Image courtesy of No, not that gift.

No, not that gift.

Image courtesy of School A to Z New South Wales. This is a stereotype gifted child.

Yeah, that one. A gifted child.

Surely, all parents want a gifted child who’ll give that awe and wonder and something to be proud of. Teachers like them a lot, but peers don’t like their “geekiness.” They’re libraries’ best friends. They’re also a turn off to peers and lovers and employers.

But what exactly is giftedness?

Giftedness or intellectual giftedness is an intellectual ability significantly higher than average. It is a characteristic of children, variously defined, that motivates differences in school programming. It is thought to persist as a trait into adult life.[1] Most school placement decisions and most longitudinal studies over the course of individual lives have been based on IQ in the top 2 percent of the population, that is above IQ 130.[1]

This means extremely intelligent people on the top tier of the IQ population.

Image courtesy of The IQ score distribution (bell curve). Take note of the gifted population on the right side of the Bell curve.

As you can observe in the bell curve of IQ scores, the gifted population are the top 2 of the total population, those with IQ of 130 and above. But IQ between 115 and 129 can be considered mildly gifted.[2]

According to About Parenting, giftedness can be classified according to IQ score[2]:

  • Mildly Gifted — 115 to 129
  • Moderately Gifted — 130 to 144
  • Highly Gifted — 145 to 159
  • Exceptionally Gifted — 160 to 179
  • Profoundly Gifted — 180

The various definitions of intellectual giftedness include either general high ability or specific abilities. For example, by some definitions an intellectually gifted person may have a striking talent for mathematics without equally strong language skills. In particular, the relationship between artistic ability or musical ability and the high academic ability usually associated with high IQ scores is still being explored, with some authors referring to all of those forms of high ability as “giftedness,” while other authors distinguish “giftedness” from “talent.”[1]

What are the characteristics of giftedness?

Image courtesy of Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center. A gifted boy.

To be considered gifted, a child or adult must have these following characteristics[2]:

Exceptional Talent

This is the ability to perform a skill at a level not usually reached until later years or adulthood.[2] For example, a 3-year-old reading high school books or a 5-year-old performing violin piece Meditation de Thais. usually, if the exceptional talent is academic, he or she is easily screened for gifted programs, unlike non-academic skills such as art or music.

Is exceptional talent akin to prodigy?

Probably. In definition, a prodigy is a person under the age of ten who produces meaningful output in some domain to the level of an adult expert performer.[3][4][5][6]

High Achievement

Gifted children are usually, but not always have high achievement.[2] Even if they don’t excel in school, they have high scores on achievement tests. They have the ability to learn quickly. However, if a gifted child loses his interest to learn in school, this doesn’t affect his or her ability to learn at home.

Potential to Achieve or Excel

Gifted children love to learn. Many of them are intrinsically motivated[2], meaning their curiosity to learn comes from within themselves and are not forced by parents.

Heightened Sensitivity

What sets common gifted children apart from other children is their heightened sensitivity to stimuli (what the senses send to the brain). They can be either physically sensitive (irritated by shirt tags) or emotionally sensitive (easily cries over what other children see as trivial). In fact, the gifted child’s sensitivities are called “overexcitability’ (OE), coined by Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski.[7] These observations are supported by parents and teachers who notice distinct behavioral and constitutional differences between highly gifted children and their peers.[7] But not all of the gifted children have OEs, but OE is more prevalent in the gifted than the general population. Take note that OE could be or not be similar to sensory processing disorder.

More characteristics of giftedness:

Informal indicators[8]:

  • Walks and talks at an early age
  • Has a large and advanced vocabulary
  • Learns rapidly and easily
  • Reads at an early age
  • Demonstrates a great appetite for books and reading
  • Entertains self for large blocks of time
  • Has a long attention span
  • Readily retains a large amount of information
  • Consistently organizes, sorts, classifies and groups things, and names them
  • Has a heightened curiosity (asks ‘why’ often)
  • Fantasizes often
  • Is self-motivated, self-sufficient, and independent
  • Shows sensitivity to other people’s feelings and empathy in response to their troubles
  • Demonstrates leadership abilities
  • Exhibits perfectionism
  • Likes to discuss abstract concepts (such as love, justice, etc.)
  • Has a high energy, needing less sleep than age-mates
  • Learns new material rapidly
  • Loves puzzles, mazes, building blocks, and toys that challenge
  • Has an advanced sense of humor
  • Prefers the company of older children or adults
  • Is highly creative, imaginative
  • Is a keen observer
  • Expresses unusual sensitivity to what they see, hear, touch, smell or feel
  • Is widely informed, especially in areas of personal interest
  • Expresses concern for the world’s problems

