Gifted Kids are often misunderstood and overlooked by most adults. Many people have misconceptions about gifted kids in general, and there are a few things you probably don’t know.
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Many times I’ve used the phrase, “My daughter is gifted.” and have watched another parent’s eyes roll, and their nose go up in the air. Gifted means something altogether different to them than the actual definition. There are many, many things that gifted people battle that most people don’t know about, but we will cover just 9 here.
9 Things You Don’t Know About Gifted Kids
1. Gifted Kids Don’t Stop Being Gifted As Adults
I’m gifted. My mom found out I was gifted as a child. Many people feel comfortable saying their child is gifted, or feel comfortable talking about gifted children, but we tend to avoid the phrase, “gifted adults.” Giftedness refers to the IQ of a person, regardless of their age. While IQ can diminish over time if a brain isn’t challenged, it’s not a common occurence that giftedness just goes away in adulthood. So if you’re gifted, don’t be ashamed of that. Gifted minds are beautiful!
2. Gifted Kids Are NOT Smarter Than Other Kids
This is where the water starts to get murky. We just talked about IQ. IQ stands for intelligence quotient. Meaning that the number represents a person’s potential, not the level of how much knowledge is in their head. Many times children who are gifted may struggle in a public school setting. They often struggle with perfectionism, making learning new concepts or performing new abilities difficult, because it’s not perfect the first few times they try it. My daughter is gifted. She has always struggled with perfectionism. As a two year-old I remember her being upset to the point of tears that she colored outside the lines in her coloring book. On the other side of the spectrum, many gifted children will have a hard time in school because they struggle with why it’s important.
Many people automatically assume that when you refer to your child as gifted, that you’re referring to how smart they are. “All children are gifted…” a phrase I’ve heard often. All children have gifts, but not all children are gifted. When a parent refers to their child as gifted, they’re not typically bragging. Keep reading.
3. Asynchronous Development
This is a mouthful of a phrase that simple means, they learn skills at different speeds. Meaning, they may be 7 years old, have a sixth grade math level, and not be able to tie their shoes. Or they’re 5 years old, have a larger vocabulary than your English teaching uncle, and don’t know how to ride a bike. Every child, gifted or not, learns differently. Gifted children often learn at varying speeds. For example, my daughter is 7 years old, has a fifth grade reading level, but writes at a first grade level. Writing was a huge stumbling block for us, and caused severe anxiety and meltdowns when it was addressed, so she is average at writing, where she is ahead everywhere else. This doesn’t make her any less gifted than I am, she’s just developing at varying speeds.
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4. Over-excitabilities (OEs)
Also known as supersensitivities, OEs are something that many gifted children wrestle with. There are five common areas that gifted kids have OEs in, and we will address them briefly here. The five areas are psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational. A gifted child can have all five, but typically one will be more prevalent than the others.
Psychomotor is the one trait that will get giftedness confused with ADHD on a regular basis. Many gifted people are assumed to have ADHD by those around them if they struggle with this OE. They can run on hours with less sleep than most people, are constantly on the move even as babies, and have trouble sitting still. While children who are gifted can also have ADHD, it’s not as common as you would think.
Sensual refers to all of your senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. Children who battle this OE may be like my daughter and have a very sensitive nose. She will point out a foul smell almost involuntarily and will be unable to ignore it. As infants or toddlers, they may refuse to let the grass touch their bare skin.
Emotional is one we battle a lot here in our house. I struggle with this one more than others, and my daughter does too. Emotional OEs can often be seen in feeling each emotion very deeply and intensely. I remember my daughter as a toddler, watching the sad scenes in movies, or just hearing classical music that was meant to be sad and crying slow, weeping tears out of emotional response. When she’s upset? She’s roaringly and immediately upset with her whole being. Learning to contain and control these emotional responses has been one of my biggest life challenges, and I assume it will always be. Emotional outbursts are difficult to curb, and even more difficult to understand from the outside. Many outside people, looking in, would assume I need to “control my child” or to “discipline her more”, when that isn’t the case at all. It took me years to reign in and control this OE, and I’m teaching her the same things.
For more info on Emotional Intensities in gifted children, check out THIS BOOK.
