What We Have Learned About Gifted
1979 - 2007
Sent to me by Helen Ray, Henry County Schools
Linda Silverman, Ph.D., Director
Gifted Development Center
Gifted Development Center has been in operation since June, 1979, and we
have assessed over 5200 children in the last 28 years. By concentrating
totally on the gifted population, we have acquired a considerable amount of
knowledge about the development of giftedness. In 1994-1995, three noted
researchers spent post-doctoral internships assisting us in coding our
clinical data to enable statistical analysis: Drs. Frank Falk and Nancy
Miller of the University of Akron, and Dr. Karen Rogers of the University
of St. Thomas. Here are some of the highlights of what we have learned so
Parents are excellent identifiers of giftedness in their
children: 84% of 1,000 children whose parents felt that they exhibited 3/4
of the traits in our Characteristics of Giftedness Scale tested in
the superior or gifted range. Over 95% demonstrated giftedness in at least
one area, but were asynchronous in their development, and their weaknesses
depressed their IQ scores.
Giftedness can be observed in the first three years by rapid
progression through the developmental milestones. These milestones should
be documented and taken seriously as evidence of giftedness. Early
identification of advanced development is as essential as early
identification of any other exceptionality. Early intervention promotes
optimal development in all children.
When parents fail to recognize a child’s gifts, teachers may
overlook them as well. Rita Dickinson (1970) found that half of the
children she tested with IQs of 132 or above were referred for behavior
problems and not seen as gifted by their teachers or parents. Parent
advocacy is critical for gifted children’s emotional and academic growth.
Associate Director, Bobbie Gilman’s award-winning book, Empowering
Gifted Minds: Educational Advocacy that Works, can guide parents in
effectively advocating for their children.
Children and adults can be assessed at any age. However, the
ideal age for testing is between 5 and 8 years. By the age of 9, highly
gifted children may hit the ceiling of the tests, and gifted girls may be
socialized to hide their abilities. Unless they are absolutely certain they
are right, gifted girls are often unwilling to guess, which lowers their IQ
Brothers and sisters are usually within five or ten points in
measured ability. Parents' IQ scores are often within 10 points of their
children's; even grandparents' IQ scores may be within 10 points of their
grandchildren's. We studied 148 sets of siblings and found that over 1/3
were within five points of each other, over 3/5 were within 10 points, and
nearly 3/4 were within 13 points. When one child in the family is
identified as gifted, the chances are great that all members of the family
Second children are recognized as gifted much less frequently than
first-borns or only children. They often go in the opposite direction of
their older siblings and are less likely to be achievement oriented. Even
the first-born identical twin has a greater chance of being accepted in a
gifted program than the second-born!
IQ testing in childhood clearly demonstrates the equality of
intelligence between males and females. Until the IQ test was developed,
most of society believed in the “natural superiority of males.” Even now,
the fact that most of the eminent are men leads some to believe that males
are innately more intelligent than females. On the contrary, we have found
more than 100 girls with IQ scores above 180. The highest IQ score on
record at our Center was attained by a girl, and four of the five highest
scores were earned by girls. However, parents are more likely to bring
their sons for assessment and overlook their daughters. From 1979 to 1989,
57% of the children brought for testing were male, and 43% were female,
whereas 51% above 160 IQ were male and 49% female (see chart). Now, 60% of
our clients are male and 40% female, which matches the distribution in the
highest IQ ranges.
above 160 IQ
above 160 IQ
1990 – 2007
1979 – 2007
Gifted girls and gifted boys have different coping mechanisms
and are likely to face different problems. Gifted girls hide their
abilities and learn to blend in with other children. In elementary school
they direct their mental energies into developing social relationships; in
junior high school they are valued for their appearance and sociability
rather than for their intelligence. Gifted boys are easier to spot, but they
are often considered “immature" and may be held back in school if they
cannot socialize with children their own age with whom they have no common
Gifted children are asynchronous. Their development tends to
be uneven, and they often feel out-of-sync with age peers and with
age-based school expectations. They are emotionally intense and have
greater awareness of the perils of the world. They may not have the
emotional resources to match their cognitive awareness. They are at risk
for abuse in environments that do not respect their differences.
