At What Age Can You Determine If Your Child Is Gifted?

Smart young boy drawing.
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Question: At what age can one determine whether a child is gifted?

I am just curious at what age can one determine whether a child is gifted. My daughter, at age 7 months, is an agile crawler, pulls herself to standing, can "cruise" for short distances and waves bye-bye. She can pick up cheerios with her thumb and finger. She is extremely active and curious. Is it possible to tell at such an early age whether a child is truly gifted?

Answer: It is possible to tell if a child is gifted at very young ages, sometimes as young as infancy. Signs of giftedness in infants include need for less sleep and unusual alertness. Some studies suggest that the need for stimulation can be seen in gifted babies.

Giftedness can also be seen in toddlers. Characteristics of young gifted children include high energy levels and intense curiosity. Gifted children also tend to reach developmental milestones earlier than other children. That means they may be walking and talking earlier than other children. However, not all gifted children reach all milestones early. In fact, sometimes they may appear to be behind. For example, some gifted children don't begin talking until after they turn two.

If you know what to look for, you can determine quite early that a child is gifted.

What About Testing?

It's not possible to test infants for giftedness, but it is possible to test young children who can't read but who are able to talk.

That testing can be done with non-verbal intelligence tests, such as the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI)Children aged 5-16 can be tested using the WISC-IV for Children.

So technically, you could get your child tested when he is two years old. But my question is always, "Why do you want to?" You shouldn't treat your child any differently if you learn she has a high IQ than you would if you learned her IQ is average.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. (What is with gifted kids?)  First, keep in mind that IQ scores don't tend to be stable until a child is older, at least 5 or 6. That means that the score your child gets at age two might be quite different from the score she gets at age 6. Second, the more intelligent the child is, the more likely it is that she will hit the test ceiling if she takes an IQ test when she is older, eight or over. Hitting the test ceiling on a test means that it is possible for the result to be inaccurate (too low).

That means the optimum time for testing a gifted child's IQ is between ages five and eight. If you need - not want - to know if your child is gifted, then those years would be good years to have testing done. Even if you don't think you have a need to have your child tested during that time, it might be a good idea to have it done anyway.

Confusing? Yes. But here are the important things to remember:

  1. Signs of giftedness can be seen in very young children, even in infants.
  1. If you want your child tested just so you can brag about how smart your kid is, don't do it.
  2. If you are encountering problems advocating for your gifted child's special needs, get the testing done.
  3. If you suspect your child is gifted and think you might need "proof" later in school, then have your child tested, but you might be better off waiting until your child is between the ages of five and eight.

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