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Characteristics of Giftedness

What is Giftedness?

Children are gifted when their ability is significantly above the norm for their age. Giftedness may present in one or more areas such as academics (reading, writing, math, science, etc.), creativity, leadership, psychomotor, or the arts (dance, theater, visual, and music). Gifted people make up around the top 5% of a population; the highly gifted make up the top 1-3% of the population.

Not all gifted children look or act alike. Gifted and talented children are present in all student groups, regardless of gender, disability, English language proficiency, economic status, ethnic or cultural background. It is important that adults look hard to discover potential and support gifted children as they reach for their personal best.

Common Characteristics of Gifted Individuals

Because gifted children are so diverse, their characteristics may vary. Here are common characteristics that gifted individuals may show:

  • Unusual alertness, even in infancy
  • Rapid learner; puts thoughts together quickly
  • Excellent memory
  • Large vocabulary and can put together complex sentences
  • Can understand metaphors and abstract ideas with words
  • Enjoys solving problems, especially with numbers and puzzles
  • Often self-taught reading and writing skills as preschooler
  • Deep, intense feelings
  • Highly sensitive (can be touch, noise, smell, and emotions)
  • Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful
  • Idealistic at early age
  • Concern with social and political issues and injustices
  • Long attention span and intense concentration (around things they are interested in)
  • Preoccupied with own thoughts—daydreamer
  • Learns basic skills quickly and with little practice
  • Asks a lot of questions constantly
  • Wide range of interests or extreme focus in one area
  • Highly curious
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Puts idea or things together that are not typical
  • Unusual sense of humor
  • Desire to organize people/things through games or complex stories
  • Vivid imaginations (and may have imaginary playmates)
  • Prefers the company of older playmates or adults

Modified with permission from: Webb, J., Gore, J., Amend, E., DeVries, A. (2007). A parent’s guide to gifted children.    

What is Highly Gifted?

Highly gifted young people (those within the top 1-3% of the population) have unique learning and social-emotional needs. Highly gifted young people come from all ethnic groups, races, economic levels, and geographic areas. Like other young people, the highly gifted are unique individuals with varied traits.

Common Characteristics of Highly/Profoundly Gifted Individuals

  • An extreme need for constant mental stimulation
  • An ability to learn and process complex information rapidly
  • Sees higher level structures and patterns
  • A need to explore subjects in depth, to understand the why and how as well as the what
  • Constant curiosity; endless questions about how things work
  • An ability to focus intently on a subject of interest for long periods of time
  • Need intellectual challenge or they get bored easily
  • When not challenged, the highly gifted may underachieve

Modified from The Davidson Institute

Common Characteristics of Giftedness in Students from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds

Students from diverse cultural or linguistic backgrounds may demonstrate some of the following characteristics with regularity:

  • displays an eagerness to share about his/her native culture
  • demonstrates strong desire to teach peers words from his/her native language
  • shows strong sense of pride of his/her cultural heritage and ethnic background
  • eager to translate for peers and adults
  • cross-cultural flexibility- adequately navigates roles expected of the native culture and new culture
  • advanced knowledge of idioms and native dialects with ability to translate and explain meanings in English
  • ability to understand jokes and puns related to cultural differences
  • able to read in native language two grades above his/her grade level
  • functions at language proficiency level above that of his/her non-gifted peers
  • code-switching ability (the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation)
  • sense of global community and awareness of other cultures and languages
  • learns a second or third language at an accelerated pace- formally taught or informally acquired
  • excels in math achievement tests when language ability is not a factor

To review the CLD checklist: (English) (Spanish) (Amharic) (Arabic) (Burmese) (French) (Nepali) (Russian) (Vietnamese)

Common Characteristics of  Giftedness in Early Childhood

Gifted characteristics can often be seen at an early age and may include:

  • use of advanced vocabulary and/or development of early reading skills
  • crawl or walk early
  • early development of speech
  • highly observant
  • extremely curious and alert
  • unusual memory or ability to retain information
  • periods of intense task persistence based on the child’s interest
  • thinks abstractly
  • early demonstration of talents in the arts
  • understands complex concepts

Early Childhood Characteristics: (English) (Spanish) (Amharic) (Arabic) (Burmese) (French) (Nepali) (Russian) (Somali) (Vietnamese)

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