Maybe your child spoke their first words earlier than expected. Or maybe they were running before they were walking. Maybe it was a comment by a well-meaning stranger. Or maybe you’re exhausted because your child is always ten steps ahead. It’s natural to worry as a parent, and one of those worries may very well be “is my child gifted?”
I’m far from an expert, however as a parent of a gifted child and having been identified as gifted as child myself, I have picked up a thing or two along the way. I know what it’s like to worry that your child isn’t developing at the same rate of other children and to feel like you need to be giving them more.
First and foremost, what does it mean to be gifted? Definitions vary, but traditionally giftedness refers to individuals with IQs in the top 98th percentile. Many gifted children develop asynchronously, meaning they may be far ahead in one area of development and behind in another. If a child is consistently meeting milestones in one area of development before they reach that chronological age, they may be gifted; but it’s important to note that children may not show signs of their giftedness in ways that many teachers and parents think. High achievement (doing well academically) is not always the most accurate picture of giftedness. Gifted children can be twice exceptional and can have autism, ADHD, anxiety, and physical disabilities, so it is important that parents and teachers are watching children closely.
Parents have been proven to be good predictors of their child’s giftedness. If you find yourself wondering, or even worrying, about their advanced development, you may be on to something. But the only way to know for sure is to have your child sit for intelligence testing. This can be costly, so many families only choose to do it if they are required to do so in order to get into a specialized school program or if their child is having significant struggles at home or at school. The best advice that I received is to test when you have a need.
If you do suspect giftedness, it’s important to educate yourself as much as possible. Organizations like the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), and Hoagies Gifted are good places to start. Many schools do not offer gifted programming to students in early elementary school, or at all, so it is important to work with your child’s teachers to ensure that your child is receiving an appropriate amount of challenge in their schoolwork and not just receiving extra work or being expected to fulfill other duties around the classroom in lieu of learning. For younger children especially, following their lead and offering them new, enriching experiences is often the best thing you can do for them.
Parenting a gifted child can be difficult because you are trying to simultaneously meet many different needs at once. For a child that’s a precocious reader, it can be difficult to find books that are appropriate emotionally but are difficult enough to hold their interest. For a child that enjoys math, you may need to help them find ways to record their equations if their handwriting is lacking. It can be frustrating to have a young child lecture you on dark matter or subatomic particles only to have them throw a tantrum two seconds later about having to put on shoes.
Find support for yourself as the parent of a gifted child, whether online or in real life. A good gifted community will help you temper your expectations but also free you to take off the brakes.
Tiffany Hunter is a sleep-deprived Canadian mom homeschooling her profoundly gifted son. You can find her writing at her blog, Life at Tiffany’s, and making jokes about parenting around social media as @lifeattiffanys.