Is your child gifted?
Brilliant at maths or an early reader? Could your child be gifted?
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Is your child extraordinary in any way? Is he emotionally intelligent beyond his years? Does she solve complex maths problems in her sleep? Your child could very well be gifted.

But what does this mean? Where do you go to from here, and how do you deal with this information?

According to Professor Shirley Kokot (Educational Psychologist at Unisa and president of the National Association for Gifted and Talented Children in South Africa), herself the mother of three gifted children, there are many different definitions for describing a child who is gifted.

“I like to use the following definition: A child who has the potential or ability to perform at an extraordinary level in one or several fields as compared to same-aged peers with a similar cultural and educational background,” she says.

However, she added that there was a clear distinction between a clever child and a gifted one.

“A 'clever' child is not necessarily a gifted child, nor is an 'above average' child necessarily gifted. Clever and above-average children succeed academically in schools designed for the average. Gifted children don't fit well into 'average' schools.

“It’s also important to remember that some children have the potential for giftedness but due to cultural or educational disadvantages, might not show the potential in various settings.”

What makes a child ‘gifted’?

According to Kokot, a child can be gifted in various ways - generally intellectually gifted, gifted in a specific area (eg: language/ maths), creative in the artistic sense (either in the performing or fine arts), creative in terms of innovative thinking ability, a gifted leader or a gifted sportsman.

“Generally, we refer to intellectually gifted children as 'gifted'. All the others are usually referred to in terms of talent in a specific area. Hence the term 'gifted and talented children' which is used internationally,” she says.

Gifted child checklist

The following are indicators often present in a gifted child:
  • Unusual alertness during infancy
  • Long attention span
  • High activity level
  • Less need for sleep
  • Advanced development through milestones
  • Keenly observant
  • Extreme curiosity
  • Excellent memory
  • Early and excellent vocabulary development
  • Rapid learning ability
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Sensitivity
  • Perfectionism
  • Advanced ability to play with puzzles, mazes or numbers.

It is very important to spot the gifted potential in a child as early as possible, Kokot says, so that the child can be given the educational environment needed to nurture their gift and prevent negative signs from appearing.

Signs teachers should look out for

Kokot says that there are two types of behaviour a teacher should look out for in learners to determine if they are gifted or not.

The obvious sign is of a child who finds learning easy - but stressed that teachers should also look for the 'opposite side of the coin' as frequently the “bored, cheeky, unmotivated, sarcastic, pain-in-the-neck child may be acting out because of those same characteristics that can, if correctly managed, result in positive behaviours.”

She says that there are many unmotivated gifted children in the schools who hide their gifts and are massive underachievers.

If you think your child may be gifted, look for a school environment where debate and discussion are encouraged.

For more about gifted children, visit Health 24.

Do you think some children are specially gifted, or are they just clever?

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