How to Determine if a Child Is Gifted or Simply a Fast Learner

What makes gifted children stand out

boy with abacus
Simon Katzer/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Parents of children who appear to learn more quickly than their peers often wonder if their kids are gifted. Take the parent who wondered if a child who didn't reach developmental milestones early but excelled in other areas could be gifted.

"He didn't start talking until he was about 2 but learned the alphabet at 2 1/2," the parent recalled. "He didn't learn letter sounds until he went to school but began reading soon after he did.

By the end of first grade, he was reading at a third/fourth grade level. He enjoys playing challenging games meant for older children. However, we have done a lot of work with him at home, and he enjoys workbooks."

Is the child's enjoyment of difficult games a sign of giftedness or simply a coincidence, given that he didn't outpace his peers in other areas? Learn to distinguish what makes a child gifted with this review. 

Characteristics of Giftedness

Gifted children tend to be fast learners, so often children who learn quickly are gifted. This isn't always the case, however. In addition, it's difficult to rule out whether a child is gifted on the basis of milestones alone. That's because children can be gifted without reaching milestones early. Not all gifted kids are early talkers either. Some are actually late talkers but tend to speak in complete sentences when they begin to verbally communicate.

And not all gifted kids read early. Usually once gifted children learn to read, though, they progress rapidly.

Why Gifted Children Gravitate Towards Older Children

Gifted kids typically enjoy playing with older children because the older kids are more likely to be their intellectual peers, share similar interests and "get" their sense of humor.

In addition, gifted kids are likely to find many games and toys meant for their age group to be boring and prefer challenging games and toys meant for older children.

Does Parent Influence Matter?

In the aforementioned scenario, it's difficult to tell if the child is gifted because the parent pointed out that the boy has received a great deal of coaching at home. Without knowing what kind of work the parents gave the child, it's hard to say whether a child is gifted, a fast learner or picked up sophisticated skills from his parents.

Bright kids can learn quickly, and it can be easy to teach them. However, they don't usually exhibit the same "rage to learn" that we can see in gifted kids. There are a number of other differences between gifted and bright kids.

Wrapping Up

Regardless of whether a child is gifted, bright or even average, parents, caregivers and educators should strive to provide the best environment possible for them and nurture their growth to the best extent possible.

If you're a parent who's unsure whether your child is gifted or not, approach the child's school to see if a faculty member can administer an aptitude test of some sort.

You can also speak with the child's teachers about whether they see signs of giftedness in the child. Does the youngster appear to be gifted in certain areas or advanced all-around?

Perhaps the school doesn't view the child as particularly gifted. While that news may be disappointing, you may have to accept that news and move on.

Continue Reading