The Gifted Children's Association
of British Columbia believes Early Childhood Educators are uniquely positioned
and equipped to recognize and support many gifted children of before they
are admitted to more formal learning programs. In an effort to enlist
the assistance of knowledgeable, experienced Early Childhood Professionals
the GCABC have produced a special newsletter from which the following information
has been extracted. The GCABC are seeking to translate these materials
and produce them in a newsletter format suitable for distribution through
Early Childhood Education programs, Public Health Offices, Medical and
Dental Offices in an effort to reach parents of Young Gifted Children.
The GCABC will be happy to make a regionalized master copy available to
organizations for gifted children around the world in order to introduce
as many people as possible to the concept of young gifted children.
Please contact the GCABC via http://www.vcn.bc.ca/gca
or Lesley Ansell-Shepherd
Help needed to
identify young gifted children
Numerous young gifted children
experience difficulty when entering formal schooling . Observation
of their early behaviour is extremely helpful for proper identification
and creation of appropriate learning programs for these out of step, asynchronous
The strong observational
skills an ECE teacher brings to their work with young children can help
parents and children to learn to work with, rather than hide, resent or
fear their differences.
The unique learning styles
that help define these children as gifted can lead to many complex
behaviours if early needs are not recognized and met. Behaviour
changes that have been documented include: becoming argumentative, apathetic,
socially withdrawn, out of control or clinically depressed, among a wide
range of other behaviours.
Yet these are the children
who beg to attend Early Childhood programs because of their extreme desire
to learn. We hope this newsletter will offer educators information
to recognize and support these children in the earliest stages of their
determined drive towards lifelong learning .
are our Gifted Children?
Gifted children are often
defined based on what they produce, a definition of limited use in early
childhood education. They are also often defined by a list of traits
many, but not all gifted children have in common. Parents of these
children agree the most useful definition of gifted children comes from
the work of the Columbus group, a group of psychologists, educators and
parents who came up with the following description of giftedness in 1991.
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 counselling
in order for them to develop optimally.
This means these children
develop in an uneven manner, significantly out of developmental
step with their age peers.
children are on a developmentally different schedule from infancy onward.
This places them out of sync with expected development stages internally
and externally. Programs which anticipate limited powers of concentration
and break complicated subjects into simple pieces for children to understand
may stress gifted children. Sequences may be too simple for minds
which thrive on complexity and challenge. Able to process huge
quantities of information rapidly, gifted children may find nothing to
interest or engage them in regular programs and may act out.
Tolan, author and gifted advocate, has a wonderful analogy for this
process. She likens it to feeding an elephant grass, one blade at
a time. Not only will he die of malnutrition before you can get sufficient
food into him, he is unlikely to realize you are trying to feed him at
all. That single blade of grass is simply too small to notice.
offer another analogy for these children's differences. Like a multiple
window computer, many gifted children work on several unrelated problems
at the same time. An unconscious process bubbling quietly in
the background may suddenly end with ahaa!
no idea where the answer appeared from, the child may only be certain that
it is correct. Unable to explain why, they just know it. (And will
often defend it vigorously.)
unable to understand this process or achieve it themselves, often discredit
or discount these abilities in young children and may insist they work
in ways alien to them to solve problems. You must show your
work! Not comfortable working in this fashion, accused of cheating
by peers unable to understand this process, the gifted child may shut down
in an attempt to become normal.
parents push these children and train them? Force their development?
Usually it is the child who pulls rather than the parent who pushes. All
parents think their child is gifted! is unsupported myth.
Parents who notice their child's development differs from age peers have
observed these differences since birth. If they are familiar with
the concept, they are usually accurate in identifying their child as gifted
of gifted children often have some of the following worries. Sometimes
I'm frightened for my child. I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility
. There are times when I feel isolated. I can't keep up!
a gifted child is more intense and isolating. The child's asynchrony
may cause them to exhibit a wide range of age behaviours at the same time,
making them demanding to parent. At four, they may be four playing
soccer, eight when reading, twelve building Lego® , twenty when
worrying about world peace, and two putting toys away. This wide
asynchrony is difficult for parents, schools, and the child to handle.
