What is a "Gifted" Student?
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
People often ask me what it means to be identified "gifted." It is a very complicated topic and even sitting in a forum with national experts, we struggled to come up with an exact definition. So what is a simple way to explain gifted, that is not exact, but easy to grasp? I visit this topic with three ideas.
The first are is, that while the idea of having a brilliant child may be awesome, the reality is that if your child fits the mold, its not all just rainbows and sunshine. What teachers really get excited about identifying in their students are children that are fast learners, "teacher pleasers," and conscientious about their organization of tasks and their delivery "It is a dream to have 'Abby' in my class!" (Because I don't have to repeat myself, she turns in her work without reminders, tries her best, I can read what she writes, and most likely she will have great behavior.) So to know that your child is ahead of the rest and has great student skills can actually be easier than having a child that is identifiable as gifted.
Why isn't is rainbows and sunshine? Well, to put things in very simplistic terms, think of the bell curve. We start with a small population at one end, have the peak majority somewhere in the middle, and then finish with another small population. In this very basic idea, the middle is the average kid. One small population are kids that may be special needs and the other gifted. (They can also be both which we call twice exceptional or 2E.) It is easy for someone to think of a special needs child as needing different supports for a plethora of reasons. However, it is not easy for people to think that way of a gifted child as their abilities often get the attention. There is sometimes noticeable struggles and often silent suffering. So, being identified as gifted can be seen as a mixed bag of great stuff and not so great stuff, just like in the special needs population. Both populations have different learning needs than the typical kid in the middle. And both students will have things that they do well with. This is why having a great school and parent advocacy and understanding is important. Enjoy the rainbows and sunshine moments, but be prepared to push up your sleeves and find ways to support your student.
Lastly, your school's definition of gifted and talented drives the types of services that they offer. Talented is often overlooked. Gifted is usually a narrow definition that reflects budget and administrative commitment to this population. It's no wonder that parents and students are frequently dissatisfied with the services offered.
Hopefully these very basic ideas help parents to understand a little more about the gifted and talented population; the good stuff, the tough stuff, and how important it is to find great services.