Characteristics of Gifted Students[8]:

1. Verbal Proficiency

  • Large vocabulary
  • Facility of expression
  • Breadth of information
2. Power of Abstraction

  • Interest in inductive learning and problem solving
  • High level of conceptualization
  • Pleasure in intellectual activity
3. Intellectual Curiosity

  • Interest in a wide range of things
  • Willingness for complexity
  • Persistent pursuit of goals
4. Retentiveness/Power of Concentration

  • Intense attention
  • Retains and uses information
  • Long attention span
5. Independence/Goal Directed

  • Self-initiated student
  • Pursues individual interests
  • Seeks direction
6. Power of Critical Thinking

  • Self-criticism
  • Skepticism
  • Adept in analyzing strengths and weaknesses
7. Sensitivity/Intuitiveness

  • High level of awareness
  • Keenly observant
  • Emotional depth
8. Potential for Creativity

  • Inventiveness
  • Liking for new ways of doing things
  • Interest in brainstorming, freewheeling
9. Versatility/Virtuosity

  • Diversity of interests and abilities
  • Many hobbies
  • Proficiency in art forms such as music and drawing

From Raising Champions: A Parent’s Guide for Nurturing Their Gifted Children,
by Dr. Michael Sayler

Wow! They’re truly a blessing, right?

Contrary to popular belief, not all gifted children succeed later on in life, as they face various challenges.

The Challenges of Giftedness[8]:

Strengths Possible Problems
1. Acquires/retains information quickly 1. Impatient with others; dislikes routine
2. Inquisitive; searches for significance 2. Asks embarrassing questions
3. Intrinsic motivation 3. Strong-willed; resists direction
4. Enjoys problem solving; able to use abstract reasoning 4. Resists routine practice; questions use abstract reasoning procedures
5. Seeks cause-effect relations 5. Dislikes unclear/illogical areas (such as traditions or feelings)
6. Emphasizes truth, equity, and fair play 6. Worries about humanitarian concerns
7. Seeks to organize things and people 7. Constructs complicated rules; often seen as bossy
8. Large vocabulary; advanced, broad information 8. May use words to manipulate; bored with school and age-peers
9. High expectations of self and others 9. Intolerant, perfectionist; may become depressed
10. Creative/inventive; likes new ways of doing things 10. May be seen as disruptive and out of step
11. Intense concentration; long attention span; persistence in areas of interest 11. Neglects duties/people during periods of focus; seen as stubborn
12. Sensitivity, empathy, desire to be accepted 12. Sensitivity to criticism or peer rejection
13. High energy, alertness, eagerness 13. Frustration with inactivity, may be seen as hyperactive
14. Independent; prefers working solo; self-reliant 14. May reject parent or peer input; nonconformity
15. Diverse interests and abilities; versatility 15. May appear disorganized or scattered; frustrated over lack of time
16. Strong sense of humor 16. Peers may misunderstand humor; may become “class clown” for attention

Adapted from Clark (1992) and Seagoe (1972)


In fact, one article from Psychology Today stated that giftedness is more of a curse than a blessing.


Because giftedness is associated with intellectual, emotional, imaginational, sensual, and psychomotor “over-excitabilities”.[9] With these sensitivities, a gifted child/person can be extra sensitive to environment, criticism, and failure. Being gifted academically can make a child feel different from her peers and may even lead to the child being bullied and becoming depressed. Studies have shown that the more intellectually gifted a child is, the greater the risk of social difficulties and unhappiness.[10]

Why is that so? The gifted child should be happier at all because she’s smarter than most kids.

That’s the point. The gifted child’s extreme intelligence is the cause of her difference from other kids. Giftedness isn’t only associated with higher intelligence, but with heightened sensitivity to the environment, which makes them more susceptible to grasping ideas which cannot be readily understood by her peers, resulting in misunderstanding which may lead to rejection to the gifted child. The gifted child’s peers will not get what the gifted child is saying, therefore, peers label her as “weird” or “crazy.”

Image courtesy of Gifted children are at risk of rejection by peers.

