Is Your Preschooler Gifted?
What Is Giftedness?
By Cathy Puett Miller
The catch phrase "a gifted child" has become common in education today, raising parental concerns about recognizing a child's giftedness even before he or she starts a formal education.
Gifted children come in all shapes and sizes. But how many of us as parents even know what "giftedness" is, or how to best support our children if they are indeed gifted? I turned to two experts in the field to get those answers.
Dr. Linda Silverman, Director of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado, has been working with gifted children and their families for over four decades. Dr. Silverman is a licensed psychologist who has recently been appointed to the American Psychological Association's task force for the National Association of Gifted Children.
Dr. D. Betsy McCoach, a professor at the University of Connecticut's School of Education, has her advanced degree in gifted education and school psychology. She is currently involved in a research project for the National Research Center on Gifted and Talented Children that focuses on gifted under-achievers.
What Is Giftedness?
The catch phrase, "a gifted child," has become common in education today, and parents are often concerned about recognizing giftedness in their child even before they start a formal educational process. A few parents even believe that they can "create" a gifted child if they provide a rich enough environment.
Dr. Silverman says the best place to start is with a simple checklist. "As you begin to ask the questions: 'What is giftedness? How do I know if my child is gifted?' This checklist can help you begin to have a framework for this important issue."
A gifted child often...
- Reasons well (is a good thinker
- Learns rapidly
- Has an extensive vocabulary
- Has an excellent memory
- Is sensitive (feelings hurt easily)
- Shows compassion
- Is a perfectionist
- Is an intense personality
- Is morally sensitive
- Shows strong curiosity
- Has high degree of energy
- Has a wide range of interests
- Prefers older companions or adults
- Has a great sense of humor
- Is concerned with justice, fairness
- Has a vivid imagination
- Is an early or avid reader (or if too young to read, loves being read to)
- Is good at jigsaw puzzles
- Has a long attention span
- Tends to question authority
- Has facility with numbers
- Shows mature judgment for age at times
- Is a keen observer and is highly creative
(printed with permission from Dr. Linda Silverman)
Once you've reviewed these early indicators, our experts recommend that you take an informal approach in the preschool years. Dr. McCoach advises, "Don't worry too much; feed the natural curiosity and love of learning in your child. Share many enriching experiences and expose him to culture, the arts, text, and the outdoors. Be patient with her probing questions and know that you are nurturing a child's special gifts when you do that."
Dr. Silverman adds, "If your child has fun in these types of activities, then you know you are on the right track. If she seems bored or unhappy, step back and try something else. There is no possibility of over-stimulating your child." Dr. Silverman tells of a six-year-old whose primary reward for good behavior was being able to read another chapter in a college physics book. "It's an extreme case, but that is what he craved. If another child was forced to read the college textbook because the parents wanted them to 'be ahead of the game,' that would ha