What is gifted?

This page is intended to help explain the definitions of gifted.  Many parents and educators do not know the meaning of gifted nor understand that there are levels of gifted.  In addition, it is essential to have an understanding of what gifted is in order to advocate for the appropriate education for any gifted child.

Gifted Defined

There are many definitions of gifted.  The Institute of Educational Advancement highlights the 5 most common definitions of gifted  http://educationaladvancement.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/5-definitions-of-giftedness/  It should be known that the definition most widely accepted by those in the field of gifted education is the following:

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.”    (Columbus Group, 1991)

The Davidson Institute has the complete article by Martha Morelock in which the above definition was first introduced and even more explanations of gifted.  http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10172.aspx

These definitions are more detailed than what many schools use or accept.  Sadly there are also many myths about giftedness that need dispelling. Understanding the meaning of gifted can help many parents better understand their children and better advocate for their educational needs.

The Levels of Gifted 

Dr. Deborah Ruf has many books and a website explaining the 5 levels of gifted which are also known as “Ruf Estimates.”  http://www.talentigniter.com/ruf-estimates  These are definitely worthwhile learning about.   Her website includes a pictorial representation of IQ distributions and where the levels correspond.

Another breakdown of the levels of gifted includes the terms gifted or moderately gifted, highly gifted, exceptionally gifted, and profoundly gifted.  These terms are used based on scores on individualized IQ .  Individually administered IQ and achievement tests are not what schools often use for screening for public school gifted programs.  Hoagie’s has a great webpage dedicated to explaining what scores on which tests mean which level. explanation http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/highly_profoundly.htm  These terms and scores align with Levels 2-5 of “Ruf Estimates.”

The Davidson Institute has a great article further explaining what highly gifted means.  http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10093.aspx  In addition, they answer the top 10 questions about highly gifted and why knowing how gifted a child is matters.

Understanding the level of giftedness can help understand why gifted education is so important.  The differences and needs of students at various levels of giftedness is greatly different.  One would not put a high school student in an elementary classroom and force them to only do that level work.  However, every day in the public schools highly gifted and above leveled children are placed with age level peers and expected to do that level material despite having already mastered it.  It is this lack of understanding of the needs of gifted which is holding our brightest back and creating troubles.  It is important to understand  the rarity of scores above 130 in the general population and why this causes the need for gifted education.  The rarity increases as the scores go up and the level of specialized education also increases.

Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities or Supersensitivities in Gifted Children

The work of Kazimierz Dabrowski on positive disintegration provides the framework for overexcitabilities in gifted.  The terms used to describe such overexcitabilities include: Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities, OE’s, supersensitivities, and/or hyper sensitivities.  The types of overexcitabilities are: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional.   Such sensitivities are another difference in regards to the intensity and primary characteristics of highly gifted.  It is important to learn and understand OE’s as they present differently in each gifted child.  The following are excellent articles to fully understand OE’s:

  • “Overexcitabilty and the Gifted by SENG”  http://www.sengifted.org/archives/articles/overexcitability-and-the-gifted
  • “Overexcitability and the Highly Gifted” by Davidson Institute  http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10102.aspx
  • “Gifted Children: Emotionally Immature or Emotionally Intense”  http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10241.aspx
  • “15 Strategies for Managing Your Gifted Child’s Intesities” by the Institute for Educational Advancement  http://educationaladvancement.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/15-strategies-for-managing-your-gifted-childs-intensities/
  • Hoagie’s has a whole page on Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities  http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/dabrowski.htm

Myths of Gifted & Debunking Them

There are tons of myths on gifted and regarding gifted education programs.  I will be providing lots of links that address each myth and debunk it.  But first I must be clear, gifted education is not elitist.  Not everyone is gifted.  AP classes are not gifted programs or services despite many districts claiming that.  Acceleration and differentiation are two different things.  There is tons of research documenting and supporting acceleration for gifted students.  There is such a thing as 2E (Twice Exceptional)–gifted and having a disability.  However, many districts keep 2E kids out of gifted services and programs.  And, stop saying gifted children will be just fine in regular education doing the same as other students because they are not and won’t be.  If we want all children to be successful, we need to stop the misinformation and myths of gifted. Here are some great articles and blogs on the myths surrounding the world of gifted identification and gifted education:

  • “Myths About Gifted Students” from the National Association of Gifted Children http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/myths-about-gifted-students
  • “The Burdens of Gifted Children” from the Crushing Tall Poppies Blog  http://crushingtallpoppies.com/2014/03/06/the-burdens-of-gifted-children/
  • “Myths About The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Students” by SENG  http://www.sengifted.org/archives/articles/competing-with-myths-about-the-social-and-emotional-development-of-gifted-students
  • “Colubus Cheetah Myth Buster” from Gifted Resources and Sprites Site Blog http://www.giftedresources.org/gr/columbuscheetah.htm
  • “Giftedness Myths and Misconceptions” from GiftedKids.ie http://www.giftedkids.ie/myths.html
  • Hoagie’s has a whole page dedicated to “myths, arguments, and red herrings” filled with articles, blogs, and videos. http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/arguments.htm
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