Early identification of gifted children and young people is generally accepted as providing the best opportunity to meet their learning needs. However, evidence of potential for high or exceptional ability can emerge at different ages depending on the child's strengths and interests, and the opportunities in their lives to explore their abilities.
For instance, a teenager with a strong interest in drawing, but with few previous opportunities to develop this ability, may be identified as gifted when he or she starts secondary school. It is the provision at this secondary school of a rich learning program about the arts that enables the student to be identified as gifted.
Parents know their children best
You know your child best and should feel confident in being a valuable source of information about their strengths and areas of learning where they need support.
For example, you may find it useful to collate information about advanced abilities across a range of developmental or achievement areas and from all people closely involved with your child to gain a holistic view. For example, some parents keep a diary or journal of observations of advanced development including comments from relevant professionals.
It is also useful to date the early stages of advanced development achieved by a child, such as emergence of speech, love of music, pre-reading, development of numeracy and physical development milestones.
You may wish to seek a formal assessment administered by an educational psychologist, through IQ tests and other forms of 'normed' tests. Importantly, such tests are not designed to identify potential for high ability in areas such as sport, art or music.
If you are considering a formal assessment for your child, you should be aware that there may be a cost involved and that there are a limited number of private educational psychologists providing these tests. You should discuss with your child’s teachers if you feel there would be any benefit in arranging both formal and informal assessments for your child.
Informal vs formal assessment
Whether using formal or informal approaches to identification, it is important to understand that the focus of identifying whether a child or young person is gifted is always based on the need to know about, and appropriately support, your child’s learning needs.
There is no point in identifying just for the sake of the label. The best advice is to always speak with your child's teachers and other relevant professionals about what may be most appropriate for your child's circumstances. Taking into account the individual circumstances and needs of your child, combined with discussions with other supports and professionals, should influence which approach is taken.
If you are happy with your child's current learning opportunities and they are also progressing well socially and emotionally, it may be that formal identification is not required. In this instance, it may be in their best interests to continue any current placement and monitor your child's progress and engagement with their learning environment.
To find out more about the commonly observed behaviours in gifted children, see:
You may also wish to seek advice from other educators or support organisations, such as:
For further reading on this topic, specifically in relation to gifted children in the early years, see: Making a Difference for Young Gifted and Talented Children