What is Giftedness?

“Gifted and talented student” means a child or youth who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience or environment and who:

  1. exhibits high performance capability in an intellectual, creative or artistic area;
  2. possesses an unusual capacity for leadership; or
  3. excels in a specific academic field.

As defined in the Texas Education Code

Gifted Glossary

Informal Indicators of Giftedness

  • Walks and talks at an early age
  • Has a large and advanced vocabulary
  • Learns rapidly and easily
  • Reads at an early age
  • Demonstrates a great appetite for books and reading
  • Entertains self for large blocks of time
  • Has a long attention span
  • Readily retains a large amount of information
  • Consistently organizes, sorts, classifies and groups things, and names them
  • Has a heightened curiosity (asks ‘why’ often)
  • Fantasizes often
  • Is self-motivated, self-sufficient, and independent
  • Shows sensitivity to other people’s feelings and empathy in response to their troubles
  • Demonstrates leadership abilities
  • Exhibits perfectionism
  • Likes to discuss abstract concepts (such as love, justice, etc.)
  • Has a high energy, needing less sleep than age-mates
  • Learns new material rapidly
  • Loves puzzles, mazes, building blocks, and toys that challenge
  • Has an advanced sense of humor
  • Prefers the company of older children or adults
  • Is highly creative, imaginative
  • Is a keen observer
  • Expresses unusual sensitivity to what they see, hear, touch, smell or feel
  • Is widely informed, especially in areas of personal interest
  • Expresses concern for the world’s problems

Characteristics of Gifted Students

1. Verbal Proficiency

  • Large vocabulary
  • Facility of expression
  • Breadth of information
2. Power of Abstraction

  • Interest in inductive learning and problem solving
  • High level of conceptualization
  • Pleasure in intellectual activity
3. Intellectual Curiosity

  • Interest in a wide range of things
  • Willingness for complexity
  • Persistent pursuit of goals
4. Retentiveness/Power of Concentration

  • Intense attention
  • Retains and uses information
  • Long attention span
5. Independence/Goal Directed

  • Self-initiated student
  • Pursues individual interests
  • Seeks direction
6. Power of Critical Thinking

  • Self-criticism
  • Skepticism
  • Adept in analyzing strengths and weaknesses
7. Sensitivity/Intuitiveness

  • High level of awareness
  • Keenly observant
  • Emotional depth
8. Potential for Creativity

  • Inventiveness
  • Liking for new ways of doing things
  • Interest in brainstorming, freewheeling
9. Versatility/Virtuosity

  • Diversity of interests and abilities
  • Many hobbies
  • Proficiency in art forms such as music and drawing

From Raising Champions: A Parent’s Guide for Nurturing Their Gifted Children,
by Dr. Michael Sayler

Needs of the Gifted

Gifted and talented children often have vastly different characteristics, and are sometimes grouped accordingly. For example, although a violin prodigy has a great deal in common with a math whiz, their needs are quite different. It must be remembered that all gifted children share a common need for a strong, supportive person to help them develop their gifts and talents to full potential.

Needs of Academically Gifted Individuals

  • Varied outlets for intellectual curiosity
  • Opportunity to work with challenging situations and people
  • Expectations appropriate to ability
  • Opportunities to make wide application of knowledge
  • To study, discuss, and develop ideas within a responsive environment
  • To be valued as a unique individual, not stereotyped as “gifted” only
  • Training in constructive, responsible leadership
  • Thorough training in all facets of thinking
  • Assistance with reasonable, high standards of performance
  • Emotional support and peer acceptance
  • Help in dealing with frustration and inactivity

Needs of Creative Individuals

  • Opportunity to respond constructively to new situations
  • Freedom to question and examine the unusual, unknown, and puzzling
  • Opportunity to meet challenge and attempt difficult tasks
  • Preference for complexity
  • Willingness to take risks
  • To submerge oneself completely in a task
  • To be honest and search for truth
  • Urge to be different, unique, individual

Needs of Talented Individuals

  • Access to models in the area of talent
  • Development of skills to a high level
  • Feedback on success
  • Specific help in overcoming obstacles
  • Opportunity to progress at one’s own rate
  • Systematic teaching of techniques for changing oneself
  • Someone to study performance carefully and critique thoroughly
  • Assistance in setting a reasonable, high standard of achievement
  • Assistance with knowledge of how to tolerate frustration

Written by Thelma Epley

The Demands of Giftedness


  1. High level intelligence makes certain demands upon the gifted child.
  2. Behavior of gifted children results from these demands.
  3. There are curriculum implications inherent in these demands.

  1. To crave for knowledge – to satisfy the need to feel progress in what is being learned.
  2. To feel the need to focus on or devour a subject.
  3. To make observations; to see relationships.
  4. To place high standards on himself.
  5. To be creative or inventive; to seek an unusual or unique approach to an assignment.
  6. To question generalizations.
  7. To be serious-minded; to be intolerant (usually) of foolishness or silliness.
  8. To concentrate – to become totally absorbed in a task – to have a longer attention span.
  9. To explore wide interests at a maturity beyond his chronological age.
  10. To be sensitive to honor and truth.
  11. To express ideas and reactions. (Sometimes seen as argumentative)
  12. To resist routine, drill; to require unique ways of pursuing drill.
  13. To work alone.
  14. To be intolerant of stupidity.
  15. To seek order, structure, and consistency.
  16. To do critical, evaluative thinking. (May lead to critical attitude toward self and others)
  17. To be rarely satisfied with the simple and obvious.
  18. To be impatient with a sloppy or disorganized thinking.
  19. To have his intelligence responded to.
  20. To seek out his mental peers.
  21. To be friendly and outgoing.
  22. To use his power of abstraction; to see and point out cause-and-effect relationships.
  23. To have time for thinking – solitude.
  24. To pursue a learning pace of his own. (May be fast or slow)
  25. To be outstanding in several areas but average in some.

Developed by Jeanne Delp,
Consultant for Gifted, Garden Grove, California

The Challenges of Giftedness

Strengths Possible Problems
1. Acquires/retains information quickly 1. Impatient with others; dislikes routine
2. Inquisitive; searches for significance 2. Asks embarrassing questions
3. Intrinsic motivation 3. Strong-willed; resists direction
4. Enjoys problem solving; able to use abstract reasoning 4. Resists routine practice; questions use abstract reasoning procedures
5. Seeks cause-effect relations 5. Dislikes unclear/illogical areas (such as traditions or feelings)
6. Emphasizes truth, equity, and fair play 6. Worries about humanitarian concerns
7. Seeks to organize things and people 7. Constructs complicated rules; often seen as bossy
8. Large vocabulary; advanced, broad information 8. May use words to manipulate; bored with school and age-peers
9. High expectations of self and others 9. Intolerant, perfectionist; may become depressed
10. Creative/inventive; likes new ways of doing things 10. May be seen as disruptive and out of step
11. Intense concentration; long attention span; persistence in areas of interest 11. Neglects duties/people during periods of focus; seen as stubborn
12. Sensitivity, empathy, desire to be accepted 12. Sensitivity to criticism or peer rejection
13. High energy, alertness, eagerness 13. Frustration with inactivity, may be seen as hyperactive
14. Independent; prefers working solo; self-reliant 14. May reject parent or peer input; nonconformity
15. Diverse interests and abilities; versatility 15. May appear disorganized or scattered; frustrated over lack of time
16. Strong sense of humor 16. Peers may misunderstand humor; may become “class clown” for attention

Adapted from Clark (1992) and Seagoe (1972)