Giftedness is not always indicated solely by above-age-level achievement. In fact, children who fall just shy of giftedness are often the high achievers because they are not complicated by the atypical cognitive processing that accompanies a high IQ. Meanwhile kids who are gifted show funny or unexpected signs of their intellectual difference that may be overlooked by parents and educators.
Compensation Ability for a Learning Disability
Gifted children can also have learning disabilities, such as ADHD or dyslexia. The obvious struggle of a neurotypical child with a learning disability elicits attention from school staff. A gifted child, on the other hand, may make acceptable grades and slip under the learning assistance assessment radar, exhibiting only the perceived transgression of underachievement. If your child has a history of precocious developmental milestones accompanied by pedestrian achievement, this could be a sign of a learning disability being mitigated by hidden giftedness.
Sensory Integration Differences
Sensory integration refers to the way in which the brain processes information from the senses. Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski categorized overexcitabilities associated with giftedness and described sensory integration differences in his category of "sensual overexcitability." If your child is easily distracted or bothered by sensory input such as sounds, smells or tactile sensations, this may be an expression of sensory integration sensitivity connected to giftedness.
While only 25 percent of the American population are considered to be introverts, this biologically driven social style jumps to 50 percent in the general gifted population. In the upper ranges of giftedness, above 160 IQ, introversion commands a significant 75 percent. Not to be confused with shyness or the desire to be antisocial, introverts can be confident and friendly but need time alone to recharge, unlike the extrovert who derives energy from social contact. If your child becomes irritated by too much time around other people and seems to need regular alone time, this is a trait he shares with many gifted kids.
The capacity for deep attachments, intense feelings, self awareness, compassion and emotional expression are common traits of gifted people. If your child seems to over-react or display a greater emotional or otherwise noticeable response than other kids his age, this could be due to the increased capacity to feel emotions that is a part of being gifted. Be aware that emotional sensitivity can manifest itself physically as well and cause ailments such as stomach upset and headaches.
"All or nothing" and "perfect or worthless" represent the debilitating mindset suffered by gifted perfectionists. Painfully sensitive to criticism and often paralyzed by a fear of failure, perfectionists focus on their weaknesses without allowing themselves the satisfaction of recognizing their successes. Underachievement or procrastination or both are telltale signs that your child is a perfectionist. If your child flies off the handle when you offer constructive advice, perfectionism is likely the culprit. Ironically this mentality can present as indifference when your gifted perfectionist pretends he doesn't care about something to avoid looking like he's failed.
If your child has attention difficulties at school because he's withdrawn into the more captivating world of his imagination, he may be victimized by his own giftedness. If he has vivid dreams and sometimes mixes fact with his own imaginings, he is typical of many gifted kids. What a parent may assume was a childish propensity to prefer the company of imaginary friends is actually a sign of giftedness.
Often misdiagnosed with ADHD, the gifted and restless child may be experiencing psychomotor overexcitability. Not all gifted children exhibit this, but if your gifted child is enthusiastic, excessively energetic, highly verbal, impulsive and competitive, find ways to get plenty of rest. Exhausted parents, siblings and educators can become overwhelmed with this characteristic of giftedness and wish for stillness and silence in place of the boisterous chaos. Exercise and time for spontaneous and unstructured activity is a successful outlet for the ceaseless energy of these children.
Dabrowski describes intense curiosity and a relentless pursuit of knowledge as being the expression of the intellectual overexcitability that accompanies giftedness. If your child is driven to find answers and has insatiable curiosity beyond that of peers as well as the ability to concentrate and exert sustained mental effort, he is simply following the natural inclination to acquire and process information that is an inherent part of his giftedness.
Giftedness can cause significant frustration. To the gifted child who feels confined by the rules, ideas, paradigms and pace of others, the world can be an excruciatingly disheartening place. Boredom is another common source of frustration for gifted children. If your child is acting out, determine if frustration is the cause so you can take steps to meet his unique needs and calm his behavior.
Gifted children have the capacity to ponder issues that typical children wouldn't, such as the meaning of life or world problems such as hunger and suffering. Gifted children have a strong sense of social justice and idealism. Because they think about things that their age peers don't, they have difficulty making personal connections. This, combined with other common traits found in giftedness such as perfectionism and sensitivity, makes the gifted child prone to anxiety. If your child worries more than a same-aged child typically would, it may not be the result of an anxiety disorder but rather simply an expression of giftedness. However, if you suspect chronic anxiety speak to your health care provider, because gifted kids are susceptible to anxiety disorders.