Intellectual is probably the most common thing people think of when they think of gifted kids. People with this OE will love to learn and will never stop seeking out information. They will be curious and ask tons of questions. TONS. OF. QUESTIONS. They love to read and immerse themselves in books. They love to think and to work through and solve problems. Most importantly they love to think, and to get lost in their own thoughts. They can concentrate on one subject easily and think their way through difficult subjects and situations with ease.
Imaginational is an OE that exhibits the most creative and active of imaginations. Many who battle this OE have very detailed dreams, or daydreams. They love creating worlds in their minds and often go there to escape stress or traumatic situations. They will often love the arts like music, and poetry and will connect with the words they find there deeper than most people.
You know that feeling you get when you see something super cute and you just want to squeeze it? Multiply that feeling times ten, and that’s the type of intensity that some gifted kids experience on a regular basis. I can see this coming out in myself when I’m overwhelmed (in a good way) and talk with my jaw clenched. This can also be emotionally exhausting, and kids can become overwhelmed in socially intense situations easily. Sensory overload comes easier to those with gifted brains. Sometimes if I’m stressed, I will need to put on noise canceling headphones, listen to music, and accomplish my work without distraction, otherwise I’ll become irritable because of sensory overload.
6. Just Because A Gifted Kid’s Brain Is Advanced, Doesn’t Mean They’re Socially Advanced
Gifted kids often seem much older than they are because of their knowledge and vocabulary use. It can be common to assume that in social situations they will act older and respond to social cues in a more mature way. While that is the case for some, it’s not for others. A gifted child may even be behind socially, because they prefer the company of themselves, or don’t feel like they fit in with their peers and as a result, don’t spend time engaging with them socially on a regular basis. When you see an advanced seven year old, who can do decimal math quicker in her head than you can, also have an emotional, crying breakdown because they messed up her order at the restaurant, remember that gifted brains operate differently.
7. Attention Span (Or Lack There Of)
As we talked about earlier in the OEs section, people who are gifted are often misdiagnosed with ADHD. Many people in my life have assumed that I have ADHD, and tease me about it often. It doesn’t bother me, but I don’t have it. Oftentimes, a gifted brain works at rapid speeds on a regular basis. This means that while you can process one thought at a time, I process forty. This seems efficient, and sometimes it is, but it’s also incredibly taxing and dificult to stay on task sometimes. My brain will think about so many things at once, and will overwhelm me often. In order to stay stress-free, because of my brain, I have to make daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists so that I can keep my brain from panicking at all that needs to be done. I am often terrified that I’ll forget something, or that I’ll never accomplish all that needs done without the lists. My lists keep me sane.
8. Difficulty Sleeping
Along those same lines, many gifted people will struggle getting to sleep and staying asleep. Overactive minds are difficult to shut off at night when it’s time to rest, and can make it difficult to fall asleep. I know it takes me a MINIMUM of thirty minutes each night to fall asleep, and that’s if I’m exhausted. My brain doesn’t rest, and it drives my husband crazy. Likewise it can be difficult to stay asleep. Many gifted people don’t need as much sleep and can function on a few hours just as well as other people on eight hours. Many parents of gifted kids have to have strict bedtime routines in order for healthy sleep patterns to be established in their children.
9. Depression & Anxiety
Many, many, many gifted people struggle with depression and anxiety. Some of history’s most brilliant creators who were gifted were depressed, and sometimes even suicidal. Feelings of never being good enough, of letting people down, of never accomplishing enough are all common among gifted people. Apathy can set in when stuck in a day-to-day routine that isn’t challenging enough and can make depression worse. Anxiety is common as well. People, like myself, who are people-pleasers will constantly try to please others with their actions and words. If they are unable to help, or don’t perform perfectly, letting someone down can be devastating. Even young children who are gifted can struggle with these thoughts, and its important to validate them and to address them even at a young age. Depression and giftedness often go hand-in-hand, and with such an active mind, can end in suicide too many times.
The next time you heard a parent refer to their gifted child, don’t assume they think their child is better than yours, and don’t assume they’re bragging. Their burdens are different than yours. Their children aren’t magically smart, they don’t “have it easy” because their child is gifted, and they don’t think their child is more important than yours. Gifted is a term that holds so much more weight than that. Take time to listen, instead of turning up your nose, because being the parent of a gifted child can be a lot to handle. Gifted minds are beautiful, but they have their battles just like everyone else.