This asynchrony is often seen in large discrepancies between
index scores on the fourth edition of the Wechsler
Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV). In these cases,
the Full Scale IQ score should not be used to
select gifted students for programs. Instead, the General Ability Index
(GAI), which omits Working Memory and Processing Speed, provides a better
estimate of the child’s reasoning ability. The GAI has been endorsed by the
National Association for Gifted Children Task Force on Assessment.
The fifth edition of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (SB5) measures mathematical
and visual-spatial abilities better than abstract verbal reasoning abilities.
When the SB5 is used for selection of gifted students for programs, the
cut-off score for admission should be lowered to 120 IQ. Different scoring
options are available for gifted children, including Rasch-ratio
scores. The publisher permits the administration of the older version of
the Stanford-Binet (Form L-M) to
assess abstract verbal abilities, especially in exceptionally gifted
children, and recommends that it be administered in conjunction with the
SB5 so that various scores can be compared (Carson & Roid, 2004).
Creative children, culturally diverse children, mathematically
talented children, children with attention deficits, highly gifted
children, learning disabled children, and underachievers often are
visual-spatial learners who require different teaching methods.
Visual-spatial learners usually think in pictures or rely on “sensing” or
feeling, whereas auditory-sequential learners usually think in words.
Typical educational strategies are a better match for auditory-sequential
learners than for visual-spatial learners. We have developed methods of
identifying this learning pattern and effective strategies for teaching
visual-spatial learners. Our Visual-Spatial Identifier
can be used with entire school districts or classes, as well
as individually. Our resources include Upside-Down
Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, Raising
Topsy-Turvy Kids, If
You Could See the Way I Think, and The
Visual-Spatial Classroom: Differentiation Strategies that Engage Every
Learner. Please visit www.VisualSpatial.org for free information
about visual-spatial learners.
Gifted children have better social adjustment in classes with
children like themselves. The brighter the child, the lower his or her
social self-concept is likely to be in the regular classroom. Social
self-concept improves when children are placed with true peers in special
Perfectionism, sensitivity and intensity are three personality
traits associated with giftedness. They are derived from the complexity of
the child's cognitive and emotional development. According to Dabrowski's theory, these traits—related to overexcitabilities—are indicative of potential for high
moral values in adult life. The brighter the child, the earlier and more
profound may be his or her concern with moral issues. But this potential
usually does not develop in a vacuum. It requires nurturing in a supportive
15. About 60% of gifted
children are introverted compared with 30% of the general population.
Approximately 75% of highly gifted children are introverted. Introversion
correlates with introspection, reflection, the ability to inhibit
aggression, deep sensitivity, moral development, high academic achievement,
scholarly contributions, leadership in academic and aesthetic fields in
adult life, and smoother passage through midlife; however, it is very
likely to be misunderstood and "corrected" in children by
Mildly, moderately, highly, exceptionally and profoundly
advanced children are as different from each other as mildly, moderately,
severely and profoundly delayed children are from each other, but the
differences among levels of giftedness are rarely recognized.
There are far more exceptionally gifted children in the
population than anyone realizes. Approximately 18% of the 5,200+ children
we have assessed in the last 28 years are exceptionally gifted, with IQ
scores above 160 IQ. As of January 20, 2007, we found 933 children above
160 IQ, including 247 above 180 IQ and 67 above 200 IQ. We have entered
massive data on 241 of these children—the largest sample in this IQ range
ever to be studied (Rogers & Silverman, 1997). Only two comprehensive
studies have been published to date on children in these ranges. Leta Hollingworth (1942)
found 12 children above 180 IQ between 1916 and 1939 and Miraca Gross (1993; 2004) studied 60 Australian
children with IQ scores above 160.
