What does being gifted mean?

​There has been extensive and long-standing discussion regarding being 'gifted' or having 'talent', including a range of approaches to define them.

Definition of gifted and talented

One widely accepted approach is that of Canadian psychologist Françoys Gagné where being 'gifted' can be understood as the potential for high or exceptional ability, and ‘talent’ as the actual demonstration of outstanding performance and achievement. This potential may be in literacy, numeracy, sport, music, visual or performing arts, a vocational area or leadership.

Outstanding performance and achievement (talent) is seen to emerge from being gifted through a complex developmental process and via a number of environmental influences, such as family, social, cultural milieu, educational opportunities and quality of teaching available, as well as other chance events in an individual's life.

Using Gagné's approach, around 10-15 per cent of children and young people are considered to have the potential to exhibit high ability in one or more of these areas, with 1-2 per cent having the potential to exhibit exceptional ability in one or more areas.

In general discussion, and in this section, these two groups of children and young people are broadly referred to as 'gifted' or 'exceptionally gifted' respectively.

Diversity among gifted children

In discussions about gifted children and young people, it should also be recognised that:

  • a child or young person can be gifted in one or many domains, physical, mental, or social and emotional
  • it can also be present in specific cognitive and creative domains, but may not be in all. Such uneven development is referred to as asynchronous development  
  • children and young people from all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds can be gifted
  • gifted and talented children and young people can also have a learning and/or a physical disability. For example, they can be vision or hearing impaired or be dyslexic. This is called twice-exceptionality (2E)
    • For more information on twice-exceptional children, see: Kids Like Us
  • Gifted children and young people might not be high achievers. They could have outstanding potential but can be disengaged and underachieve.
Regardless of approaches or definitions, for parents and teachers what is most important is to ensure that all children are supported to reach their full potential.

For children who have potential for high or exceptional ability this includes the need for early identification and providing the right supports to enable the transformation of their potential into outstanding performance and achievement.

Identification of gifted children

Early identification of gifted children and young people is generally accepted as providing the best opportunity to meet their learning needs.

To find out more, see: Identification of gifted children