Is Giftedness Real?

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Giftedness exists, though certain traits are not equally valued by all cultures, different signs can be seen worldwide. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) defines giftedness as performing or having the capability to perform at a level that is higher than others in one or more disciplines who have the same age, experience, and surroundings. Hence, learners with giftedness need education modifications to help them reach their potential during their school experience(s). NAGC furthers that giftedness represents every racial, ethnic, and cultural group as well as every economic class; requires adequate access to suitable learning opportunities in order to reach full potential; involves learning and processing issues that need for specialist treatment; and varied accommodation based on evolving needs.  Regarding its history, Lewis Terman, an American psychologist, initiated a study of more than 1,500 gifted children (with IQ scores above 140) in 1921. He observed that the participants had higher achievement motivation, and mental and social adjustment.  

Giftedness tends to run in families; it is seen as a biologically rooted label. However, studies have shown that high intellectual development is the product of both nature (genetics) and nurture (environment). Thus, references to “high-IQ genes” are misnomers since distinct traits also depend on certain environmental factors (NAGC, 2016).  Moreover, giftedness is neurodivergent, it involves brain structure, functioning, and chemistry differences which result to cognitive, emotional, and sensory variances (Matthews, 2021).  

Five Characteristics of Giftedness

The following traits under each dimension are common among gifted individuals; however, it is important to note that each person with giftedness has his own distinct characteristics (Bainbridge, 2021; Raising Children Network Limited, 2022; Munson, 2022; Elliott, 2021; Davidson Institute, 2021): 

Evidently higher intellectual quotient than their peers 

This is demonstrated by advanced language, abstract thinking, problem solving, reading, reasoning, and memory skills. Gifted individuals are also usually curious, observant, quirky, and attentive. For instance, they may learn very quickly, ask sharp questions, and have extremely good memory. 

Regarding IQ scores, these are the five levels of giftedness (Munson, 2022): 

Levels IQ Scores Descriptions 
Level 1: Moderately Gifted  120-129They can do simple math by age 3 and read 2 to 3 years above their level by age 7. 
Level 2: Highly Gifted 130-135 They can count from1 to 5 by age 2, know a number of sight words by age 4, and can feel frustrated by the slow pace of school by age 6 to 7. 
Level 3: Exceptionally Gifted 136-140 They question the existence of fictional figures (i.e., Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, etc.) by age 3 to 4, have significant interest in mazes from ages 2 to 5, and read 2 to 5 years beyond their level by age 6. Level 4: Exceptionally to Profoundly Gifted 141 and above They know the whole alphabet by 15 to 22 months, read by age 5, play adult level board and card games by age 5 ½ , and can attend college as early as ages 10 to 12. 
Level 5: Profoundly Gifted 145 and above They were alert at birth (or soon after), half spoke well before age 1, spontaneously read by age 4 to 5, understood match concepts by age 3, and read at least 6 years beyond grade level by age 6.  

*It is important to note that other sources specify different ranges, for instance, others classify mildly gifted as 115 to 130, moderately gifted as 130 to 145, highly gifted as 145 to 160, and profoundly gifted as 160 or higher. 

Creative and Imaginative 

Since gifted minds are usually original and elaborate, they tend to have extraordinary ideas, generate a number of possibilities, and become preoccupied with their own thoughts. For example, gifted individuals often think of original concepts and like coming up with creative solutions.  

Deep Concern for Social and Philosophical Issues

Some children with giftedness catch the eye of many because of their deep concern, idealism, and sensitivity regarding justice and pertinent ethical issues. For instance, they may have advanced interests regarding politics, social work, and the meaning of existence. 


Gifted people tend to set their own goals and have high expectations of themselves. They may also question authority when they believe that something unfair occurred. For example, they may be able to accomplish tasks with minimal supervision and show commendable leadership skills. 


Some gifted children may be emotionally as well as physically sensitive. They may be easily frustrated and deeply affected by situations which others ignore. They may have strong feelings which can be difficult for them to manage; for instance, a gifted child may cry when she sees an insect die. 

How to test for giftedness? 

Although tests are frequently used as assessment methods for identification, they shouldn’t be the only means of identification. Tests frequently omit gifted underserved kids who are disabled, members of racial or ethnic minorities, or hail from low-income families. The best method to guarantee that no gifted student is missed out on is to use an identification strategy that includes numerous tests, both subjective and objective. Tests such as Stanford Binet, Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children, and Woodcock Johnson for cognitive ability or intelligence quotient (IQ) are also used to identify gifted and talented students. A student’s level of knowledge and whether he is ahead of his grade level peers is determined through achievement exams. They could be specialized academic assessments (i.e., Science or Math) or standardized tests (i.e., SATS or ITBS). Through the gifted and talented screening program at their school, students at school age are often assessed utilizing group assessment techniques. Rarely would a school or district offer a gifted youngster an individual exam of aptitude or achievement. Tests should always be given by qualified experts (NAGC).

Is Giftedness a Disability? 

Giftedness, on its own, is not considered as a disability. However, some gifted individuals may have neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism.  For instance, there are gifted individuals who have ADHD, some of their usual characteristics include being highly energetic, impulsive, talkative, easily distracted, and having rapid comprehension. It is then important to provide ample support by having a strengths-based approach, developing individualized education programs (IEP), employing acceleration strategies, and finding enrichment opportunities (Davidson Institute, 2021). 


  • Gifted individuals perform or have the capability to perform at a level that is higher than others. 
  • Giftedness is characterized by higher intellectual quotient, creativity, deep concern for social and philosophical issues, independence, and sensitivity. 
  • The best method to guarantee that no gifted student is missed out on is to use an identification strategy that includes numerous tests, both subjective and objective.
  • Giftedness, on its own, is not considered as a disability. However, some gifted individuals may have neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Author: Gene Balinggan

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References :

+ Bainbridge, C. (2021). Common traits and characteristics of gifted children. Verywell Family.

+ Davidson Institute. (2021). What is giftedness.

+ Elliott, S. (2021). How knowing my gifted kids’ level of giftedness helps me parent. Our Gifted Kids.

+ Matthews, D. (2021). Neurodiversity and gifted education. Psychology Today.,are%20children's%20resulting%20learning%20needs.

+ Munson, E. (2022). The five levels of giftedness. Eleanor Munson, PhD.

+ National Association for Gifted Children. (2016). No child is born gifted: Creating and developing unlimited potential.

+ National Association for Gifted Children. A definition of giftedness that guides best practice.

+ Raising Children Network (Australia) Limited. (2022). About gifted and talented children and teenagers.


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