children may grow and learn asynchronously. The National Association for Gifted Children remarks that a gifted child’s cognitive ability may grow faster than their physical abilities.[1] Since 1972, the US Congress has defined gifted as: “Students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop."[2]

Method 1
Noting Situational and Internal Factors

  1. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 1
    Understand behavioral differences. To personally identify if your child is gifted, you may want to begin by observing your child’s behavior. Experts believe that gifted children have certain exaggerated behaviors that may indicate heightened intelligence or talent.[3]
    • For example, a common exaggerated behavior is a gifted child being terrified of germs and visualizing them on his/her body.[4]
    • Another example of behavioral differences in a gifted child is if s/he prefers to spend more time talking to adults than to peers.[5]
  2. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 2
    Recognize intensity. The most obvious sign of intensity of a gifted child manifests through her emotions. This is generally the first thing parents notice in their gifted child. This intensity can be observed in a number of situations including:[6]
    • Intensity in emotion -- Child may exhibit both positive or negative emotions. This may be showing extreme emotion or moving from one feeling to another in a short time span.
    • Intensity in the body -- Extreme expression of emotion in the body or showing symptoms such as tense stomach, sinking heart, blushing, headache, nausea, or shyness.
    • Intensity in memory -- Intense children can remember feelings associated to an incident. They will often re-live or re-feel them when remembering the event. For example, your child might appear to feel pain when recalling a past injury.
    • Intensity in self-evaluation and self-judgement. She might self-evaluate her early art as bad or not good enough.
  3. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 3
    Understand sensitivity. Gifted children often show sensitivity to situations. Some examples from Dabrowski’s 1979 and 1994 studies show that gifted children often exhibit:
    • Open honesty and concern for others. Children will exhibit these traits even though they know they will be reprimanded.
    • Sensitive to the feelings of others. Gifted children may befriend outcasts and not tolerate cruelty to other children.
    • Easily upset with criticism. Children may get upset when people ignore their suggestions. They may also show compassion and awareness of other’s needs.
    • Awareness and consciousness with well developed sense of morals.
    • A strong sense of right and wrong.
  4. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 4
    Note curiosity. A gifted child will show curiosity sooner than other children. She will readily ask questions and explore her surroundings. She notably enjoys learning, is keenly observant, and is highly self-critical.[7]
    • This curiosity is often paired with intensity. A gifted child, when showing interest, will pursue it with intense passion.
    • For example, a gifted child might be curious about the world around her by asking "why" questions frequently or physically exploring the world around her, even if it may appear to be dangerous for her.[8]
  5. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 5
    Identify the problematic nature of gifted children in the classroom. It might be difficult to diagnose a gifted child in the classroom because at least one-fourth to one-half of their regular classroom time is wasted waiting for other children to catch up.[9] In these situations, boredom becomes rampant and may create difficult relationships between peers. Therefore, a gifted child may present possible problems in the classroom including:
    • Impatient with slowness and others.
    • Dislike of routine and drill.
    • Strong-willed.
    • Difficulty accepting the illogical.
    • Difficulty in being practical.
    • May use words to escape or avoid situations.
    • Overly intense focus.
  6. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 6
    Note high test scores in one or more school subject. A common sign of a gifted child is excelling in a particular subject (math, science, art, etc) or more than one topic. If your child is receiving notably high grades, especially with seemingly little effort, your child might be gifted.
    • You may want to talk to your child's teacher to see if he/she notices any signs of your child being gifted.

Method 2
Using Assessment Aids

  1. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 7
    Use an evaluation guide. Organizations seeking to support emotional health in gifted children have developed evaluation guides that parents can use to determine if their child is gifted.[10]
    • You can often find these guides on the organizations' websites. You can do an internet search for “Gifted children evaluation guide.”
    • This is merely a guide; always seek professional experience and guidance to make a successful diagnosis.
  2. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 8
    Seek professional guidance. If you notice your child exhibiting signs of being gifted, talk to her pediatrician or school counselor.[11] It is always best to consult a professional.
    • Often, public schools have professional counselors who can assess whether or not your child is gifted.
    • Almost all gifted children are diagnosed at the state and local level. Therefore, your school district will have unique assessments to identify if your child is gifted.
    • Unfortunately, these tests, as well as accommodations, vary widely due to budget allocations.[12]
    • If your child is gifted in a particular subject, talk to your child's teacher. S/he may resources to help your child or know who to contact for further assistance.
  3. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 9
    Know how your child will be evaluated. As each state varies on how they identify a gifted student, there is no standard test or evaluation. Each state should list its evaluation criteria on the Department of Education website.
    • For example, Ohio has a “Student Growth Measures FAQs” which discusses its implementation of gifted program assessments.[13]
    • Another example is Florida’s Department of Education website which includes definitions of gifted students, contacts, state regulations, and laws.[14]
    • Check with your state’s Department of Education to find regulations and state standards.
  4. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 10
    Work with teachers or counselors. Your school district may take a number of paths to help your gifted child. They might:
    • Provide a unique curriculum more appropriate for your child’s level.
    • Consider grade advancement (for example, skipping from 5th grade to 7th grade).
    • Pair your student with a tutor or teacher for additional learning
    • Give you the resources to supplement your gifted child’s education outside the classroom.
    • Provide accommodations in a regular classroom.[15]

