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The Informed Parent

The Special Needs Of The Gifted Child, Part 2

by Louis P. Theriot, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Nov. 16, 2009

Who exactly is a gifted child? The gifted have outstanding ability or potential, and require differentiated educational programs beyond those normally provided in the schools. The gifted demonstrate exceptional abilities in the intellectual, academic and leadership, creativity and artistic areas. Most psychologist and school districts continue to use a singular criterion of above-average intelligence to identify giftedness--an IQ of 120, 125 or 130.

Most people agree that a child who is reading at age 3, playing competitive chess at age 6 or playing violin in the orchestra at age 11 is gifted. Academically gifted children who are in the upper 3-5 percent compared with peers, in the areas of general intellectual ability, specific academic competence, excellence in the visual or performing arts, leadership or creativity, are generally considered to be gifted. There is often a genetic influence for creativity, and the fields of music and mathematics being particularly rich with examples of prodigies. Nationwide estimates range for a conservative 4 percent  to as high as 15 percent.

Characteristics associated with giftedness include advanced language and reasoning skills, conversation and interests more along the lines with older children and adults, impressive long-term memory, intuitive understanding of concepts, insatiable curiosity, and rapid learning.

Many gifted children may also have learning disabilities. Teachers sometimes may overlook the indications of giftedness and focus exclusively on the child’s learning delays, such as difficulties in handwriting, speech, reading fluency, spelling and math. In other schools, the child’s IQ is often focused on minimizing or ignoring the learning disability.

There are at least three different types of gifted and learning disabled students. The first type is gifted children with subtle learning problems that are difficult to pick up. They may sail through elementary school. Then, in middle and high school, their learning disability may catch up with them. This is when problems such as underachievement, low self-esteem and depression may surface.

The second type is those who are diagnosed as learning disabled but are rarely identified as gifted. Their learning disability is more pervasive and severe, and may moderate their academic success.

The third type of student is unrecognized as either learning disabled or gifted. They are undiagnosed and their full potential is not realized during their academic career.

See your pediatrician if you have any further questions about a child with learning disabilities and giftedness.

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