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What is giftedness?

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Giftedness is a term used to describe a child with exceptional inherent talent in a particular area. If given the appropriate support and an enriched environment, a gifted child has the potential and capacity to perform at a level significantly higher than others of the same age. (Children, n.d.) Intellectual giftedness is a term used in clinical psychology to describe an individual with an IQ score above 130. Approved assessments of intellectual ability are currently the only standardised way to determine giftedness in a child, but these may not be sensitive to all forms of giftedness.

Signs that your child might be gifted:

  • Uses advanced and extensive vocabulary and/or developed reading skills much earlier than their peers

  • Advanced language development

  • Others may describe them as very active and goal oriented

  • Interacts with adults more effectively than with other children

  • Keen sense of curiosity and is frequently inquisitive about the world around them

  • High expectations of self

  • They met some or all developmental milestones early

  • Performs at a level on par with older children or adults

  • Has a strong sense of justice at an early age

  • Picks up new skills easily

  • Early demonstration of talent in art, literature or music

  • Committing to tasks and extra-curricular activities more so than same-aged peers

  • Advanced ability to understand complex concepts, problem solve, and think abstractly

  • Enjoys self-expression

  • Frequently asks “why” questions

Benefits of a cognitive assessment:

  • Gifted children need modifications to their educational experiences to learn and realise their potential. If giftedness is not identified early, often gifted children experience underachievement as their full potential is yet to be realised and nurtured. Teachers cannot support gifted children if their potential is unrecognised in the classroom.

  • Gifted children can also have learning and processing disorders that require specialised intervention and accommodation. These may be often missed due to their exceptional talent in other areas. A comprehensive cognitive assessment is sensitive to these potentially comorbid disorders.

  • Gifted children need support and guidance to develop socially and emotionally as well in their areas of talent, whether that be academic or otherwise.

  • A comprehensive cognitive assessment can be used to assist you in working out the right time for your child to start school, or to assess whether or not skipping a grade may be a viable option.

  • Early recognition of giftedness can help to prevent disengagement and negative attitudes towards school

What are the challenges faced by children who are gifted?

Gifted children can often face unique social, cultural, and intellectual difficulties. This is not due to their inherently being gifted, but instead a result of a mismatch between themselves and their environment. For example, gifted children may identify having academic anxiety not because of their giftedness, but due to the high expectations and demands placed upon them by their parents, their school, or by themselves.

Other common examples of their challenges include:

  • As gifted children are often performing at an academic level much higher than their peers, most regular classroom teachers will make few, if any, provisions for gifted and talented students. Some gifted children may also struggle then to manage boredom in classes, resulting in daydreaming, impatience and irritability, or “meltdowns” (amongst the younger children).

  • On average, gifted students are more mature socially than their peers. As such, they may find that they can face unique social difficulties, such as having interests that others do not shared, anxiety stemming from high expectations, tensions created by their energy and intensity which may be far greater than those expected at their age.

  • Susceptibility to introversion, sensitivity to social injustice, and perfectionism.

  • As gifted children generally do well academically, they may not be prioritised in an average school where other students may be struggling in class. Additional attention is more likely to be paid to students who are not doing as well academically compared to students who are able to finish their work easily. As such, many children who are gifted may experience underachievement at school due to insufficient support.

  • Feeling misunderstood if their friends, family or peers are not academically inclined, or have do not think that academic performance is important

How can parents and schools support giftedness to turn gifts into talents?

  • Take time to understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of the individual. Whilst a gifted child may be talented in one area, they may not share the same level of potential in another area.

  • Given their unique vulnerabilities to social problems and mental health issues, assess not only for their academic strengths and weaknesses, but also their overall wellbeing.

  • Use their strengths and interests to develop their learning skills. For example, if a child regularly performs at high speed and has exceptional memory, but struggles to learn new concepts, they may benefit from frequently repeating exercises to consolidate their learning.

  • Welcome opportunities to support their continued learning and wellbeing. For example, encouraging the child to attend gifted and talented or accelerated classes, or entering into competitions of their choosing.

  • Focus not only on their academic strengths but also their interests and extracurricular hobbies. Many gifted children flourish with the chance to engage in creative pursuits such as art, literature, or music.

  • Learn more about what giftedness is and join communities to access additional resources e.g.

The Secret Question: If my child is gifted, should I skip a grade?

Unfortunately, the answer to this common question for parents of gifted children is not as simple as a yes or no response. Whilst it is undeniable that skipping a grade has the potential for accelerated academic improvements, it also a pathway that may present challenges and disadvantages in other areas of their life.

The benefits:

  • Skipping a grade helps gifted children to complete the same educational program earlier or faster than their age-matched peers

Possible disadvantages to consider:

  • If your child has already developed strong friendships within their own grade, they may struggle to develop new friendships or to adjust and feel as though they fit in in an older cohort. This becomes more of an issue the longer that they have been at a particular school and the older they become.

  • Some children may not feel ready to skip a grade.

What else could I consider if I don’t want my child to skip a grade?

  • Enrolment in academically inclined classes or schools (e.g. Honour or Advanced classes, Opportunity Classes, Selective Schools, Private Schools).

  • Educational enrichment or accelerated education

  • Working together with your school’s teachers and Learning Support team to change the content, intensity or speed of the current curriculum

  • Enrolment in additional tutoring services outside of school

  • Enrolment in specialty programs and courses designed for gifted students e.g.

What can Breakthrough Psychology Clinic do to help gifted children?

  • Comprehensive Cognitive Assessments to determine giftedness, your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and to identify any other possible challenges your child may be facing. This may include difficulties in learning, academic performance, executive functioning, social interactions, or management of emotional issues.

  • Collaboration with schools to design and implement comprehensive learning plans and associated accommodations and adjustments.

  • Comprehensive Assessments for early entry into school.

  • Individual therapy appointments to address social and emotional challenges associated with giftedness. This may include performance-based anxiety, persistent stress, low energy or motivation, difficulties with social relationships, or loneliness.


Coleman, L. J. (2014). The power of specialised education environments in the development of giftedness: The need for research on social context. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 37(1), 70-80.

Heller, K. A. (2004). Identification of gifted and talented students. Psychology Science, 46(3), 302-323.

McClarty, K. L. (2014). Life in the fast lane: Effects of early grade acceleration on high school and college outcomes. Gifted Child Quarterly, 59(1), 3-13.

Wright, B. L., & Ford, D. Y. (2017). Untapped potential: Recognition of giftedness in early childhood and what professionals should know about students of color. Gifted Child Today, 40(2).

Pfeiffer, S. I. (2008). Handbook of giftedness in children. Springer.

Pfeiffer, S. I. (2015). Essentials of gifted assessment. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. ProQuest Ebook Central.

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