Method 3
Defining Gifted Theories in Children

  1. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 11
    Identify Gagnè’s theory. Gagnè’s (1985) theory identifies a clear distinction between talent and giftedness. Giftedness means the ability to use untrained skills with a seemingly natural ability. Talent, however, exemplifies the unnatural mastery of a skill at a young age. When determining the level of giftedness of your child, consider whether you are looking for giftedness or talent. This may be an important distinction if your educational district uses Gagne’s theories for placement or assessment.
    • Additionally, Gagnè’s theory has five domains: intellectual, creative, socioaffective, sensorimotor, and ‘others’ (for example, extrasensory perception). If following this theory, your child may be gifted in one or more of these domains.
    • If your school district uses Gagnè’s theory to diagnose your child as gifted, they might look beyond your child's ability to perform well on tests. Instead, they will be more interested in assessing your child's natural abilities. This might mean observing how your child interacts with the world around her before diagnosing as "talented" or "gifted."[16]
  2. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 12
    Consult Renzulli’s theory. Renzulli’s (1978) theory on gifted behavior is more specific than Gagne’s. This theory states that there is a clear gifted interaction between three clusters of human traits: “above average general and/or specific abilities, high levels of task commitment (motivation), and high levels of creativity.” Not only must children show aptitude in these areas, but they also must be able to apply them in appropriate situations. These behaviors are contextually dependent and may not manifest continually.
    • Renzulli's theories are more applicable in curriculum development for gifted children; it often opposes high-stakes testing in favor for more individualized approaches in teaching and learning.[17]
  3. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 13
    Consider 20th century conceptions of giftedness. While Gagnè’s and Renzulli’s theories are certainly very popular when considering the nature of giftedness in children, there are other theories to consider as well. The 19th and 20th century heralded a number of theories in childhood assessments. [18] While these theories may be archaic, they are essential in developing modern day theories and practices. As a parent of a gifted child, it is beneficial to know where such theories originated. Other popular theories and events include:
    • William Torres Harris’ (1868) early systematic approach to incorporated gifted learning in education.
    • Galton’s (1869) work, Hereditary Genius, which indicates intelligence is passed on from parent to child.
    • Binet’s and Simon’s (1905) early assessments, which revolutionize assessments in schools.
    • Stedman’s (1918) work on gifted opportunities.
    • Terman’s (1922) longitudinal study on gifted students in New York City.
    • The National Institute of Gifted Children is founded in 1954.
    • US Education Department established the Office of Gifted and Talented in 1974.
    • Dabrowski, a Polish psychologist, discussed emotional development and sensitivity in children in his theory of emotional development (1964, 1967, 1972).
    • The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented is established at University of Connecticut in 1990.
    • National Association of Gifted Children published national education standards in 2006, which is then revised in 2013.[19]
  4. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 14
    Inquire about the above theories. If your child has been labeled or diagnosed as "gifted," ask your school system what theories they use to develop a curriculum. This will help determine future expectations.
    • For example, if a school district relies on Ranzulli's theory, you can probably assume that your child will receive individualized attention and perhaps a unique curriculum to fit her level.
  5. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 15
    Recognize legal terms by state. While there are many theories and approaches to assessing gifted children, each state in the US has its unique definition and educational approach. When enrolling or diagnosing your child, consider how your location will affect this definition.
    • Luckily, the National Association of Gifted Children has a state-by-state breakdown of regulations and terms for easy reference.[20]
    • You want to make sure your child is getting all the help they need. It is important that your child gets properly diagnosed per your state laws so you and your family may take advantage of programs and resources.
  6. Image titled Tell if a Child Is Gifted Step 16
    Stay current on research. Because these terms and ideas are constantly being challenged and changing, it is important to stay current on research, regulations, and laws.
    • There are a number of academic publications that frequently provide evolving news and research, including the journal Gifted Child Quarterly.[21]
    • Staying abreast on current information will help you better help your gifted child. A gifted child's needs are different than a normal child, so you may need to supplement his/her education on your own.


  • Many gifted children (and adults) are being misdiagnosed by professionals as having other behavioral disorders. National Organizations, especially Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, provide great resources and information on how children may be misdiagnosed. Their websites often provide great material on this.[22] Sometimes, giftedness and disabilities such as ADD and autism co-occur.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (21)

Article Info

Categories: Nurturing Talent