It is hard to fit in when so much of your environment depends on chronological
age, a measure which may be the least relevant part of a gifted child's
development. An Early Childhood Educator who shares their professional
knowledge of a child's relative strengths can help parents enormously.
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and acceptance of the child's internal differences is essential.
These differences likely include emotional intensity, unusual awareness
and tolerance of complexity and paradox, and potential for extraordinary
development. Polish psychologist Kazimierz
Dabrowski suggested the stimuli response of these individuals
is stronger than normal in five areas. He called these overexcitabilities,
(oe’s,) as they involve psychological and central nervous system sensitivity.
OE’s describe the unusual intensity of the gifted, as well as the many
ways in which they look and behave oddly when compared to norms. These
are brief examples of the five :
oe need for physical expression,
movement, energy, dance.
oe highly sensory, touch, texture, colour,
taste, light, sound. May be unable to tolerate clothes labels, twisted
socks, may be moved to tears by Mozart.
oe dreamers, space cadets, visual thinkers,
often think in metaphors.
oe stimulated by intellectual challenge,
oe broad range of emotional intensity,
happier, sadder, more depressed than age peers, extreme empathy, compassion.
people have different intensities and combinations of oe’s but Dabrowski
believed emotional overexcitability to be central to them all. In young
children these over excitabilities are often mistaken for lack of
control and immaturity.
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behaviours of young gifted children
children often have abilities which may not be recognized. They may
also have highly creative abilities which are not expected and hard to
see, or have disabilities which mask their high abilities.
following are often (but not always) observed compared to age based norms:
subtle or mature sense of humour (may understand word puns before
other children) may not appreciate silly or bathroom humour of other children
the same age.
solutions that rarely occur to others.
high energy level.
wider knowledge base.
grammar or sentence structure.
very interested in abstract terms (time, space).
in cause and effect relationships.
long attention span for activities of own choosing.
possibilities for various situations or uses for objects.
he/she thinks without regard for consequences.
imagination, frequent daydreamer.
developed powers of concentration, may need to be physically touched to
become aware of surroundings.
advanced sense of justice and fairness (and may not be able to understand
responses of age peers).
strongly motivated to do things that interest him/her, may be unwilling
to work on other activities.
reluctant to move from one subject area to another, becomes so engrossed
in concept that wishes to explore it fully.
concepts and learning to new situations.
the company of older children or adults.
to work alone, resists co-operative learning.
wide gaps in abilities or knowledge.
with easy materials but thrive on complexity.
difficulty with handwriting or pencil use. (complains of it being too slow)
advanced hand/eye co ordination.
emotionally sensitive (high levels of self criticism, may have low self
concept and poor peer relations. May ask many questions about pain, death,
to count, may play with number concepts ( work in bases other than 10 for
factual books and dislike fiction and fairy stories.
more imaginary friends than regular children and be able to describe them
sought out by other children in leadership situations.
or admired traits vs Possible Problems
Talks too much, talks above the heads of his or her age peers
attention span Tunnel
Vision; resists interruption, stubbornness, resists duties
Inaccuracy, sloppiness, impatient with others, dislikes basic routine
inventiveness Escape into fantasy, rejection of norms,
may be seen as disruptive
prefers Inability to accept
help from peers, nonconformity, reliant on self
Critical of others, perfectionism, unreasonable standards for self
Resistance to simple solutions; constructs complicated rules,
Appears disorganized, scattered, frustrated over lack of time
Extreme sensitivity to criticism or peer rejection
Study of 241 Profoundly Gifted Children This
study is especially useful to parents who have observed developmental differences
in their children but are unaware of what those differences may signify.
