The World Health Organization has calculated that there are about 2% of gifted children or children with high intellectual abilities. We can therefore deduce that in every family (in the broadest sense of the term), in every school, in every community there are children with extraordinary abilities.
Highly gifted children are not always recognized by the education system or by specialists in psychology or educational psychology, and even less do they receive the attention they would need to stimulate and give an input to their potential. Furthermore, if they are girls or if they come from poor social backgrounds, it is even more difficult to identify them.
There are also many myths and false beliefs about this condition, which contribute to making these children go unnoticed, made invisible or, even worse, diagnosed with disorders that they don’t really have, such as attention deficit (with or without hyperactivity), bipolar disorder or Asperger’s syndrome.
How to recognize gifted children?
Most specialists agree that to find out if a child is gifted, you have to wait until he or she has reached 5 or 6 years of age. However, some experts argue that some early signs of high capacity can be detected as early as 2 to 4 years old.
It’s also easy to confuse high academic achievement with extraordinary skills. Although a gifted child is highly intelligent, they are actually gifted with a different kind of intelligence. A gifted child may have poor grades, but not really low.
The main characteristics of gifted children are often misunderstood. According to clinical psychologist Linda Kreger Silverman, founder of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, United States, gifted children have the following qualities:
- They provide very clever (or very convincing) explanations for not doing homework or not going to school.
- They possess a great ability to invent ingenious stories or jokes or puns.
- They ask questions and reformulate them in an ingenious way, putting parents and teachers in difficulty.
- They show a scrupulous dedication to dedicating themselves to an activity that excites them.
- They do normal things in an unusual way.
- They know what is unfair and fight to defend the weakest.
- They manage to stay calm in times of chaos.
Fundamental characteristic of gifted children: overexcitability
Often the overexcitability that gifted children present in various aspects of their development is not correctly recognized ; not infrequently, this gives rise to misdiagnosis.
In this sense, an article published in The Communicator magazine talks about the following types of overexcitability that gifted children would present:
1. Psychomotor overexcitability
The gifted child gets bored and moves. She apparently has attention problems and has episodes of hyperactivity. His verbal or physical agitation suggests attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
When the child is motivated by a task to perform or is immersed in an activity that attracts and fascinates him, he reaches levels of concentration that are unusual for his age. He forgets about everything around him.
He may also feel frustrated when he fails to achieve the goal he set for himself and this is an emotion we need to teach him to manage.
2. Intellectual overexcitability
Gifted children have a voracious curiosity. Sometimes they pour all their energy into a single subject, becoming obsessed with it.
This unique interest in certain topics and their voracious curiosity can hinder relationships with peers, which can be confused with Asperger’s syndrome.
3. Emotional overexcitability
Very often the parents of a gifted child describe it as “very intense and extreme” or that it tends to “explode easily”.
- His intense emotionality will be one of his greatest assets as an adult, but in childhood it can be confused with bipolar disorder, while these subjects, in reality, are far from presenting with psychosis.
- His sensitivity makes him cry for a movie character or worry about social injustice, violence or environmental problems. Gifted children have a deep social conscience.
4. Sensory overexcitation
Gifted children are particularly bothered by clothing labels, classroom noise, smells or too loud volume. These sensations are so invasive that you can’t think of anything else.
Usually neither parents nor teachers understand this extreme sensitivity by judging children as manic, when, in reality, it is phenomena that children are unable to bear.
5. Excitability of the imagination
Gifted children seem to “live in a world of their own”. It is really easy for them to invent, fantasize and create imaginary situations and companions to escape the boredom that, for example, school generates in them.
In these flights of fantasy they can confuse reality with fiction. They draw, write or imagine stories in order to detach themselves from a reality that in their eyes is unattractive and stimulating.
What to do if we have a gifted child?
Despite the numerous stimuli provided during pregnancy or in very early childhood, it is not possible to train a child with high abilities. Gifted children are gifted by birth and inherit their potential from the family.
If we realize that a child possesses characteristics such as to be able to define him as “gifted”, the first obstacle to overcome is our fear and our prejudices. In fact, it is a different child. It is important to help him manage and channel his potential.
Discovering and reinforcing these differences is a great challenge, which often requires dealing with relatives, teachers and psychologists accustomed to “normality”. The child must be educated to be happy, not to be perfect.
There is no point in isolating a gifted child or expecting him to bond only with children like him. Furthermore, there are few countries in which specialized educational institutions for children of this type exist.
The ideal is to help him fit into a traditional school, to relate to peers and, in the meantime, offer him the opportunity to interface with additional activities that stimulate his potential.