Identified gifted children are treated differently by parents and teachers and place a lot of expectations on them to succeed in all areas of life. This can result in perfectionism of the gifted child. Perfectionism can lead to fear of failure, in turn causing a gifted child to avoid failure by refusing to even try something (including doing a homework assignment!)[11]

Gifted kids are usually more developed in one or more areas, called asynchronous development[11], where they intellectually understand abstract concepts but be unable to deal with those concepts emotionally, leading to an  intense concerns about death, the future, sex, and other such issues.[11] Because these kids already understand these issues, including equality and inequality and world problems like hunger and war, gifted kids may be too concerned with such situations and may become withdrawn and introverted and may become depressed, which is called existential depression.[11]

Gifted kids are aware of their differences from the rest of the children. That’s why they prefer the company of older children and adults. This can have an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is, that this can be productive for gifted kids, as they are at level with normal adults and older children intellectually. The disadvantage is that they may not socialize very well with normal kids her age, which can cause socialization difficulties for the gifted child.

Advanced verbal and reasoning ability can lead a gifted child to be argumentative and/or manipulative. (Adults often remark that the child is a little lawyer!)  Parents and other adults need to remember that, although credit should be given for logical and convincing arguments, a child is still a child and requires appropriate discipline, no matter how clever or cute the behavior may look. Children who see that they can manipulate adults can feel very insecure.[11] This may look that the gifted child is not respectful and insubordinate to authorities.

If these are the problems, a gifted child may become depressive or argumentative that it becomes a problem at school and at home. If the gifted child is unidentified, he may be at risk for being misdiagnosed with a learning disability, and that is not good for the gifted.

How is the gifted child identified?

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and special education teachers use different methods of identifying gifted kids. There are two main ways to determine whether a child is gifted: observing characteristics and behaviors, and testing. No one definition of giftedness exists, and gifted children are often misdiagnosed with disorders like ADHD.[12]

Behaviors indicating giftedness in young children[13]:

  • early development of language
  • abstract thinking
  • strong memory
  • a capacity to focus and concentrate on tasks of interest
  • intellectual curiosity
  • a strong motivation to learn

Giftedness in school-aged children and adolescents[14]:

General ability

  • High levels of abstract thinking, verbal and numerical reasoning, spatial relations, memory, and word fluency.
  • Adaptation to the shaping of novel situations encountered in the external environment.
  • The automatization of information processing; rapid accurate, and selective retrieval of information.

Specific Ability

  • The application of various combinations of the above general abilities to one or more specialized areas of knowledge or areas of human performance (e.g., the arts, leadership, administration).
  • The capacity for acquiring and making appropriate use of advanced amounts of formal knowledge, tacit knowledge, technique, logistics, and strategy in the pursuit of’ particular problems or the manifestation of specialized areas of performance.
  • The capacity to sort out relevant and irrelevant information associated with a particular problem or areas of study or performance.

Task Commitment

  • The capacity for high levels of interest, enthusiasm, fascination, and involvement in a particular problem. area of study, or form of human expression.
  • The capacity for perseverance. endurance. determination, hard work, and dedicated practice. Self-confidence. a strong ego and a belief in one’s ability to carry out important work, freedom from inferiority feelings, drive to achieve.
  • The ability to identify significant problems within specialized reason; the ability to tune in to major channels of communication and new developments within given fields.
  • Setting high standards for one’s work; maintaining an openness to self and external criticism; developing an aesthetic sense of taste, quality, and excellence about one’s own work and the work of others.


  • Fluency, flexibility, and originality of thought.
  • Openness to experience; receptive to that which is new and different (even irrational) in thoughts, actions, and products of oneself and others.
  • Curious, speculative, adventurous, and “mentally playful” willing to take risks in thought and action, even to the point of being uninhibited.
  • Sensitive to detail, aesthetic characteristics of ideas and things; willing to act on and react to external stimulation and one’s own ideas and feelings.

