Case study 5: identifying gifted children


Sam is a shy and sensitive five-and-a-half year old, who is in his first year of school. His parents always thought of him as a bright boy. As a pre-schooler, Sam had always displayed an eagerness to learn, and engaged in discussions about complex and abstract topics such as the existence of God, the nature of space, and questions of right and wrong. Sam was a late talker, but when he did start talking he used full sentences and a wide vocabulary.

Sam's parents and teacher

On starting school, Sam’s parents were surprised and concerned that Sam struggled to learn to read. His teacher tried to reassure them that there was nothing to worry about, as there will always be some children not reading at this age. Sam’s parents, however, were still concerned because he appeared to be making no progress in his reading, and this did not fit with their previous experience of their child as ‘bright’.

They organised for Sam to have a formal psychological assessment, including an IQ test, choosing a psychologist with experience of assessing young children, including young gifted children. The results of the assessments confirmed that Sam is indeed very intelligent, with scores in the gifted range. At the same time the tests indicated that he also has dyslexia.

Together, the psychologist, Sam’s parents, his teacher and the school organised for Sam to attend sessions with a speech pathologist and have one-on-one tuition with a specialist literacy teacher. He is now making good progress in his reading. He has also been enrolled in an extension program within the school.

His teacher has told Sam’s parents that after discussing the assessment with the psychologist who conducted the testing, she now feels she understands him better. Sam’s parents have also joined an association for parents of gifted children, and Sam has been able to attend workshops and programs in areas of interest, specially organised for young gifted children.


Sam’s case is an illustration of how gifted children can also have specific learning difficulties or other disabilities, what is sometimes called dual exceptionality. In such situations, the child’s giftedness can sometimes be ‘hidden’.

Because he was not an early reader, Sam’s teacher initially saw his development as being typical for his age. She did not see him as gifted, and was therefore not concerned that he was not yet reading. But his parents saw him as bright and advanced in his thinking, and therefore were concerned that he was struggling to read.

Sam’s case is one that highlights the potential value of formal assessments such as IQ tests, where the results are carefully interpreted and there is positive follow-up to support the child at home and at their early childhood or school setting.


As a professional working with young children, how would you respond to the situation with Sam?

Are there children that you work with that remind you of Sam?

Sam’s Case Study is from Dr Anne-Marie Morrissey’s (2012) book Young gifted children: A practical guide to understanding and supporting their needs (p.26).