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Characteristics of Gifted Children
Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.  This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.  (The Columbus Group, 1991)


"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To him... a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create - - - so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating." -Pearl S. Buck
It may surprise you to know that many of the authentic and typical characteristics (see Dabrowski)displayed by gifted (high potential) children are not academic, although academic ability can be an obvious indicator! Advanced cognitive ability can present as creative talents which are difficult to measure. But it can also present as  "behavior problems" in settings and environments not suitable for the gifted child. 
In many highly and profoundly gifted children, these vital Dabrowski traits can be so strong  untrained teachers generally fail to recognize that the child is gifted and often recommend drug therapy as a way to "manage" the behavior, rather than create a differentiated learning program for the student. Gifted children need and deserve an appropriate curriculum.

Characteristics of
Gifted Children

The characteristics of gifted children are far more complex than the measurement of an individual's output or performance score.  These children are more than their latest test score or master piece.  Gifted-ness is more about a state of being; an ability to perceive, comprehend, intuit, sense, feel, reason and take in significantly more information than the norm. When we only notice and appreciate these children through their special accomplishments, we fail to acknowledge their essence and the complexity of the individual.  The child begins to feel they are loved only when they excel in their performance.  That is why truly understanding these children is so important.  As parents and caregivers, it is critically important to acknowledge the effort, the sensitivity, kindness, the intensity and inner beauty, as well as the accomplishments of the gifted child.

This list is compiled from multiple sources:

  • Sensitivity (emotional/physical)
  • Unusual intensity and depth of feeling
  • Highly developed morals and ethics
  • Intuitive, uncanny perceptiveness
  • An extreme need for constant mental stimulation.
  • An ability to learn and process complex information rapidly.
  • Keenly observant, notices what no one else does
  • Makes intuitive leaps and logical projections
  • A rapid and thorough comprehension of the whole idea or concept
  • Makes and follows own plans, less "teachable"
  • Takes up lost causes, strong sense of justice
  • An ability to focus intently on a subject of interest for long periods of time.
  • An inability to concentrate on a task that is not intellectually challenging, such as those that involve repetition or that present material in bite size pieces.
  • Unusual and early insight into social and moral issues
  • Early interest in death and life
  • Driven to understand, complexity of understanding
  • Recognition of falsity, no "trophy friends"
  • A high degree of ability to problem solve and think abstractly
  • An unusual perception of essential elements and underlying structures and patterns in relationships and ideas
  • Large vocabulary, love of big words
  • Zips through Piagetian stages
  • Less physical risk taking
  • Self taught, non-sequential learning
  • Manipulation and bargaining expert
  • Sense of justice and high moral expectations
  • Saying "Actually" or "That depends..."
  • Symbolic thinking, early ability to think in metaphors
  • Concern with world affairs at an early age
  • Keen sense of humor

Also see: Gifted vs Bright Learners, learn to tell the difference