Understanding Giftedness

Annemarie Roeper defined giftedness as "a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and to transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences" (How the gifted cope with their emotions. Roeper Review, 5(2), 21-24, 1982).

When understanding gifted individuals and their needs, it is critical to recognize all aspects of the individual in order to create and foster an educational environment that meets the intellectual, social, aesthetic, physical, emotional and cognitive needs of the child. Ricks Center understands the unique needs of gifted students and has created an environment that fosters the education of these students.

Identifying Giftedness

Gifted children display a variety of gifted characteristics, including:

  • Unusual alertness
  • High verbal ability
  • Accelerated thought process
  • Long attention span
  • High activity level
  • Less need for sleep
  • Rapid learning ability
  • Keen sense of observation
  • Extreme curiosity
  • Excellent memory
  • Early and extensive vocabulary
  • Ability to simultaneously process information
  • Intense interest in books
  • Ability to quickly grasp new knowledge and concepts
  • Abstract reasoning
  • High degree of sensitivity
  • Perfectionism
  • Excellent sense of humor
  • Preference for older playmates
  • Advanced ability in play with puzzles, mazes or numbers
  • Advanced progression through developmental milestones
  • Advanced comprehension
  • Large quantity of knowledge and information
  • Able to generate original ideas and solutions


Keep in mind that most gifted children will display a combination of these characteristics rather than every single one.

When identifying these characteristics in a child, it is necessary to consider similar characteristics in same-age peers. For example, a young child's humor may not appear funny to an adult; however, the word play and use of particular joke formats may be unusual for that child's age. It is also important to consider the context in which these characteristics may be displayed. A child is likely to have a long attention span if delving into a topic of interest, but is more likely to be easily distracted and show high level of energy if the topic is not of interest or at an appropriate level. A child may have a large quantity of information about a particular topic - a passion area - and not as much about a non-passion topic.

Gifted characteristics are displayed in children at an early age and assist with the identification of giftedness. Other factors contribute to formal identification; however, recognition of gifted characteristics is the first step.


Identifying giftedness in children can be complex, and often proves difficult or confusing for many parents.

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