Gifted & Talented FAQ

Important Notice: The answers to these Frequently Asked Questions ("FAQs") are general in nature and do not take into account anyone’s particular circumstances, situation or needs. Penny hopes they may be a useful guide, but, if further information is required, encourages parents to seek the advice of a qualified professional which takes into account the specific needs of their child.

Q1. What does ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ mean?

The terms ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. It can be helpful to clarify what these terms mean in the educational context:

  • Gifted - A child who has the potential to perform at levels significantly beyond the average for his or her age.
  • Talented - A gifted child who is performing at a level significantly above his her age group.

One reason for distinguishing between these definitions, is that some children are gifted, but are not performing to their potential. In this case the child is ‘underachieving’. Statistics show that one third of gifted children are underachieving.

Other terms used instead of ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ are ‘highly able’, ‘high ability’ and ‘academically gifted’.


Q2. How do I know if my child is ‘gifted’?

There are a number of ways to find out if your child is gifted and if so, to what level. Putting together information from these sources can be useful:

    • A parent’s instinct can be a good indicator of a child’s high ability.
    • Teachers and schools are likely to have test and performance information that can suggest the level of a child’s ability.
    • Teachers may also have an ‘instinct’ about a child’s high ability even when the test results and class performance don’t show it. This may be applicable when a child is underachieving. A gifted underachiever can sometimes be identified by the types of questions and comments he or she makes.
    • Specific tests can be run with children to add to information about their ability levels. These can be administered with small or large groups of children.
    • Some psychologists specialise in this field and can run extensive testing with the child on an individual basis. This can provide specific information about a child’s ability.

It’s important to remember that some of these indicators are subjective and even test results need to be considered in light of other indicators. It is also quite possible for a child to not reveal a high level of giftedness through any of these indicators. Some children’s giftedness remains hidden until they are older. Identifying and assessing giftedness is not a definitive science.

If you suspect your child is gifted, you can find out more information by referring to his/her teachers and school. You can also independently commission a psychological assessment.


Q3. What if my child isn’t reaching his or her potential?

Some facts about underachieving gifted children

    • One third of gifted children are underachieving.
    • Some gifted children are invisible, and may be sabotaging their learning (consciously or unconsciously).
    • Underachieving gifted students are at risk of tuning out, developing behavioural issues and never reaching their potential.
    • The education system aims to meet the specific needs of every child, including those who are gifted.


Q4. What can you do if you think your child is underachieving?

If you’re not sure what your child needs, then the information below on ‘What do gifted children need ?’ may be useful.

Talk to your child’s teacher and school to find out if they believe he or she is underachieving. Ask them for ideas and suggestions as to how you can support and encourage your child to work towards his/her potential. Also ask what the teacher and school can do to help. (Remember it’s your child’s right to be assisted to reach his or her potential and your right to speak out on his or her behalf.)


Q5. What do gifted children need?

What gifted children need, depends on their level of giftedness and other factors that are individual to each child. Here are some of the prevalent needs of gifted children:

    • Enrichment in the classroom - This refers to activities that challenge a gifted child more than the standard tasks.
    • Modified or open-ended tasks - The teacher may modify a set task for gifted children to match their ability to respond to it. Open-ended tasks mean that there isn’t a closed or predetermined response to a task. Each child works at the task at the highest level to which they can take it. Gifted children often develop surprising and creative responses to open-ended tasks and are usually challenged at a level closer to their ability.
    • Curriculum compacting and acceleration within and out of a grade in the child’s area of talent - A gifted child works on a subject according to their ability rather than their age and grade level. For example, a gifted child may complete two years’ worth of studies within one school year. This approach needs to be handled extremely carefully as some research has shown adverse affects of mismanaged acceleration.
    • Mentorships - Gifted children often develop a passion for a particular topic. Where the child has the emotional maturity, it can be beneficial to arrange for a suitable mentor to work with the child.
    • Counselling and emotional support.
    • Withdrawal programs - Where gifted children are withdrawn from their normal classrooms, part or full time, so they can work with others of similar ability. These types of programs needs to be managed for the best interest of the children and take into account how the school culture views gifted education. Some of the ‘Thinking Outside The Box’ programs provide this type of withdrawal situation for a few hours a week.
    • Extra-curricular programs in or out of school that reflect and stimulate their passions. Examples are chess clubs, spelling bees, science fairs, Tournament of the Minds and debating clubs.
    • Support at home.


Q6. Where can I find more answers about highly able children?

There are many helpful and insightful books and articles about raising and educating highly able children. Here is a list I’ve compiled of just some of the resources* I have found useful or that have been highly recommended to me. This list may be of value to both parents and teachers.

*Penny hopes these links may be beneficial for some parents and teachers, but takes no responsibility for the content of linked external resources such as books, articles and websites.


Parent Advisory service

Sometimes, parents would like to talk about their child’s specific needs and what may be best for parents to consider accordingly. In these circumstances, Penny is very happy to have a face-to-face conversation in a private advisory capacity. As you would expect, all such conversations are completely confidential. You can find out more about this here.

`Copyright 2006-2017 Penny Willoughby. All rights reserved.