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You're Not Alone!

Some Common Charateristics

The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) describes gifted learners as students who perform - or have the capability to perform - at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains. They require modification(s) to their educational experience(s) to learn and realize their potential."


Gifted children's behavior differs from that of their age-mates in the following ways (Handicapped and Gifted Children, 1985):


  • Many gifted children learn to read early, with better comprehension of the nuances of language. As much as half the gifted and talented population has learned to read before entering school. 

  • Gifted children often read widely, quickly, and intensely and have large vocabularies. 

  • Gifted children commonly learn basic skills better, more quickly, and with less practice. 

  • They are better able to construct and handle 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, seeking the "hows" and "whys." 

  • They can work independently at an earlier age and can concentrate for longer periods. 

  • 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.


They are natural learners who often show many of these characteristics:


  • They may show keen powers of observation and a sense of the significant; they have an eye for important details. 

  • They may read a great deal on their own, preferring books and magazines written for children older than they are. 

  • They often take great pleasure in intellectual activity. 

  • They have well-developed powers of abstraction, conceptualization, and synthesis. 

  • They readily see cause-effect relationships. 

  • They often display a questioning attitude and seek information for its own sake as much as for its usefulness. 

  • They are often skeptical, critical, and evaluative. They are quick to spot inconsistencies. 

  • They often have a large storehouse of information about a variety of topics, which they can recall quickly. 

  • They readily grasp underlying principles and can often make valid generalizations about events, people, or objects. 

  • They quickly perceive similarities, differences, and anomalies. 

  • They often attack complicated material by separating it into components and analyzing it systematically. 

Children Heaping Hands
Math Class
Challenges of Being GT

Despite the opportunities afforded by being GT, there are also potential challenges.  Denise Cummins, PhD described 3 essential needs of GT students to succeed (Psychology Today, 2014):


Psychologists who study gifted children are familiar with the following scenario: A child is referred to their school psychologist because of "behavioral problems in the classroom," problems that often include descriptions such as "inattentiveness," "sass," and "outbursts." Following a battery of tests, the school psychologist reports the surprising results. No, the child does not suffer from attention deficit disorder or oppositional defiant disorder. The child "suffers" from…giftedness.


Giftedness can be as much a curse as a blessing. It depends a good deal on the environment within which that giftedness finds itself. To a harried teacher with lesson plans to cover before the bell rings, the seemingly incessant questions of gifted children can seem like a special kind of hell. Gifted children often find age-appropriate lesson plans boring because their cognitive skills may extend well beyond the schoolwork and lessons contained in those plans. On the playground, they can exhibit a trait termed an "unstoppable urge to create" by Dr. Joan Freeman, a specialist in the needs of gifted children. This "urge to create" makes it difficult for gifted children to simply "play by the rules." Although they quickly learn the rules of a game, they just as quickly become bored with them and want to change them — frequently leading to consternation on the part of other children who often find solace and comfort in routine. As adults, the gifted can find the workplace, with its many rules and often rigid power hierarchy, a particularly stressful work environment.

Research indicates that giftedness also is associated with intellectual, emotional, imaginational, sensual, and psychomotor "over-excitabilities". Gifted individuals tend to be emotionally sensitive and empathic, making the normal rough and tumble of the playground stressful for them. Because they often feel they are held to higher standards than their peers, they can find it difficult to accept criticism (anything short of perfection is felt as failure). Their over-excitability can make them stand out from peers (and not in a good way), leading them to feel isolated and misunderstood as children and as adults.

Reaching Their Potential

Given these problems, one might wonder whether giftedness is more curse than blessing. But giftedness also carries potential for greatness — not just for the gifted individual, but for those who stand to benefit from their accomplishments. We tune in to sporting events to watch gifted athletes perform amazing feats for our teams. We buy the new inventions created by the gifted that make our lives easier and richer. We read the books and watch the movies that emerge from the minds of those who have a natural talent for story-telling.


So what do the gifted need to reach their full potential? Research shows that these are perhaps the three most important factors:


1. Being with others who are like them. If you've ever watched the TV show "The Big Bang Theory," you know the importance of this factor. The show's main characters are brilliant male and female "nerds" who fit in just fine with each other and stand out like tarantulas on white bread everywhere else. No matter who you are, you need to feel there is a place you belong. A good deal of research indicates that gifted adults who are in frequent contact with other gifted individuals are more likely to feel belongingness and satisfaction, whereas those whose social environments do not include other gifted adults feel isolated and dissatisfied.


