What is a Gifted Child?
What is a gifted child?
The honest truth is that this is a question to which we don't fully know the answer; therefore there's controversy about it, and there are many different opinions. I have found consistent success over the years by leaving aside the philosophical and existential debates, and working with the following simple "model".
The most common internationally accepted definition of a gifted child is very simple: it is a child who scores among the top 5% of children on a suitably standardised IQ test; that is, above the 95th percentile, which means that the child scores higher on an IQ test than 95 out of 100 children in the population would do. Some countries base the definition on the top 10%; some people narrow the definition to the top 2%. I believe that the top 10% to 20% of children are "gifted" enough to be disadvantaged in some ways in our current Australian education system, and the same seems to be true in Western countries generally.
Thus the definition of a gifted child is based on high intelligence across the full range of intellectual activities and concepts which are tested by an IQ test. By stating this I don't in any way mean to ignore the newer concepts which some people in this field are working on: different types of intelligence - emotional and creative intelligence, and so on. But currently there are many new models being developed, and it takes time to evaluate them and learn to work with them in a practical way. So meanwhile, with an open and flexible mind so as not to exclude the creativity or individual characteristics of particular children, I find the IQ definition a sufficient basis to work with. Furthermore, it is currently the only definition one has any hope of discussing with a school or an Education Department; in fact, one often still has problems gaining acceptance of it.
However - experience
has taught me that IQ tests are not infallible, and that there are children who
are clearly gifted, who don't score highly on their IQ test. (The term
"clearly gifted" is hard to explain succinctly - basically it means a
child who is clearly able to do many things that are usually only done by much
older children. Also see the page "How do I know if my child is
gifted?") In recent years the problem with IQ tests has mostly been
due to the use of out-dated or inappropriate IQ tests, because a modern test
that was appropriate for gifted children wasn't available (see the explanation
on the page "Testing Gifted Children"). Since 2005 the new
Stanford Binet 5 test has been available, and this is the only test that should
now be used for gifted children; parents should ask insistantly for this test,
in order to require psychologists to move on from the much-used WISC-III, which
was never appropriate to test gifted children (again, see "Testing Gifted
However, sometimes the cause of
low scores on an IQ test, by a child who is clearly gifted, even highly gifted,
simply remains unknown. Do they think too much "outside the box", or
do they have a particular nervousness in the testing situation? - unknown.
In my experience cases like this are rare, but they do occur. Ultimately, if
he/she seems like a gifted child, thinks like one and acts like one, s/he very
probably is one.
it is important to understand that although we may not be completely sure what
IQ tests do measure, the measurement of IQ is a quite strongly based and consistently
proven concept. Mostly this due to
huge amounts of information gathered during the two World Wars and other smaller
wars through the 20th century. Hundreds of
thousands of service men and women were given IQ tests when they joined were called
up, and they provide a very numerous base for research into the practical
meaning of IQ. Research has proved beyond any doubt that a high IQ is
associated with faster learning of more difficult concepts, greater creative and
problem solving abilities, and deeper insight into complex issues, and these are
the most common indicators of a gifted child.
Regarding the successful person with a contempt for “IQ”, many don’t realise that they do in fact have a high IQ; others are a testimony to the fact that many other qualities such as determination, perseverance and commitment are also important to success. Regarding the person with the high IQ who appears not to be successful – if it’s true that he or she isn’t as successful as he or she would like to be, this an example of why we have gradually realised that gifted children need special help.
it is true that many people with high intelligence do often follow academic
courses because they’re so interesting and provide enjoyable intellectual
challenges, and can fail to develop the business and entrepreneurial skills, or
the confidence, which can turn their knowledge and abilities into worldly or
financial success. Where this is the case, again it is hopefully something with which we
can help today’s gifted children. A
third possibility is that the individual may have values other than worldly or
commercial success, and be content without it.
Having high ability doesn’t mean that one has to prove it to others by
means of visible or external achievement or success.
to gifted children, it’s very important to note that the definition of a
gifted child only requires high intelligence: it doesn’t require that the
child is already doing something spectacular.
This is a serious distinction, because there’s widespread
misunderstanding about it; gifted children need this issue to be much better understood.
Giftedness is the potential for high achievement.
Giftedness is the potential for high achievement.
In an attempt to make clear what a gifted child is, some programs and Education Departments in Australia use the terms SHIP (Student of High Intellectual Potential), or CHIP (Children of High Intellectual Potential). These terms make clear that a gifted child is a child with unusually high potential, which may or may not be achieved. However to date in Australia neither term CHIP or SHIP has become generally accepted, so the easily misunderstood “Gifted Child” is still most widely used.
"All Children Are Gifted"
One last word: there is a view you may encounter widely, particularly in preschool and junior primary activities, that "all children are gifted"; that every child has within him or her the musical potential of a Mozart, the science potential of an Einstein, etc. The human brain is such a complex and little understood mechanism that this may well be true, or true in some sense which we don’t at present understand; certainly it seems that most of us have greater potential than we are able to tap into in our lives. Perhaps some day we’ll learn how to unlock all of our hidden potentials.
However to date the fact remains that in the history of the world, only Mozart has ever written music like Mozart; only Einstein has ever brought out of his daydreams the amazing insights that Einstein did.
The concept of IQ is barely 100 years old, and we understand it very little. Our realisation that gifted children have great needs if they are to be happy, and to reach some of their potential if they wish to do that, is only 30 to 40 years old; obviously we still have a lot to learn, and for the present, this website can only try to deal with some of the issues of Gifted Children, as defined above.
Parents who have gifted children may often encounter the "all our children are gifted" concept from family members, other parents, school authorities, or from anyone in the community. It is probably important to remember that in the sense that each child is unique, that all children are wonderful, that all children probably have unsuspected abilities and potential, this statement deserves respect, or at least tact. In my experience there's not much to be gained in any practical way by arguing about gifted children's issues with this group of people.
the fact remains that parents of intellectually gifted children will
find nevertheless, that their child definitely has characteristics and abilities
which put them into a small subgroup of children who have exceptional abilities,
and also exceptional needs.
is a Gifted Child?] [Intelligence & IQ] [How
do I Know if my Child is Gifted?] [Problem
Analysis] [Testing Gifted Children]