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2018 Mar

The Gifted Child

I was a gifted child. As a child, I didn’t really understand what that meant. I knew I got good grades. I knew I was different. Thankfully, I was identified and placed in a gifted program that gave me opportunities to learn, as well as a peer group in which to thrive.

A gifted child is simply a child with ability significantly higher than average for their age in a certain area. Giftedness is not limited to academics. These children exhibit well above average performance in an area such as intellect, art, leadership, dance, sports, academics, mathematics, or science. These children generally fall into the top 10 percent of the national norm. Currently, approximately six percent of U. S. public school students are in gifted programs. In the state of Virginia, 2013-14 school year, 164,289 students were identified as gifted out of 1,273,210.

Parents of gifted children are often the first to recognize the subtle differences in their child. Many gifted children are formally identified through academic testing within the school system. Intelligence quotient (IQ) tests may be used to diagnose giftedness. Two percent of children have an IQ between 130-145 and only one tenth of one percent have an IQ above 140. The IQ is considered stable after 4 years of age and is the best predictor of educational achievement.

Your pediatrician monitors your child’s developmental milestones and should let you know if your child is advanced. It is difficult to assess very young children as gifted, as time is needed to view the natural development of the child’s abilities. Since giftedness includes aspects other than intelligence, one must consider standardized achievement tests, grades, classroom activities, teacher’s observations, and creative work.

Encourage learning by allowing the child’s curiosity to lead the process. Find a supportive educational program that nourishes the student. Programs may offer acceleration or grade advancement, grouping of gifted students for discussions, special classes, and accommodations in the regular classroom.

Educating gifted students is a balancing act: if the progress is too slow, they get bored (and can get into trouble), but if the progress is too rapid, they may struggle and feel anxious. Educators with specialized training in gifted education are helpful. Outside of the classroom, museums and travel provide enrichment. Trips to bookstores and libraries reveal new worlds to curious minds.

Just being gifted doesn’t guarantee success. It takes time, energy, and hard work to succeed. All children need to understand that there is joy in work and that work is always required for success. Parents teach this by modeling a good work ethic. Encouraging kids to work hard, without putting unnecessary pressure on them, is an important part of parenting. A child’s best effort should be all that is required.

Remember that although the child is gifted, he or she is still a child. Parents should treat their gifted child as they do their other children with similar guidelines and requirements. Time and attention are needed by all children. Children also need boundaries such as set bedtimes, chores, and time for play. Free playtime encourages imagination. But children still need parental assistance. It’s okay if you can’t answer all their questions. It’s enough just to love them and encourage them to find the answer.

Most gifted students are quite normal socially; however, some may struggle. Their social development may lag behind their academic progress. They may get picked on or bullied. They may struggle to fit in to the cliques. Gifted students may get poor grades if they are not challenged. They may feel undue pressure from teachers or parents. These children should be supported and understood, as all students should be.

Giftedness is indeed a gift, but what a child learns to do with that gift may depend on the love, support. and opportunities provided by parents and caregivers. 

Read more online at the National Assn. for Gifted Children at

Melanie J. Wilhelm, DNP, CPNP, is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Norfolk, as well as a lecturer at ODU. Her first book, Raising Today’s Baby, is available on or at Reach her at,, and

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