2. Education settings that challenge them intellectually. In one study, gifted adults who had participated in advanced placement courses in high school were surveyed 15 years after graduation. Eighty-five percent of participants described their academic experiences in advanced classes as positive, and 88 percent of participants indicated that they would support advanced placement for their children if it were recommended by the school. Another study compared successful and unsuccessful men who were identified as "geniuses" during childhood. Their results showed that, even among geniuses, educational achievement was the major determiner of success in adulthood.

3. Not being treated differently. In her book Gifted Lives, Dr. Joan Freemen points out that once parents, teachers, and peers see that gifted children are advanced, then they start treating them differently. But, as she emphatically points out, they are advanced only in certain areas and are normal children in every other way. Just being labeled "gifted" can create emotional and social havoc. In one longitudinal study, over 100 children labeled "gifted" child were matched for age, sex, and socioeconomic status (SES) with two others in the same school class. The first matched child had an identical IQ score, and the second was chosen at random. The results showed quite startlingly that the group labeled "gifted" had significantly more emotional problems than the unlabeled gifted group during childhood. By 2005, the labeled and unlabeled gifted groups (now in their 40's) were not very different in life outcomes, but both groups were much more successful than the randomly selected group. The factors that predicted life outcome for the labeled and unlabeled gifted groups were hard work, emotional support, and a positive, open personal outlook.

Identification of Giftedness in Adams 12 School District

A description of the process for GT identification can be found at the Adams 12 Five Star website. Briefly, the process can start either by nomination of a student for assessment or the screening conducted at each school. Universal screening is conducted for all 2nd and 6th graders.

In each case, information is accumulated across a range of areas (e.g., intellectual ability, achievement, behaviors/characteristics, performance) and the assessment is made based on the body of evidence.  A student might be identified as GT in one or more areas (e.g., language arts, mathematics, leadership, creative/productive thinking, visual or performing arts or general intellectual ability).

All identified Gifted and Talented students in Adams 12 will have an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP) initially drafted between the student and the school’s teachers and/or GT coordinator. The creation and monitoring of the ALP is a collaborative process, involving the student, parent, teacher and coordinator or administration where appropriate. Parents will receive copies of their children’s drafted ALPs in the fall of each school year. Parents will then have an opportunity to collaborate with the coordinator or teachers and may suggest further modifications to the ALP either in person or by attaching modifications/suggestions and returning to the teacher.

The ALP is a direct link between the student profile created during the identification process and the implementation of programming services matched to the child’s strengths and interests. ALPs are a planning guide for making instructional decisions about materials, programming options and assessments for gifted students based upon strengths, interests, and social-emotional competencies. They are critical in the transition of gifted students from one level of schooling to the next and from school to school.


Each ALP contains 3 primary elements:


  • At least one learning goal set in the child’s area of strength

  • At least one affective goal to develop social/emotional competencies

  • At least one programming strategy to help your child grow and meet the above goals


Contact your building GT coordinator if you have questions about either the goals drafted for your child or the programming strategies chosen to best meet those goals. Conversations with your child about his or her ALP and goals is important and keeps it a collaborative, dynamic document, reflecting the changing needs and goals of the GT students. Once this process has been completed between home and school, parents are asked to sign and return the final agreed upon ALP to their child’s building GT coordinator. (The school coordinator should be listed at the bottom of the ALP.) Students should have a new ALP written every year. For more information, see resources from this presentation by Lynn Saltzgaver, Adams 12 Director of Advanced Academic and Gifted Services.

Twice Exceptional (2e)

The term twice exceptional ((, often abbreviated as 2e, has only recently entered educators' lexicon and refers to intellectually gifted children who have some form of disability. These children are considered exceptional both because of their intellectual gifts and because of their special needs.

A 2e child usually refers to a child who, alongside being considered intellectually above average, is formally diagnosed with one or more disabilities. The disabilities are varied: dyslexia, visual or auditory processing disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, autism, Asperger syndrome, Tourette Syndrome, or any other disability interfering with the student's ability to learn effectively in a traditional environment. The child might have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or diagnoses of anxiety or depression.

There is no clear-cut profile of twice-exceptional children because the nature and causes of twice exceptionality are so varied. This variation among twice-exceptional children makes it difficult to determine just how many of them there might be. Best estimates of prevalence range from 300,000 to 360,000 in the U.S. (on the order of 0.5% of the total number of children under 18). Linda Silverman, Ph.D., the director of the Gifted Development Center has found that fully 1/6 of the gifted children tested at the GDC have a learning difference of some type. For additional information, see resources from our Parent Education presentation.

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