During a child’s formative years, some parents will be completely caught off guard by their little one suddenly declaring something deeply profound with an intelligence and insight far beyond their years.
Other parents may not have a budding young philosopher, yet they also can be taken aback by their child displaying superior literacy or numeracy skills, or having the perfect ear when it comes to music.
No matter the circumstances, if a moment like the ones explained above presents itself, every parent will ask the same question, ‘Is my child gifted?’
What would be surprising to most parents however is just how often the answer is ‘yes’. Giftedness in children is not as rare as parents have been led to believe. In fact, it is assumed that close to 10 per cent of any school population is gifted.
The huge misunderstanding surrounding the rarity of giftedness comes from an outdated classification that only measures children based on their academic test scores, rather than their ability.
The education community has largely disregarded that obsolete definition, in part because it’s now understood that children, like adults, do not usually demonstrate high ability across the board. It is natural for students to be gifted in some areas, such as music, sport, science, English or Math, yet closer to their peers in other domains.
At Sydney Catholic Schools, our mission is to identify and support our gifted students without the pressure of unfairly expecting a child to demonstrate high ability across every domain, which undoubtedly may cause anxiety when the child does not meet expectations.
We currently have more than 60 Newman Selective Gifted Education Program schools whose mission it is to nurture the potential of students so their gifts develop into talent. Our gifted students will participate in selective classes and cluster groupings based on their domains of giftedness.
So what are the traits of a gifted child?
There is no one mould that measures giftedness. Each gifted child will demonstrate their abilities in a different way. However, there are some common traits. Gifted children may display unique cognitive abilities, such as a large vocabulary, capacity to set goals, willingness to self-criticise and an interest in problem solving.
Creatively, you may also see gifted children display a keen sense of humour, an active imagination, intuitiveness and inventiveness. While from a behavioural aspect, gifted children may be enthusiastic, highly energetic, impulsive, and curious and continually asking questions.
Gifted children also display some traits that must be carefully managed. They may be incredibly sensitive children with an unusual emotional depth and intensity. They may also exhibit empathy from a young age and have high expectations that could potentially lead to increased frustration, especially if they have ideas or themes that they cannot yet convey. Gifted children may also have a heighted self-awareness that they are different and become easily wounded, requiring a higher level of emotional support than other children.
Supporting a gifted child’s emotional state is a paramount concern of any parent. Failure to do so may lead to social-emotional difficulties such as stress, anxiety and issues with peer relationships.
Once identified how do I develop my child’s potential?
One of the key suggestions is to emphasise the learning process over current levels of performance or achievement. As parents, try to focus on their love and excitement for learning new things. Young minds are hungry for stimulation, so feed this curiosity by viewing mistakes as opportunities for learning rather than focussing solely on achievement.
The best way to do this is through play, focussing on your child’s passions and interests through an authentically relevant context. For some gifted students, avoid tutors and high pressure academic ‘boot camps’ that practice rote learning in preparation for selective school exams. It is better to nurture and develop your child’s gifts so that they flourish when they are adults, giving them the greatest opportunity to live successful and fulfilling lives.
*** Click here to read more on the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program and find out how you can contact your local Newman school for an assessment of your child.***