Many cases of underachievement are linked to chronic early ear
infections (9 or more in the first three years), with residual effects of
auditory sequential processing deficits and attentional
problems. Spelling, arithmetic, handwriting, rote memorization, attention,
and motivation to do written work are all typically
Gifted children may have hidden learning disabilities.
One-sixth of the gifted children who come to the Center for testing have
some type of learning disability—often undetected before the
assessment—such as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD),
difficulties with visual processing, sensory processing disorder, spatial
disorientation, dyslexia, and attention deficits. Giftedness masks
disabilities and disabilities depress IQ scores. Higher abstract reasoning
enables children to compensate to some extent for these weaknesses, making
them harder to detect. However, compensation requires more energy, affects
motivation, and breaks down under stress or when the child is fatigued.
Gifted/learning-disabled children and visual-spatial learners
usually have at least one parent with the same learning pattern.
Visual-spatial learners and children with dual exceptionalities tend to get
smarter as they get older and often become successful adults.
Difficult birth histories, such as long labor, heads too large
for the birth canal, four or more hours of Pitocin
to induce labor, emergency C-sections, cords wrapped around any part of the
infant’s body, and oxygen at birth, can lead to sensory processing disorder
(SPD). Parents, teachers, and pediatricians should be alerted that the
critical period for ameliorating sensory-motor deficits is from birth to
age seven. When gross or fine motor weaknesses are seen, pediatric
occupational therapy should be sought immediately, rather than waiting for
the child to “outgrow” the problem.
Giftedness is not elitist. It cuts across all socio-economic,
ethnic and national groups (Dickinson, 1970). In every culture, there are
developmentally advanced children who have greater abstract reasoning and
develop at a faster rate than their age peers. Though the percentage of
gifted students among the upper classes may be higher, a much greater
number of gifted children come from the lower classes, because the poor far
outnumber the rich (Zigler & Farber, 1985).
Therefore, when provisions are denied to the gifted on the basis that they
are "elitist," it is the poor who suffer the most. The rich have
The more egalitarian gifted programs attempt to be, the less
defensible they are. Children in the top and bottom three percent of the
population have atypical developmental patterns and require differentiated
instruction. Children in the top and bottom 10 percent of the population
are not statistically or developmentally different from children in the top
and bottom 15 percent, and it is not justifiable to single them out for
special treatment. More and more school districts are realizing this in
this new millennium, and are providing in-depth services for those who need
them the most. Self-contained, multi-age programs for the gifted and
radical acceleration are gaining in popularity.
& Roid, G. (2004). Acceptable
use of the Stanford-Binet Form L-M: Guidelines
use of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale,
Third Edition (Form L-M). Itasca, IL: Riverside
Dickinson, R. M. (1970). Caring for the
gifted. North Quincy, MA: Christopher.
J. (2003). Empowering gifted minds: Educational advocacy that works. Denver:
Golon, A. (2004). Raising
topsy-turvy kids: Successfully parenting your visual-spatial child.
Golon, A.S. (2005). If
you could see the way I think: A handbook for visual-spatial kids. Denver:
Golon, A.S. (2006). The
visual-spatial classroom: Differentiation strategies that engage every
U.M. (2004). Exceptionally gifted children. (2nd
Ed.). London: Routledge Falmer.
Hollingworth, L. S. (1942). Children
above 180 IQ Stanford-Binet: Origin and
Yonkers-on-Hudson, NY: World
B., & Silverman, L. K. (1997, November 7). Personal,
medical, social and
factors in 160+ IQ children. National Association for
Gifted Children 44th Annual
Convention, Little Rock, AK. [Summary
of data available on-line at
L. K. (2002). Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner. Denver: DeLeon.
Zigler, E., & Farber, E. A.
(1985). Commonalities between the intellectual extremes: Giftedness
retardation. In F. D. Horowitz & M. O'Brien (Eds.), The
gifted and the talented:
Developmental perspectives (pp.
387-408). Washington, DC: American Psychological