Identifying gifted children is easier said than done. There are a lot of barriers in identifying gifted children. They are listed below[13]:

  • Individual assessments and observations are ‘snapshots’ only, and provide information about what the child can do at this time. To really identify a young gifted and/or talented child requires a collection of evidence over time.[13]
  • For various reasons, young children may not perform ‘on demand’, and thus not demonstrate their full potential.[13]
  • The development of young gifted and talented children can be very uneven, with peaks and troughs, stops and starts. Multiple assessments and observations over time are necessary to identify advanced development or learning.[13]
  • Where gifted and talented children also have disabilities (dual exceptionality), the disability can hide or mask the giftedness or talent. Educators should be aware that gifted and talented children can show learning that may not fit within conventional ideas about achievement.[13]
  • Cultural and other biases can interfere with a professional’s ability to identify giftedness and talent in young children. Families’ different cultural backgrounds can lead to a diversity of expressions of giftedness and talent, and may not fit narrow or pre-determined ideas. In some cultures, children may be discouraged from displaying their abilities.[13]
  • Stereotypes about giftedness and talent can lead to failure to identify young gifted children, particularly where the signs of giftedness are subtle. Young gifted children are not ‘geniuses’. Not all gifted children are early readers or good at maths.[13]
  • Young gifted children may lack opportunity or support to demonstrate their gifted potential, or develop this potential into talent, and thus not be identified.[13]

What is done for gifted children to develop into their true potential?

Gifted children may be put at special education programs designed for the gifted. They can also be accelerated to a grade level aligned with her learning and reasoning age (i.e., a 7-year-old with a mental capacity of a 13-year-old can be placed on a 7th grade level instead of staying at 1st grade level). Gifted kids can also have extra-curricular activity programs that suit to their strengths and interests (i.e., a violin lesson program, art class). Given these programs, a gifted child may reach her fullest potential and contribute to humanity. Remember that some famous people’s names on history and science books were identified or unidentified gifted children.

List of famous gifted people (identified or suspected):

Child prodigies[15]:


Mental calculators:



  • Ainan Celeste Cawley


  • Colin Carlson
  • Evan Ehrenberg
  • Gabriel See


Computer Science:


Engineering:Materials engineering

Mechanical engineering



Visual arts:



Law/political science/philosophy:




Music Prodigies:

see Wikipedia link:

Late bloomers:

see Wikipedia link:

Gifted persons are truly a blessing if nurtured the right way. Unfortunately, not all gifted are lucky to be identified right away especially in poor countries like my Philippines. Parents, teachers, and governments should be aware of the gifted population and must be identified, accepted, and nurtured to unravel their true potential.

P.S. There are possible two kinds of gifted:

  1. Child prodigies – talents/intellect generally noticeable and achieved during childhood
  2. Late bloomers/twice exceptional – talents/intellect don’t become apparent until middle or older adulthood


Historical figures who are suspected to be gifted too:

Gifted women[16]:
Susan B. Anthony – US women’s rights advocate
Marie Curie – Polish physicist
Florence Nightingale – English nurse (mother or modern nursing)
Emily Dickinson – US poet
Fanny Mendelssohn – Felix Mendelssohn’s sister; also a composer
Pearl Buck – US writer

Gifted men[17]:
Isaac Newton
Thomas Edison
Walt Disney
Enrico Caruso
Leo Tolstoy
Verner Von Braun
Admiral Richard E. Byrd
Louis Pasteur
Abraham Lincoln
Fred Waring
Winston Churchill


  4. Feldman, David H.; Morelock, M. J. (2011).“Prodigies”. In Runco, Mark A.; Pritzker, Steven R.Encyclopedia of Creativity (Second Edition). Academic Press. pp. 261–265. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-375038-9.00182-5. ISBN 978-0-12-375038-9. Retrieved 8 April2015. Lay summary (8 April 2015). For the purposes of this and future research, a prodigy was defined as a child younger than 10 years of age who has reached the level of a highly trained professional in a demanding area of endeavor. – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)
  5. Rose, Lacey (2 March 2007). “Whiz Kids”. Forbes. Retrieved 3 April 2015. At the moment, the most widely accepted definition is a child, typically under the age of 10, who has mastered a challenging skill at the level of an adult professional.
  6. Feldman, David Henry (Fall 1993). “Child prodigies: A distinctive form of giftedness” (PDF). Gifted Child Quarterly 27 (4): 188–193.doi:10.1177/001698629303700408. ISSN 0016-9862. Retrieved 1 June 2014.

Further Reading:

The Problem of Giftedness:

Vulnerabilities of gifted children:

Dealing with Gifted Children:

3 thoughts on “Giftedness

  1. Pingback: Psychological Problems in Neurodiversity | Aegyo Kawaii's Neurodiversity Blog

  2. Pingback: Gifted But Disabled (Twice Exceptional) | Aegyo Kawaii's Neurodiversity Blog

  3. Pingback: Child Genius (Prodigy) | Aegyo Kawaii's Neurodiversity Blog

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