Gifted and talented children

​​​​​​​​​​​​​This page includes an overview of gifted and talented children, common behaviours and how you can support your child.

What gifted or talented means

​There are different definitions of what gifted and talented means, but generally:

  • gifted means a child has the potential for high ability in a certain area
  • talented means they can demonstrate outstanding performance or achievement.

A child can be gifted in one or more areas, like literacy, numeracy, sport, the arts or more.

There are different influences that move a child from being gifted to showing talent. These include:

  • family, social and cultural factors
  • education opportunities
  • the quality of education
  • chance events in life.

This means gifted children and young people may not always be high achievers. For example, they may have potential, but disengage from education and don't end up developing talent.

Is my child gifted?

Gifted children can come from many different backgrounds. They can:

  • be from different cultures
  • be involved in different social groups
  • come from different family incomes
  • have a physical or learning disability.

Here are some behaviours that are commonly seen in gifted children. Most gifted children will show several, but not necessarily all of these:

  • Very quickly learns and remembers facts or conversations.
  • Knows a lot about topics, like sports, maths, books, animals etc.
  • Surprises others with their use of big words and changes their speech according to who they're talking to.
  • May have started reading and writing early without any teaching.
  • Uses a lot of 'how' and 'why' questions. Is not satisfied with simple answers. Uses knowledge from one area in another.
  • Teaches other children using their language level.
  • Likes spending time with adults and having adult conversations.
  • Is resourceful and can use creative ways to solve problems or use household objects.
  • Can be unusually sad and emotional when things do not go to plan.

Assess if your child is gifted

You know your child best. You may want to keep a diary of your child's development to share with your kindergarten or school. This is called informal assessment.

These websites may help you with informal assessment:

You may also want to get a formal assessment through an education psychologist. They will run standard tests like an IQ test. It's important to remember these tests are not designed to find potential for high ability. It's likely you will need to pay for the test. You should speak to your child's teachers if you feel there would be a benefit in getting a formal test.

It's important to remember:

  • the points of assessments is to find out how you can best help your child learn and develop
  • there's no point going through assessments just for a label
  • you should speak to professionals about what is best for your child
  • if you're happy with your child's current learning and development, it might be best to not do any assessments.

Emotions and behaviours

If your child is gifted, it's important to remember they may:

  • have challenging behaviours or try to hide being gifted
  • have heightened sensitivity to life situations
  • experience the world in a very intense way
  • experience peer pressure to blend in with their peers and not develop their talent.

You should accept your child's feelings, help them find ways to work through their emotions and encourage a sense of belonging.

Perfectionism

Gifted children are often perfectionists. This means the drive to achieve is so strong that they are never satisfied with the outcome of anything.

Perfectionists may:

  • choose not to attempt challenging tasks out of fear of failure
  • never finish a task or project because it won't have a perfect outcome
  • be motivated by praise from a person and fear the loss of praise. In some cases, children mentally link love and praise. In their minds a lack of praise means they're not worthy of love.

Here are some ways you can help your child cope with perfectionism:

  • Give genuine praise when they achieve something above what is usual for them
  • Focus on the process of a task rather than the result. The process should be as fun and rewarding as the outcome.
  • Explain that mistakes are ways of learning, rather than failures.
  • Talk about how it's impossible to be perfect in everything. Ask what their goals are and see if they were unrealistic.
  • Decide together on statements or strategies to cope. For example, "I'll try this four times then that is all the time I will give it" or "I'll accept that sometimes close enough is good enough".
  • Challenge your child's measurement of success. For example, discuss whether 80 or 90 percent in a school assignment would be acceptable. It's likely they will find a less-than-perfect score is not the worst thing that could happen to them.

Underachievement

This is where your child's potential has not become actual high performance or achievement.

It can be caused by things like:

  • different attitudes towards learning between school and home life
  • fear of failure or not living up to expectations
  • disengaging from school
  • a physical or learning disability
  • boredom from not learning at the right level
  • peer pressure and not wanting to be different from friends
  • if your child is learning English as an additional language, including Koorie students.

Underachievement caused by peer pressure is common in girls moving to secondary school, students in rural areas or from culturally diverse families.

Here are some ways you can help your child avoid underachievement:

  • encourage your child to be themselves and feel confident about using their skills
  • find opportunities outside of kindergarten or school to use their skills
  • talk to your kindergarten or school about ways they can make the classroom feel inclusive.

Learning opportu​​nities

Here are some ways you can help your gifted child build their skills:

  • Watch documentaries on their area of interest.
  • Use games to learn.
  • Take trips to places of interest. This could be zoos, science centres, museums, theatres and galleries. Many places also offer virtual tours.
  • Ask your child in-depth questions, like "are there any similarities in this group of paintings". Or "how do you think the weather affects plants in this park?".
  • Encourage your child to be responsible for their own learning. You can give them resources like books, construction sets, art materials or open-ended computer games. You can also ask the right questions to lead them to the next activity, like "what could you do next?" or "what's another way to do it?".
  • Enter competitions. These can help build your child's skill, awareness and resilience. Competitions involve some stress. Be on the lookout for excessive stress or perfectionism. Encourage your child to do their best, rather than being the best and let them know that failure does not mean they are less worthwhile. Balance competitions with other activities.

You can also read about learning opportunities for gifted students in school.

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