Being identified as gifted and talented: why it’s good

For gifted children, learning new things is important to wellbeing. So the biggest benefit of your child being identified as gifted and talented is that it helps you understand what sort of advanced learning might be right for your child. And when you can support your child’s advanced learning, you can support his overall wellbeing and development.

Identifying your child’s giftedness or talent can help:

  • you know when it’s right for your child to start child care, preschool or school
  • your child get the right learning opportunities at child care, preschool or school
  • your child avoid some of the challenges of being gifted, like boredom at home, preschool or school
  • you identify new learning opportunities in your child’s area of advanced interest or skill – for example, junior pathways or special programs for gifted young athletes or artists.

Gifted and talented children can have advanced natural abilities in one or more areas. Some gifted children also have disabilities.

Informal identification of gifted children

Informal identification means keeping a record of your child’s behaviour with notes about any advanced development and achievements.

This record might include:

  • your child’s drawings, writing and other work
  • videos of your child’s skill in playing the piano or performing advanced routines at gymnastics
  • advanced or insightful questions that your child has asked
  • details of your child’s passionate personal interests
  • child care, preschool or school reports
  • comments about your child’s development – for example, from your own observations, or from your GP, child and family health nurse, or family and friends.

Sometimes an informal identification might lead to a formal identification later.

Pros and cons of informal identification
Informal identification is good if your child is a baby, toddler or preschooler.

It’s also the best option if you think your child is gifted creatively, socially or physically, because IQ tests don’t measure these abilities. Some parents like informal identification because it can give a broad picture of their child’s abilities.

With informal identification, you can build a picture of your child’s advanced learning. This can help when you’re talking about your child’s abilities with early childhood educators, teachers and other people who can support your child’s learning.

Informal identification is low cost, because you can record information about your child’s behaviour, advanced development and achievements yourself.

Formal identification of gifted children

If you think your child might be gifted, you can see an educational psychologist for an IQ test and a report on your child’s advanced learning. This report is likely to focus mostly on academic learning. Look for a psychologist with experience in identifying gifted and talented children. You could also check with your child’s school to find out whether the school can arrange an IQ test.

Another way to get a formal identification is to look at your child’s school results in standardised literacy or numeracy tests. If your child seems to have very high scores, you can make an appointment with your child’s teacher to talk about these. Or your child’s teacher might even get in touch with you.

Pros and cons of formal identification
IQ tests measure intellectual abilities. For example, formal identification is good if you need the results of the IQ test to apply for entry to a gifted program or for early entry to school in your state or territory. The report from the psychologist can also help when you talk with teachers about your gifted and talented child at child care, preschool or school.

On the downside, IQ tests can’t measure creative, social or physical abilities.

Also, if you need to pay for an IQ test yourself, it can cost several hundred dollars.

IQ test results are more reliable for children over six years. Also, children grow and change quickly. This means the results of your child’s IQ test at four years might be different from her results at six years. Younger children might also find the 60-90 minute IQ testing process a long time to stay focused and the result might not be accurate.

Talking with your child about gifts and talents

You know your child best, so you’ll know how much and when to tell your child about his natural abilities. The key is for your gifted child to feel accepted and loved for who he is.

Some parents tell their children about their natural abilities as a part of daily life – for example, ‘Yes Charlie, you’re an amazing reader’. Others answer their child’s questions but don’t make a big deal of it.

Whatever approach you choose, you’ll still need to explain in a way your child understands. For example, you might say to a gifted preschooler, ‘Your brain can learn more quickly than your friends’ brains’.

It can help your child to know that not everyone is the same. Although there’s a difference between what your child can do and what others can do, other children have their own strengths. You can point out that your child’s sister is good at making friends and your child’s cousin is a great cook.

Knowing about these differences can make it easier for your child to get along with and value others. For example, it might help her to be understanding when other children struggle with maths she finds easy.

When your child is identified as gifted: your feelings

If your child is identified as gifted and talented, you might feel:

  • surprised or excited about your child’s future
  • responsible for and even anxious about meeting your child’s learning needs
  • relieved that you know why your child is different.

Your feelings can also be affected by how your child was identified as gifted. If you’ve thought your child was gifted since he was a baby or toddler, you’ve had time to get used to the idea. If it has come as a surprise to you, you might need time to adjust. It might help to talk about your feelings with someone you trust.

It’s normal to feel isolated from other parents of children the same age. And it’s also common not to talk about your child’s abilities with other parents because you’re worried people will think you’re bragging.

Above all, your gifted child is a child. Like all children, the thing she most needs to grow up happy and healthy is your family’s love and support.