Dr. Karen Rogers Associate
Professor of Gifted Studies,
University of St. Thomas
in St. Paul, Minnesota
Dr. Karen Rogers, a researcher
of international renown, analysed data at the Gifted Development Centre
in 1994-1995 during a postdoctoral fellowship. The analysis consisted
of data on 241 children between 2½ and 12½ years of age,
with IQs ranging from 160 to 237+ on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
Presented by Karen Rogers
and Linda Silverman at the National Association for Gifted Children 44th
Annual Convention in Little Rock, Arkansas, November 7, 1997.
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Readers Deep Readers
Many young gifted children
teach themselves to read at a very early age. By the time they enter
early childhood education programs they may already be sounding out letters,
reading signs, or reading accurately both aloud and silently. Some
of these children are such good readers that their silent reading speeds
may cause it to seem as if they are skimming through picture books.
They may also be concentrating so deeply on their reading that they are
unaware of people speaking to them, or teachers attempting to engage their
attention. As many adults assume children must be taught to read,
even parents can be surprised by the reading prowess of their child.
If you observe a child who
rapidly flips through magazines or books, has trouble “hearing” instructions
when they are looking at a book, or seems to have skills of early
reading, ask them about their abilities. Are they able to read?
Can they read aloud as well as silently? What types of materials
do they like to read? Do they need quiet time to enjoy their books?
Help them to find suitable
reading materials for their ability and ensure that their reading time
is shared with, or not interrupted by non reading children.
If you have trouble engaging their attention when they are deep in a book,
try a gentle touch rather than a voice cue to bring them out of their extreme
concentration and back to a focus on outside activities.
Finding appropriate subject
matter for their reading ability age and interests may be a problem.
Ladybird first chapter
books are often enjoyed as are Roald Dahl’s books, (Fantastic Mr Fox,
The Twits, James and the Giant Peach , BFG etc.) Enid Blyton’s
Five series, and Beverly Cleary’s books (The Mouse and the
Motorcycle etc.) Some young gifted children will resist fiction,
especially anthropomorphic fiction and may insist on reading only non fiction
Many of these children already
have a keen interest in numbers and patterns. Introduce them to chess,
backgammon, the Chinese abacus, Montessori math materials or Don Cohen’s
book Calculus By and For Young
Bringing Out the Best
a resource guide for parents of young gifted children Jacqulyn Saunders
with Pamela Espeland , Free Spirit Publishing, 1986, 1991 This comprehensive
guide focuses on characteristics, concerns (including schooling), and activities.
Drawing with Children,
a course in enhancing creative capacity for Children and Adults Mona
Brookes 1986, Jeremy Tarcher, Inc. Great ideas for getting anyone
to draw and express their creativity
The Kingore Observation
Inventory Bertie Kingore, Leadership publishers Inc. Des Moines, 1990,
a simple method of using teacher observation to identify gifted students
from early childhood to grade 3
Teaching Young Gifted
Children in the Regular Classroom, Joan Smutny, Sally Yahnke
Walker, Elizabeth Meckstroth, Free Spirit Publishing 1997 Techniques
that work in the regular classroom with kindergarten and primary children.
Lots of reproducible sheets and easy to use activities.
Parents Guide to Raising
a Gifted Toddler, James Alvino, Ballentine Books. Compilation
of articles from Gifted Child Monthly, focussing on the young gifted
Raising Your Spirited
Child : A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive,
Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Sept 1992, Harperperennial library
Teaching Montessori in
the Home, The Pre-School Years , Elizabeth Hainstock, Plume Books,
Updated edition (September 1997) Simple materials and techniques
which allow a child to explore many Montessori practises.
Gifted Children's Association
of B.C. Information on the B.C. organization http://www.vcn.bc.ca/gca
Gifted Canada , Canadian
information on resources for gifted children http://www3.bc.sympatico.ca/giftedcanada
Hoagies gifted page,
major source of info on all aspects of gifted children http://www.hoagiesgifted.org
Eric clearing house on
Disabilities and Gifted Education run by the Council for Exceptional
Gifted Development Centre
Dr. Linda Silverman http://www.gifteddevelopment.com