10/21/2013 01:07 pm ET | Updated Oct 23, 2013

Who Is the Gifted Child?

Gifted children are, by definition, "Children who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership capacity, or specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities." (1)

Biological differences

There is a biological difference between the gifted child and the typical child. 2 The gifted child seems to have an increased cell production that also increases synaptic activity. This all adds up to an increased thought process. The neurons in the brain of the gifted child seem to be bio-chemically more abundant and, as a result, the brain patterns that develop are able to process more complex thought. There seems to be more prefrontal cortex activity in the brain, which leads to insightful and intuitive thinking. 3 Gifted children have more alpha wave activity in the brain. They not only get more alpha wave activity faster than the typical child, but they also sustain it longer. This allows for more relaxed and focused learning with greater retention and integration. 4 The brain rhythms of the gifted child occur more often, and this allows for concentration, attention, investigation, and inquiry.

Common characteristics

There are some common characteristics the gifted child may possess. The gifted child may be:
• Self-disciplined, independent, often anti-authoritarian.
• Zany sense of humor
• Able to resist group pressure, a strategy that is developed early
• More adaptable and more adventurous
• Greater tolerance for ambiguity and discomfort
• Little tolerance for boredom
• Preference for complexity, asymmetry, open-endedness
• High in divergent thinking ability
• High in memory, good attention to detail
• Broad knowledge background
• Need think periods
• Need supportive climate, sensitive to environment
• Need recognition, opportunity to share
• High aesthetic values, good aesthetic judgement
• Freer in developing sex role integration; lack of stereotypical male/female identification.

Differences between the sexes
However, studies have shown that the characteristics of the gifted child can differ on the basis of sex.5

The following are common characteristics of the female gifted child:
• She likes school, especially courses in science, music, and art.
• She likes her teachers.
• She regularly reads news, magazines, an other non-required reading.
• She is active in drama and musical productions.
• She does not go out on dates as often.
• She is a daydreamer.

The following are common characteristics of the male gifted child:
• He dislikes school.
• He dislikes teachers and thinks they are uninteresting.
• He does little homework.
• He dislikes physical education and seldom engages in team sports.
• He is regarded as radical or unconventional.
• He often wants to be a lone to pursue his own thoughts and interests.

Emotional characteristics

The gifted child also appears to have his share of emotional stresses. Interestingly enough, studies seem to indicate that the gifted child may, in fact, have lower self-esteem than the average child. There seems to be a direct correlation between the high expectations that the gifted child has for himself, and therefore, his unrealistic goals for which he strives. This situation tends to cause anxiety, as the gifted child pushes himself unrealistically.

Parenting the Gifted Child, Part 2

Now that we've taken a look at some common characteristics of gifted children, in my next post, I will share some insights into parenting the gifted child.

1. Growing Up Gifted: Developing the Potential of Children at School and at Home (8th Edition; April 2012, Pearson), by Dr. Barbara Clark
2. Thompson, R., Berger,T. and Berry, S. (1980). An introduction to the anatomy, physiology, and chemistry of the brain. In M. Wittrock, (Ed.) The brain and psychology, New York: Academic.
3. MacLean, P. (1978). A mind of three minds: Educating the triune brain.
4. Lozanov, G. (1977): The Bulgarian experience. The Journal of Suggestive-Accelerative Learning and Teaching; and Martindale (1975), The Regressive Imagery Dictionary.
5. Adolescent Study by Halpin, Payne, Ellett (1973), Exceptional Children