Special needs, especially Autism, and giftedness are not mutually exclusive. Due to intense interests and strong visual learning abilities, some children with Autism are also considered gifted. So what does it mean to be gifted?
Intellectual giftedness is usually defined as having a superior ability (compared to the general population) in one or more areas. Some characteristics of gifted children include intense curiosity, large vocabulary, strong moral compass and high emotional sensitivity. Of course, children who are not gifted can display one or more of these traits as well.
So how do you determine if your child is gifted. Children in the superior range of intelligence are usually given a cognitive assessment (an I.Q. test). These tests can be administered by a psychologist or a school guidance counsellor. One’s intelligence is set from a very early age – around 4 or 5. So, while your knowledge may increase over time, your intelligence level will not alter greatly.
Undertaking a cognitive assessment involves undertaking a number of subtests that assess verbal and non-verbal intelligence, problem-solving and reasoning abilities. A combined score of 100 is considered ‘average’ on a cognitive assessment. A score of 130 or above is considered in the gifted range. Children may score highly in one or more of the subtests. It is not unusual to be considered gifted in only one area e.g., verbal intelligence, but not in others.
Being classified as gifted on a cognitive assessment does not necessarily translate to academic success. For children on the Autism Spectrum, especially, a number of factors such as anxiety and sensory sensitivity can interfere with the ability to succeed in the school environment. A teacher that understands the nature of giftedness and is willing to differentiate the curriculum to cater for individual strengths and needs is likely to be the best match for a gifted child.
As a parent, it is important to educate yourself about the nature of giftedness, know your child’s rights in the school environment and to expose your child to a wide variety of experiences outside of school to ensure they are well-rounded individuals capable of succeeding in life.