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Identifying Early Indicators of Giftedness

Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

In this lesson, you will learn about the various early indicators of giftedness and how they appear at various stages of development. The implications for teachers and parents are also discussed.

Identifying Early Indicators of Giftedness

Many parents wonder if their young child is gifted. Likewise, teachers encounter many bright youngsters and question whether the child is intellectually talented. Because young children have so much learning and developing to do, identifying true giftedness early can be challenging. However, early indicators of giftedness do exist.

Giftedness Indicators

One key clue that a child might gifted is early and advanced verbal ability, or talking early. These children, on average, begin speaking before they are one year old and as they grow, they demonstrate speech that is rich and sophisticated beyond their age. Parents will notice these toddlers stringing together early sentences and later having complete conversations earlier than their age-level peers.

Another factor in considering giftedness in small children is advanced curiosity and imagination. While all young children display these traits, the gifted child will often display elevated levels. With their larger vocabulary, they will spin wild stories and ask innumerable questions about topics of interest.

As with verbal development, gifted children often have early achievement of milestones. This may include reading or learning mathematical concepts early. These children usually walk earlier than their peers; however, development may be uneven.

Two last indicators may be seen in young children who are gifted. One is being able to focus intense attention, meaning that when engaged in a task, the child sustains focus longer than might be expected from an age-level peer. Further, these children show an accelerated learning rate, mastering concepts and gathering information much more quickly than would be anticipated given their age.

Identifying Indicators

So what do these indicators look like at various stages of child development? Ian is a four-year-old who recently entered a pre-kindergarten program. His parents have always known Ian was bright, but they wonder if he might actually be gifted. They meet with Ian's teacher, Rose, to discuss what they have observed with Ian's development.

Ian's parents share that Ian did indeed talk early and displayed advanced verbal ability. He was talking in complete sentences by the time he was one and at the age of two, could engage in complete conversations. Between two and three, they realized he could recite from favorite bedtime books and would even make up poems and songs of his own. He was not shy about sharing his thoughts, and the couple's friends and family often commented on the way Ian's speech seemed advanced beyond his age.

Ian used his language skills to share his curiosity and imagination. Along with creating poems and songs, Ian would develop elaborate stories and scenarios using his toys or found items. His mother tells Rose that Ian would focus on these imaginary worlds, entertaining himself far longer than she would expect from a child of two or three. Rose confirms that Ian continues to display these indicators, often linking his love of dinosaurs to his imaginative stories. Ian's parents and Rose discuss how quickly Ian has learned the types and names of dinosaurs. In fact, as Ian entered preschool already able to read, he is already seeking out books in the library about dinosaurs and other reptiles.

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