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Identification of gifted and talented children

1-16 years

If your child seems to have advanced natural abilities or advanced development compared with other children, or is achieving at a very high level, he might be identified as gifted and talented. And if your child is identified, it can help you work out the best way to support your child’s development.

Being identified as gifted and talented: why it’s good

For gifted children, learning is important to wellbeing.

The biggest benefit of your child being identified as gifted and talented is that it helps you understand your child’s learning needs. When you understand her learning needs, you can look for the best ways to support them. And by supporting your child’s learning needs, you support her overall wellbeing and development.

For example, it’s good for some gifted children to start school early, whereas others do better starting at the usual age. A moderately gifted child might do well in a class with other children his age if his teacher can give him more challenging work most days. But highly gifted children will need learning opportunities that are two or more years ahead of the class.

If your gifted child is identified early, she can start enjoying opportunities to learn. Early identification can help your child:

  • get the right learning opportunities at child care, preschool or school
  • start developing talents in her areas of natural ability
  • avoid some of the challenges of being gifted, like boredom at home, preschool or school.

Video

Gifted and talented children: signs and identification

4:58

In this video, parents of gifted children talk about noticing early signs like a big vocabulary, advanced use of language or musical talent. They talk about having mixed feelings and working out what it means for their child’s future. An educational psychologist says it can help to get a formal assessment when a gifted child is approaching school age, to help the school plan for your child’s educational needs. 

If your child is showing the signs of being gifted and talented, he can be identified formally or informally. Sometimes an informal identification might lead to a formal identification later.

Formal identification of gifted children

One way to get a formal identification is to take your child to an educational psychologist for an IQ test and learning needs report. Look for a psychologist with experience in identifying gifted and talented children. You could also check with your child’s school to find out whether the school can arrange an IQ test.

With IQ tests, it’s worth noting that test results might be more reliable for children aged over six years. Also, children grow and change quickly. This means the results of your child’s IQ test at four years might be different from her results at six years. Younger children might also find the 60-90 minute IQ testing process a long time to stay focused.

Another way to get a formal identification is to look at your child’s results in standardised literacy or numeracy tests. If your child seems to have very high results, you can make an appointment with your child’s teacher to talk about the results. Or your child’s teacher might even get in touch with you.

Pros and cons of formal identification
Formal identification is good if you need the results of the IQ test to apply for entry to a gifted program or for early entry to school in your state or territory.

Another pro is that the learning needs report from the psychologist can help when you talk with teachers about your gifted and talented child at child care, preschool or school.

On the downside, if you need to pay for the IQ test yourself, it can cost several hundred dollars. And IQ tests measure intellectual abilities. They can’t measure creative, social or physical abilities.

Informal identification of gifted children

Informal identification means keeping a record of your child’s behaviour with notes about any advanced development and achievements.

This record might include:

  • child care, preschool or school reports
  • your child’s drawings, writing and other work
  • your child’s questions and interests
  • comments about your child’s development – for example, from your GP or child and family health nurse
  • comments from family and friends who know your child.

Pros and cons of informal identification
Informal identification is good if your child is a baby, toddler or preschooler.

It’s also the best option if you think your child is gifted creatively, socially or physically, because IQ tests don’t measure these abilities. Some parents like informal identification because it can give a good sense of their child’s abilities.

Informal identification is low cost, because you can record information about your child’s behaviour, advanced development and achievements yourself. This can build a picture of your child’s learning needs that you can use when you’re talking about his abilities with his child care centre, preschool or school.

Talking with your child about gifts and talents

You know your child best, so you’ll know how much to tell your child about her natural abilities and when. The key is for your gifted child to feel accepted and loved for who she is.

Some parents tell their children about their natural abilities as a part of daily life – for example, ‘Yes Charlie, you’re an amazing reader’. Others answer their child’s questions but don’t make a big deal of it.

Whatever approach you choose, you’ll still need to explain in a way your child understands. For example, you might say to a gifted preschooler, ‘Your brain can learn more quickly than your friends’ brains’.

It can help your child to know that not everyone is the same. Although there’s a difference between what your child can do and what others can do, other children have their own strengths. You can point out that your child’s sister is good at making friends and his cousin is a great cook.

Knowing about these differences can make it easier for your child to get along with and value others – for example, it might help her to be understanding when other children struggle with maths she finds easy.

When your child is identified as gifted: your feelings

If your child is identified as gifted and talented, you might feel:

  • surprised or excited about your child’s future
  • responsible for and even anxious about meeting your child’s learning needs
  • relieved that you know why your child is different.

How you feel can also be affected by how your child was identified as gifted. If you’ve thought your child was gifted since he was a baby or toddler, you’ve had time to get used to the idea. If it has come as a surprise to you, it might take time to adjust. You might find it helpful to talk about your feelings with someone you trust.

It’s normal to feel isolated from other parents of children the same age. And it’s also common not to talk about your child’s abilities with other parents because you’re worried people will think you’re bragging.

Above all, your gifted child is a child. Like all children, the thing she most needs to grow up happy and healthy is your family’s love and support.

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Last updated or reviewed
25-06-2015

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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