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Traits and Characteristics of Gifted Children: 

Gifted children are as different from one another as non-gifted children are from other non-gifted children.  No matter how gifted your child is, he or she will probably not have each and every one of these traits.  But you will see a pattern emerging.  If I had to pick just a few characteristics to define gifted children, I'd say that they are intense, sensitive, and have a real gift for learning.

Traits in Young Gifted Children

  1. Need less sleep, even as infants.
  2. As infants, may get fussy if set facing one direction for too long
  3. Frequently reach 'milestones' such as walking and first speech earlier than average
  4. May speak late, but then speak in complete sentences
  5. Strong desire to explore, investigate, and master the environment (opens up cabinets, takes things apart)
  6. Toys and games mastered early, then discarded
  7. Very active (but activity with a purpose, not to be confused with ADHD)
  8. Can distinguish between reality and fantasy (questions about Santa or the tooth fairy come very early!

Characteristics

  1. Very observant , noticing details other children of the same age would miss, including non-verbal cues
  2. Great intellectual curiosity, wanting to know everything about everything -- objects, ideas, situations, or events. 
  3. Absorb information rapidly - often described as being like sponges
  4. Excellent memory - often have a large storehouse of information about a variety of topics, which they can recall quickly
  5. Long attention span compared to other same-age children
  6. Excellent reasoning and problem solving skills
  7. Intense interests
  8. Unusual and/or vivid imagination
  9. Learn quickly and with less practice and repetition
  10. Usually intrinsically motivated to learn (star charts and stickers don't work well to motivate them)
  11. Enjoy learning new things, seeking information for its own sake as much as for its usefulness
  12. Enjoy intellectual activity, thriving on intellectual challenge (can get bored with slow instructional pace and repetition)
  13. Interested in philosophical and social issues -- for example, the nature of the universe, the problem of suffering in the world, environmental issues
  14. Very sensitive, emotionally and even physically -- can become upset easily, even over seemingly minor issues (like the feeling of seams in socks), but can be moved almost to tears by the beauty of a sunset or a song.  They may also want to quit eating meat out of sympathy for animals.
  15. Concerned about fairness and injustice -- very aware of rights and wrongs
  16. Energetic , sometimes needing less sleep than other same-age children (sometimes high energy level is confused with ADHD)
  17. Asynchronous development (physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development are very uneven -- i.e. a 6 year old child may be like a 10 year old intellectually, an 8 year old socially, and a 6 year old emotionally.)
  18. Well-developed sense of humor
  19. Perfectionistic

Cognitive Traits

  1. Have well-developed powers of abstraction, conceptualization, and synthesis, (Can understand and handle abstract concepts at younger ages than other children
  2. Easily see cause-effect relationships
  3. Quickly see similarities, differences, and anomalies
  4. Can see relationships among seemingly unrelated objects, ideas, or facts 
  5. Readily grasp underlying principles and can often make valid generalizations about events, people, or objects
  6. Often attack complicated material by separating it into components and analyzing it systematically
  7. Fluent thinking, generating possibilities, consequences, or related ideas
  8. Flexible thinking, using many different alternatives and approaches to problem solving
  9. Elaborate thinking, producing new steps, ideas, responses, or other embellishments to a basic idea, situation, or problems 
  10. Original thinking, seeking new, unusual, or unconventional associations and combinations among items of information
  11. Skeptical, critical, and evaluative, making them quick to spot inconsistencies

Behaviors

  1. May learn to read early, often before age 5 (whenever they do learn to read, they learn quickly)
  2. Will read rapidly and widely, after learning to read
  3. Large and sophisticated vocabulary - enjoys using new and unusual words
  4. Asks "what if" questions, showing ability to construct hypotheses
  5. Relate well to parents, teachers and other adults (often prefer company of older children and adults over same-age peers)
  6. Display intellectual playfulness, which shows up in a desire to fantasize and imagine
  7. Prefer books and magazines meant for older children (many prefer non-fiction to fiction, including biographies, but like mysteries and detective stories)

 

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Last Updated June 21, 2011
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