Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.
Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.
If you have a bright, engaged child, you may wonder if they are gifted. Gifted kids have special abilities, traits, and talents—some realized, some not yet. They thrive when given enrichment opportunities to nourish their busy brains and insatiable curiosity, but sometimes need support for social, behavioral, or learning issues, too.
Learn how to assess whether your child is gifted and how to help them tap into their intellectual and creative potential. Here are ideas for keeping gifted kids engaged as well as happy and healthy as they grow.
It's hard to pinpoint giftedness rates since there is no one assessment tool that's consistently used to determine whether a child is gifted or not. However, many experts consider children who are in the top 10% relative to a national or local standard to have gifts that merit special enrichment or attention outside a typical curriculum.
Sometimes. Often called "twice exceptional" or "2e", many children show potential for high achievement while also having learning disabilities like speech and language disorders, emotional or behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There are times when a gifted trait may be misdiagnosed as a learning disability, so be sure to have a trained learning specialist or developmental pediatrician or psychologist assess your child to determine their true needs.
If you or a teacher thinks your child may be gifted, a learning specialist through your child's school district, a developmental pediatrician, or a child psychologist can use assessment tools to learn more. Tests like Mathematical Abilities for Gifted Students or Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary Students (SAGES) help determine whether your child has an exceptional ability to retain information, while a tool like the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children assesses your child's cognitive potential.
Gifted kids perform—or have the potential to perform—at higher levels on various cognitive or creative tasks compared to their peers. Giftedness does not look the same for all children. Gifted kids do best when given enrichment opportunities to realize their special abilities and talents.
Gifted children have a wide variety of abilities and traits, but many share some common characteristics. It's common for kids who are gifted to be independent, critical thinkers, goal-oriented (especially about certain passions), curious about the world around them, and intensely emotional or sensitive at times.
Signs of giftedness may be apparent early. Babies who go on to have high IQ scores are highly alert while awake, mimic sounds early, and may sleep less than other babies. Some gifted kids may be more prone to sleep issues (insomnia) if they are "2e" kids, but that doesn't mean they require less sleep. As they grow, gifted children often show a passion for problem-solving, an early ability to read, an inventive streak, and an independent spirit.
Emotional traits common in gifted children include high levels of empathy, idealism, and self-awareness. With their finely tuned senses, kids who are gifted sometimes deal with anxiety, perfectionism, and intense emotions or sensitivities.
As they grow, gifted children often show a knack for problem-solving and the ability to think in abstract ways—that is, make connections between concepts. Many read early and have a large vocabulary.
National Association for Gifted Children. What is giftedness?. 2021.
Child Mind Institute. Twice-exceptional kids: both gifted and challenged. 2021.
National Association for Gifted Children. Tests & Assessments. 2021.
National Association for Gifted Children. Traits of giftedness. 2021.
Vaivre-Douret L. Developmental and cognitive characteristics of “high-level potentialities” (highly gifted) children. Int J Pediatr. 2011;2011:420297. doi:10.1155/2011/420297
National Association for Gifted Children. Social & emotional issues. 2021.