What is giftedness?

Giftedness is a fluid concept that can change across different cultures, yet the general premise remains: those who are gifted have above average characteristics. These characteristics can be intellectual, emotional or behavioral and exist at all age levels in all aspects of society. Yet those who are gifted may struggle with their internal nature. They may wonder why they are different or why they have difficulty living around or communicating with others.

General Behavior Characteristics
Gifted children's behavior differs from that of their peers in the following ways:
  • Many gifted children learn to read early with better comprehension of the language nuances. As much as half of the gifted and talented population learned to read before entering school.
  • Gifted children often read extensively, quickly and intensely and gain large vocabularies.
  • Gifted children commonly learn basic skills faster and with less practice.
  • They are better at constructing and handling abstractions.
  • They often pick up and interpret nonverbal cues and can draw inferences that other children need to have spelled out for them.
  • They take less for granted by seeking the "how" and "why."
  • They can work independently at an earlier age and can concentrate longer.
  • Their interests are both wildly eclectic and intensely focused.
  • They often have seemingly boundless energy, which sometimes leads to a misdiagnosis of hyperactivity.
  • They usually respond and relate well to parents, teachers and other adults.
  • They may prefer the company of older children and adults to that of their peers.
  • They like to learn new things, are willing to examine the unusual and are highly inquisitive.
  • They tackle tasks and problems in a well-organized, goal-directed and efficient manner.
  • They exhibit an intrinsic motivation to learn, find out or explore and are often very persistent.
  • "I'd rather do it myself" is a common attitude.
Cognitive Traits
A key component to giftedness is the degree and extent of mental attributes and capabilities. These traits include:
  • Very observant
  • Extremely curious
  • Intense interests
  • Excellent memory
  • Long attention span
  • Excellent reasoning
  • Well-developed powers of abstraction, conceptualization and synthesis
  • Quickly and easily sees relationships in ideas, objects or facts
  • Fluent and flexible thinking
  • Elaborate and original thinking
  • Excellent problem solving skills
  • Learns quickly and with less practice and repetition
  • Unusual or vivid imagination
Social & Emotional Traits
When an individual or child is gifted, this has a powerful effect on their feelings and their ability to interact with others. Some of these qualities include:
  • Interested in philosophical and social issues
  • Very sensitive – emotionally and even physically
  • Concerned about fairness and injustice
  • Displays signs of perfectionism
  • Acts energetically
  • Well-developed sense of humor
  • Intrinsically motivated
  • Relates well to parents, teachers and other adults
Language Traits
Giftedness causes individuals to engage others and the world in a unique light. They learn and demonstrate powerful linguistic skills as a result. Some of their language features include:
  • Extensive vocabulary
  • May read early
  • Reads rapidly and widely
  • Asks "what if" questions
Additional Traits
  • Enjoys learning new things
  • Enjoys intellectual activity
  • Displays intellectual playfulness
  • Prefers books and magazines meant for older children
  • Skeptical, critical and evaluative
  • Asynchronous development (development in some areas far exceed development in other areas)

Giftedness In Adults

As a gifted adult, you may know you are different but not realize why. Many gifted people experience a sense of humor and creativity that others may not understand. They may have a sense of alienation and loneliness, outrage at moral breaches that the rest of the world seems to take for granted or feeling out-of-step and on a separate path.

When you were a child, how many of the following characteristics were descriptive of you?
  • Were you advanced in your development of speaking, reading or other skills?
  • Were you fascinated with words or ideas?
  • Did you ask a lot of questions?
  • Did you have an unusual perspective of things and events?
  • Were you a good problem solver?
  • Did you have a good memory?
  • Were you exceptionally sensitive?
  • Did you have a great sense of humor?
  • Were you insightful?
  • Were you a perfectionist?
  • Were you intense?
  • Did you collect things and organize your collections?
  • Were you a rapid learner?
  • Did you show compassion for others?
  • Did you enjoy older playmates and the company of adults?
  • Were you argumentative?
  • Did you have a large vocabulary?
  • Did you have a creative imagination?
  • Were you an avid reader?
  • Did you have a wide range of interests?
  • Did you like puzzles, mazes or numbers?
  • Did you have a great deal of energy?
  • Did you have a long attention span?

Giftedness is an ongoing process – not a product.

Related Resources:

Annemarie Roeper, "Gifted Adults: Their Characteristics and Emotions"

Intellectual giftedness

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