Understand gift and talent in young children

Understand what being gifted or talented means and why you play a critical role in the development of a gifted child's performance.

Definition

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Parent one: I’m not really sure there was a particular time that we suddenly thought, “Oh, he’s a gifted child” we’ve just always known him to be him who was a child who just had incredible thirst for knowledge.

Parent two: We probably noticed his giftedness when he first started to talk, he was a bit early to talk and developed a large vocabulary fairly quickly.

Voice Over: All children are entitled to an education that is engaging and challenging to help them reach their full potential. This includes young children whose development exceeds age typical expectations and those with potential for advanced learning in one or more areas.

Dr. Anne Grant (researcher): The online resource booklet is principally to provide support for educators and early childhood professionals. We wanted to provide them with characteristic behaviours, we wanted to provide them with support for their learning programs and for families as well, so that they understand the development of their children and what they can expect from the learning environment.

Suzana Zaper (early childhood educator): Early identification in early childhood is really important because from the first minute you will learn how to address this child, how to provide the best opportunity for the child, what is the best option, what is the best pathway for this child to travel in order to achieve his or her best.

Parent two: He’s having a good kinder experience that is tailored to his interests and how he learns.

Parent one: They know so much about him and they know exactly where his interests lie and they know exactly what might engage his interest and encourage him to stretch himself and learn something new.

Dr Anne Grant (researcher): It’s important to respond to the needs of very young gifted and talented children because development starts right from the very beginning and they need to learn that they’re going to be provided with stimulating learning and that they are learners. Research has told us that when this doesn’t happen, that problems can start for these children – the child becomes unhappy and doesn’t settle well, doesn’t become engaged in the learning environment. This can be an uncertain time for parents too, so they often need the early childhood professional to reinforce for them that their child is developing in a positive way and what their role as a parent can be.

Voice Over: That’s why we’ve produced the Making a Difference for Young Gifted and Talented Children online resource to help you to identify young gifted children and plan activities that support their learning. (early childhood educator and children talking in the background)

Parent two: If he hadn’t had access to this level of education, he would probably be a bit more narrow, he probably wouldn’t have been exposed to as many things as he has and he possibly would not be as adaptable.

Parent one: He’s just absolutely flourished.

Voice Over: Gifted and talented children are in every community and come from all backgrounds. Identifying gifted children early in their development encourages and supports them to realise their full potential. By pursuing their passions and talents, we can help them establish a love of learning – for life. See the resource to find out how you can make a difference.

In Victoria, the widely accepted definition of giftedness and talented is adopted from Françoys Gagné’s model (2004), where ‘giftedness’ is understood as outstanding potential and ‘talent’ as outstanding performance.

It is important that the term 'gifted and talented' is not used as a label. As with all children, every gifted and/or talented child is an individual, with a unique developmental and learning profile. To identify a child as gifted and/or talented is to recognise this individuality and respond appropriately.

Giftedness

In early childhood, giftedness involves:

  • advanced development beyond age-typical expectations
  • a potential for advanced learning and achievement in one or more areas.

Talent

Talents are linked to specific domains or areas of expression, such as:

  • music
  • art
  • athletics
  • academic learning

In the early childhood period, however, development is very holistic and fluid, and rarely specialised in a particular domain.

What we know about gift and talent

  • Giftedness is identifiable in very young children.
  • Early identification is essential for the long-term wellbeing of the gifted child.
  • Giftedness is present equally in boys and girls and children from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
  • Giftedness is not rare – it is estimated 10–15 per cent of the population is gifted.
  • Gifted children can also have learning difficulties and disabilities.

Your role in a gifted child's life

While families are the most important influence in children's lives, professionals working with children in early childhood and the first years of school also play a significant role.

The services you provide, and the learning environments and curriculum you create will be important catalysts in the development of gifted children's potential.

According to Gagné's model:

  • Young gifted children have the potential to develop capacities for high-level performance (competencies or talents) in one or more areas.
  • The extent to which young gifted children are able to develop their potential depends on a number of factors, including the support and teaching they receive from early childhood professionals.
  • Most young gifted children will be at the beginning of the process of developing their gifted potential into what will become talent in a specific area or areas. This means that in most cases, gifted young children can be regarded as having a generalised advanced potential that will start to show as advanced competency or talent in one or more specialised areas from the early years of school.
  • The particular areas or domains in which young gifted children will begin to develop talent will depend on both their natural abilities and environmental influences such as experiences they have, and support and encouragement they receive. It is not always possible to predict in which area or areas young gifted children may develop their potential into talent.