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08/20/2014 07:16 am ET Updated Aug 20, 2014

14 Signs Your Grandchild May Be Gifted

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SPECIAL FROM Grandparents.com

You think your grandbaby is off-the-charts smart, but how do you know? According to the National Association for Gifted Children, about 6 percent of U.S. children are gifted. There are characteristics linked to a higher IQ, and knowing what to look for will help you get your grandchild get the attention, education and support she needs. However, experts say any signs of intelligence must be viewed only as possible indicators that the child is unusually intelligent. They’re not proof or a guarantee of future high achievement or success.

“It’s important for grandparents to recognize their grandchildren’s abilities, because parents tend to underestimate and downplay their children’s talents and intelligence rather than bring it to the attention of teachers or others,” according to James T. Webb, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, grandparent of four, and co-author of "Grandparents' Guide to Gifted Children." “If parents have had little experience with young children, they may think that what the child is doing is normal rather than exceptional or extraordinary,” he says. “As a grandparent, because of your greater life experience, you may be the first to notice this precocious behavior.”

Today, the meaning of intelligence and the notion of giftedness has been broadened to more than just academic achievement, says Dr. Webb. “Now there’s more recognition of creativity and of giftedness in leadership, the arts, and areas like practical problem solving.”

Concentrated Gaze
Sometimes grandparents—and parents—can tell quite early in the child’s life that the child is unusually bright and curious, says Dr. Webb. Studies have found that infants who are brighter look intently for longer periods of time at their surroundings than do other infants.

“They start to watch and pay attention very early in their lives,” says Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D., educational consultant and high intelligence specialist at Educational Options, author of "5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options" and grandparent of two. “Notice how intently your toddler watches and mimics you and wants to try for him or herself what he or she has seen others do.”

Intelligent babies and toddlers tend to have more eye contact and seem to understand what people are talking about much sooner than their peers. “This is because brighter children's brains are more receptive earlier than more typical children's brains,” says Dr. Ruf. “They eagerly and naturally absorb from their environment so much that adults are often surprised at what they seem to already know!”

Strong Will
Bright toddlers can get upset when they’re stopped from doing something they’re trying to do. “Gifted toddlers may have temper tantrums because they felt humiliated by being thwarted, misunderstood, or stopped from doing what they feel really ready to do and totally justified in expecting to be allowed to do it!” says Dr. Ruf.
You may notice that your grandchild is determined and substantially beyond what pediatricians and parenting books say she should be doing at her age. Take note if she’s way ahead of the developmental checklists of pediatricians and share your findings with her parents.

Other Smart Signs
  • Advanced motor skills development. Is she smiling young? Rolling over and grasping objects before the 3-month milestone?
  • Early physical development. Is he sitting, crawling, walking before his peers? Does he have advanced physical strength—is he jumping, throwing, running or catching a ball?
  • Early to speak, learn letters and read. Does she speak in grammatically correct sentences and is her vocabulary well beyond her peers?
  • Knows numbers. Is your toddler grandaughter great with numbers and already adding and subtracting?
  • Intense curiosity. Asks questions and more questions.
  • Complex thinking. Can she grasp concepts like time and death?
  • Strong sensitivity. Is he sensitive to the way others feel around him?
  • Solves problems. Can she find creative ways to meet a challenge? Did she stack books to stand on them and to try and reach what she wants off the higher shelves?
  • Perceptive. Does your grandbaby seem to notice that you cut your hair or drive a new car?
  • Poor sleeper. Is he up at night? Chances are his brain is so stimulated it’s hard to get to sleep.
  • Good memory. Does he remember where he left his train or which shoes are Grandpa’s?
  • Sense of humor. Does your toddler grandchild have a sense of humor and seem to understand conversations that most little ones would not get?

Experts say that just because your grandchild shows early signs of intelligence, does not guarantee that he’ll be gifted. He may be of average intelligence as he gets older. However if the signs lead to a bright toddler, school-age child and beyond, your grandchild’s parents will likely need you by their side. “Parenting an intense, curious, sensitive, strong-willed, gifted child can be quite a challenge, and many parents say it’s a lonely experience,” says Dr. Webb. “They need the understanding, perspective, and support of grandparents as they try to figure out the best ways to raise gifted children.”

Learn more
Visit Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted or the National Association for Gifted Children. Then read more about how you can encourage your grandkids' natural gifts.

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Want smarter grandkids? Start talking.
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