When my son was in first grade his teacher suggested I get him tested for a gifted program. I was a proud but confused mama. I knew Tyler was smart, but never figured he was Mensa smart. Turns out I was under the same misconception many parents are: I thought being gifted was a matter of IQ.
The National Association for Gifted Children says "a gifted individual is someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression." Gifted and/or talented education are programs designed for students who are identified as showing higher performance capability either in a specific academic field or overall, depending on the circumstance. In other words, it isn’t necessarily a matter of high IQ (although that is one factor), but more a matter of the child’s performance of varying tasks, or his ability to think and reason through them. Gifted kids are "outside the box" thinkers.
I’m sure you’ve seen both sides. The kids with the high IQs are wicked smart. Often they have photographic memories, read very early, are capable of mental math computations and have large vocabularies. The gifted children tend to be smarter than average, but it’s what they do with these smarts that puts them into this category. They’re the ones creating their own board games because the rules of Monopoly are too slow. Their reasoning skills are high, they think quickly and they're very creative. Most are witty and spontaneous and have an insatiable quest for knowledge.
But not all are clearly seen. We educators know that students who struggle academically are not learning in the typical way. Sometimes children who struggle need special services on the one end, to help aide them in their lagging development. But sometimes these kiddos are gifted thinkers who are humming on a different frequency. Both sets of opposite realities often exhibit the same characteristics: high activity level, little interest in normal school work, and a strong talent in one area but weaknesses in others. Talented and aware teachers will pick up on this. And since the law requires all students' needs are met, programs have been developed to meet the demands of these gifted children. (Although, as a side note, I will mention gifted children are more often overlooked than children at the other end of the spectrum, as they are able to "keep up" with their classmates.)
All school districts have their own rules and policies for gifted education as well as their own way of assessing and teaching these kids. If you think your child is gifted, check out this Web site, which lists the 12 signs of a gifted child.
By Sharon Linde, Education Blogger for SmartParenting