The Ontario Ministry of Education defines giftedness as “an unusually advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided in the regular school program to satisfy the level of educational potential indicated.”
In other words, gifted children are those whose cognitive abilities are significantly higher than those of other children their age (IQ of 130 or above), to the extent that they may need different learning opportunities from other students in their class.
In addition to higher cognitive abilities, gifted children tend to be very curious, imaginative, and experimental, think “outside the box,” have an impressive vocabulary, and are often able to and/or prefer to teach themselves. They may ask questions at a rate that is hard for adults to keep up with and about topics that are hard for adults to understand. They are often described as “intense” and “sensitive.”
The term “giftedness” is misleading, as it is not necessarily a universal “gift.” Gifted children have strengths and weaknesses just like any other child. A gifted child may, for example, be able to complete high school-level math in early elementary school, but not be able to read, or tie their shoes, or regulate their response to losing a game. The “asynchronous” or uneven development often found in gifted children may be confusing and frustrating, for both the child and the adults around them.
If you think that your child may be gifted, you may wish to seek out a psychoeducational assessment to determine if the criteria are met.
Here are a few ideas to help support a gifted child at home or in the classroom.
- Consider educational fit. Talk with your child’s teacher or principal about options for gifted programming in the school or surrounding areas. In class, encourage the gifted child to develop, rather than just answer, questions. Help them to extend their learning beyond the topic at hand.
- Find like-minded peers. It is incredibly important for gifted children to have friends with similar interests and understandings. They may gravitate towards older children. Try to find social groups specifically for gifted children.
- Help them find meaning. Encourage their interests and passions through books, videos, and extracurricular activities. Find clubs (or better yet, help them to create their own club) that focus on their interests. Help them to connect to the world around them through volunteer work.