Born with Eyes Wide Open: Common Characteristics of Gifted Babies and Toddlers
Even before a child enters the first grade, some parents may already notice that their child is functioning higher than his/her peers and exhibit certain characteristics that might indicate that their child is gifted. Others have young children who are unable to read or write and are displaying behavioral patterns that are problematic. Often, they cannot tell if their child is gifted until they analyze the results of their child's IQ tests or nationwide standardized achievement tests given in their schools.
"The signs of a gifted baby or toddler can be subtle (and sometimes startling)—here's how to spot them.
Have you often found yourself wondering, "Is my baby gifted?" Let's first understand what's "normal" for a 1-year-old. Developmentally, by 12 months, a child can say a few words, imitate your voice, distinguish different sounds, and understand simple instructions like, "Drink your juice". Does that sound crazy to you? Was your child doing these things before 6 months of age?
For the past eleven years, Village East Gifted® (VEG), an academic enrichment program for gifted and talented children ages 2-15, has collected hundreds of parent narratives describing why they felt that their children might be gifted. After an extensive review, it was determined that "giftedness" reveals itself at different times and in different ways.
Thirty Early Signs That Your Infant or Toddler is Gifted
Some parents observed their baby's advanced cognitive development at 2 months of age and others couldn't identify it until fifth grade. Giftedness often seemed as if it "ran in the family" yet some parents had no clue why their child was so smart... humorously questioning if s/he was switched at birth. Sometimes twins were polar opposites in their intellectual potential and siblings, born years apart, had almost identical academic aptitude. Twice-exceptional children (gifted with learning disabilities) frequently didn't exhibit characteristics of high intellect until later on due to their unique dichotomy. There were also brilliant children who didn't speak until they were 4 years of age or read until second grade. These students remained "undiscovered" and ended up performing below grade level convincing their districts that they needed remedial services. This apocryphal assumption frustrated parents because they knew that their child would excel if the "standard" curriculum and learning environment would challenge and engage them.
Village East Gifted® compiled the following list of common characteristics of giftedness observed by parents with babies and toddlers between 1 day old and 2 years of age:
1. Born with his/her "eyes wide open"
2. Preferred to be awake rather than asleep
3. Noticed his/her surroundings all the time
4. Grasped the "bigger picture" of things
5. Counted objects without using his/her fingers to point to them
6. Displayed a clever sense of humor or did "silly things" on purpose
7. Created handwritten books illustrated in great detail
8. Acted like "an adult in a child's body" (an "old soul")
9. Revealed artistic talent and a vivid imagination before 12 months of age
10. Demonstrated an "intensity" or seriousness about daily life
11. Conducted conversations using complete sentences
12. Utilized advanced vocabulary words s/he was never taught
13. Demonstrated an uncanny ability to remember past events, people, or places
14. Favored the company of adults
15. Built complex structures using Legos or bricks
16. Interested in how "things" worked
17. Retained new information without the need for constant repetition
18. Exhibited a sense of right and wrong and adamantly conveyed the importance of fairness
19. Enjoyed nonfiction books (loved the facts) more than award-winning children's literature
20. Showed an interest in learning another language (usually Mandarin or Spanish)
21. Asked for "homework" like his/her older siblings
22. Possessed an intuitive sense of people's feelings and reasons for their behaviors
23. Understood concepts of past, present, and future
24. Obsessed with certain topics, like unusual animals, volcanos, world maps, or the periodic table
25. Refrained from answering questions until s/he thought the response was "perfectly correct"
26. Observed, and reflected upon, relationships with people and experiences
27. Identified moods and motivations of book characters and applied the concepts to everyday life
28. Attempted playdates with same-age peers but gravitated toward his/her older siblings
29. Asked random philosophical questions like, "What is dirt made of?"
30. Sought any opportunity to be academically, intellectually, and creatively challenged
Helping Gifted Children Soar
Based on Village East Gifted® archives, for every twenty students, there are at least one or two gifted learners. Unfortunately, since the goal of public education is to ensure that all students have the opportunity to perform at grade level, the families of gifted children feel as if their child has been "left behind" because they are "fine".
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGF) clearly emphasizes that, "Although Federal law acknowledges that children with gifts and talents have unique needs that are not traditionally offered in regular school settings, it offers no specific provisions, mandates, or requirements for serving these children. Currently, gifted education is a purely local responsibility and is dependent on local leadership. Further, the NAGF believes that the future of gifted education relies on the ability of teachers, "to recognize a high-ability student who needs more depth and complexity in instruction or may need a referral for further assessment and services. Teachers in specialized programs for gifted learners or those who coordinate gifted and talented programs and services should be familiar with the theory, research, curriculum strategies, and educational practices necessary to develop and sustain high quality classroom-based opportunities for advanced student learning."
What now? Until our society reaches this level of awareness, it is your job, as a parent, to see if your school district or community has an enrichment program to meet your gifted child's needs—academically, intellectually and creatively. If so, without equivocation, that class will remain the highlight of your gifted child's educational experiences. But, it will not be enough. It is a life-long mission for families with gifted children to constantly enrich their children's minds 24/7. Rather than watching your baby memorize books or recall all the facts from a video about dwarf planets, find a place for this sagacious little person that challenges brilliant minds. Since academic complacency and boredom can start in daycare, start looking now.