From the time he was a very young, my son, Cameron, displayed traits unlike his peers.
He can look at a problem and get an answer, skipping steps in between. He can play piano by ear. He can craft structures with Legos that he concocts in his head. He has a vocabulary that rivals my college students. He is also a perfectionist, highly sensitive and highly self-critical. He has to have structure and worries excessively. He is a non-conformist and independent. He often becomes impatient with the slowness of others.
Cameron is classified as a gifted learner — a student, child or youth who gives evidence of "high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic or leadership capacity or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities," according to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
As a parent, it is sometimes challenging to verbalize to Cameron’s teachers that he has a different set of characteristics than some of his peers, and that there is a significant difference between high-achieving and gifted learners.
As we head back into another school year, it's important parents and educators see signs of gifted individuals in order to best serve them at home and in the classroom. Here are four areas to look for from the National Association for Gifted Children:
• Performs academically with ease
• Jumps steps
• Extensive and advanced vocabulary
• Manipulates information
• Can see cause-effect relationship and has difficulty accepting the illogical
• Draws inferences and constructs abstractions
• Thinks critically
• Acquires and retains information quickly
• Can become impatient with slowness of others
• Avid readers
• Asks questions about abstract ideas, concepts and theories
• Shows intense curiosity about nearly everything
• Is an innovator
• Unique perspective and original ideas
• Understand nuance in music and language
• Enjoys organizing things and people into structure and order
• May appear bossy and domineering
• May reject peer input
• Reliant on self
• Perfectionist and has high expectations
• Evaluates others
• Show intense drive and competitiveness
• Experiences heightened, sometimes all-consuming emotions
• Shows concern about fairness and equity more intensely
• Is highly self-critical and sensitive to criticism
• Shows strong feelings, opinions, perspectives
• Is intense
• Is beyond his or her age peers
• Expects others to have similar values
• Need for success and recognition
• May feel alienated
• Displays nervous habits; likely to fidget and twitch
• Can frequently display cynicism
In the end, it's the responsibility of parents and educators to nurture our gifted children so they can be at their best and grow into successful adults. And remember these words from Polish psychiatrist Kasimierz Dabrowski: “Gifted individuals view the world in different ways than others, and their thoughts, actions and feelings are more intense. They see what others do not see, and what others cannot even imagine."
For more information and ways parents and teachers can support gifted children, click here.
Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as the Theatre Department Chair at Iowa Western Community College.