It can be quite fascinating when you first realize you are dealing with a gifted child at your preschool. But after the initial surprise is over, comes the real challenge of ensuring they get the right support and intervention to reach their full potential.
Who is a gifted child?
According to the National Association of Gifted Children, 'children are considered gifted when their mental or intellectual ability is significantly above the norm for their age’. Through their behaviours and actions, they consistently show they can perform highly in artistic, creative or leadership fields or academic fields like mathematics, science and languages.
How to identify gifted children
When dealing with preschoolers, identifying gifted children may not be as simple as scheduling an IQ test. As experts suggest, it often requires a combination of observation and formal screening.
This process entails studying the children as they play and observing how soon they hit developmental milestones in comparison to other children of the same age. Make sure the observations and findings are documented consistently for future reference.
However, it should be remembered that a child cannot be described as gifted solely on his or her personal milestones as every child's progress rate is different. So it is best to form a judgment based on the total developmental patterns noticed while keeping records. Also, there should be allowances for factors such as personality, religion, and culture.
Formal screening and assessments
As the child’s educator, you can recommend the child’s parents to speak to a child psychologist and carry out an IQ test or formal screening to assess their ability. IQ tests can be carried out for children as young as three years old. The range for average intelligence is 85 to 115. Children with an IQ of over 130 are generally considered gifted.
Check out the Davidson Institute for details on assessment methods and tests for gifted children and the unique issues involved in assessing their cognitive, emotional and social functioning.
The challenges faced by gifted children
Emotional immaturity or emotional intensity
Emotional intensity is one common trait of gifted children which is often mistaken as emotional immaturity. The emotional intensity can manifest itself as extremes of emotions, inhibitions, feelings of inadequacy, fears and anxieties. This can sometimes affect their confidence and make them withdraw from social interactions.
As their educators, it is crucial to understand that their emotional intensity is vital for their intellectual development and can serve as a driving energy for them to persevere in their intellectual pursuits. Make sure you help them see their emotional intensity as a strength and empower them to express their unique self with confidence.
Gifted children are often perfectionism personified. They can obsess over a particular assignment or craft to ensure it comes out perfect. While it’s important to set personal standards and strive for excellence, it can become unhealthy when perfectionism becomes a cause of stress and frustration ultimately leading to procrastination and underachievement. As their teacher or carer, make sure you watch out for signs of unhealthy perfectionism and intervene when necessary. As the National Association for Gifted Children suggests, make sure you emphasize the effort of the process and not the end result.
Supporting gifted children
Create interest inventories
A child’s motivation increases significantly when they are doing something that interests them. And a great way to know what captivates a gifted child is to ask him or her. Engage them in discussions of varied interest. Note the topics the child is willing to talk about; this record becomes the interest inventories. Then go ahead to collate books, videos, and other resources related to the interest of the child.
Engage them in enriching non-academic activities
Work together with the parents and enrol them in non-academic activities which are intellectually stimulating. However, make sure you do not overwhelm the child with activities. It's important they are given enough downtime to relax and work at their pace to allow their best ideas to develop.