What is Giftedness?


Just as every individual is unique and exhibits his or her own personality, “giftedness” presents itself differently in every child.  A gifted and talented child might be a motivated high-achiever, but it is equally possible that the child’s abilities might not even be evident at first glance.  A gifted student may be one who has strengths in particular academic areas but is average (or struggles) in others.  In order to identify the many different types of giftedness beyond the precocious learner, we need to recognize giftedness across a broad spectrum of children with varying abilities, which may include: twice-exceptional students who are gifted learners but are also learning disabled; kids whose abilities may be masked by socio-economic factors; or gifted underachievers who have fallen into behavioral patterns because they have not been sufficiently stimulated and challenged.

Glossary of Giftedness terms: http://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources/glossary-terms.

While it is difficult to identify specifically what giftedness is, or even to define it in a single statement, there are a handful of perspectives that may be used to gain a better overall understanding of the concept, including:

The term gifted and talented student means children and youths who give evidence of higher performance capability in such areas as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the schools in order to develop such capabilities fully.


A gifted person is someone who shows, or has the potential for showing, an exceptional level of performance in one or more areas of expression.


… possessing demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of very superior intellectual, creative or specific academic capability and needing differentiated instruction or services beyond those being provided in the regular school program in order to realize their intellectual, creative or specific academic potential.


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.


A student’s “giftedness” can affect a broad spectrum of his or her life (such as leadership skills or the ability to think creatively) but can also be very specific (such as a special aptitude in math or reading).  The term “giftedness” refers in general to this spectrum of abilities without being dependent on a single measure or index.  It is generally recognized that approximately three million children in the United States, including about thirty thousand in Connecticut, are considered gifted.

There are challenges involved with raising and educating these gifted children as their talents and idiosyncrasies may present themselves in many different ways. Gifted students in a typical heterogeneous classroom (i.e. a classroom with a mix including high-ability and learning disabled students, but consisting mostly of “average” learners) might exhibit a higher performance capability and master subjects at a fraction of the time it takes the rest of their class.  These students require specifically tailored instruction and benefit from being allowed to explore subjects in greater depth and complexity (rather than just being given “more” work) so that they are able to continue learning at an accelerated pace.

On the other hand, there may be a number of personal and/or socio-economic factors that could contribute to a gifted child exhibiting negative behaviors or not being the “best student” in class.  In such cases, specific strategies might be needed in order to nurture the child’s inherent talents.  Remember, gifted learners include those who have “the potential for showing an exceptional level of performance” based on their innate advanced cognitive abilities.  It is crucial that we provide a continuum of appropriate educational services—both in and out of the classroom—to encourage each and every child so that they may strive to reach that potential.

Back to top ↑