I don't remember ever subscribing to Parenting magazine, but somehow it keeps appearing in my mailbox. This month, though, I got over my grumpiness that a magazine called "Parenting" addresses only moms long enough to open to the feature well where, lo and behold, there was a feature called "Is Your Child Gifted?" I was glad I read it, because this was probably one of the most straightforward, non-hyped articles for a general audience about gifted children that I've read in awhile.
The answer to the title question? Probably not! "All kids are special, but not all are gifted," author Paula Spencer (full disclosure: an acquaintance of mine) notes. "Gifted has become one of the most tossed-about words in the parenting lexicon. Unfortunately -- sorry, but let's get this out of the way right up front -- it's also one of the most misused. The vast majority of children are not gifted. Only 2-5 percent of kids fit the bill, by various estimates. Of those, only one in 100 is considered highly gifted. Prodigies (those wunderkinds who read at 2 and go to college at 10) are rarer still -- like one to two in a million. And despite the boom in infant-stimulation techniques, educational DVDs, learning toys, and enrichment classes, those numbers haven't been increasing. You can't build giftedness; it's mostly built in."
Paula goes on to describe various myths of giftedness: that all gifted kids are nerds or geeks, that all eager learners are gifted ("all young children are naturally eager learners"), and that gifted kids are good at everything. She dispels the idea that prodigies are created by parents who push them. "Most true prodigies push their parents to keep up," she says, and she notes that gifted kids do not necessarily become superstar adults. Personality has as much to do with it as anything else.
While the article is mostly written for a general audience, she does give a list of signs of potential giftedness for moms (sorry, "parents") who read the piece and still wonder if there's something different going on with their kids. These signs are dead on accurate -- a preference for older children, for instance, a less-than-typical need for adult guidance in activities, and an interest in seeing patterns. But most endearing to me is that she even gets the nearly throwaway details right. For instance, she notes that IQ tests can be used as part of gifted identification, and that "testing between ages 4 and 9 is optimal." Since plenty of schools don't even consider identification until 3rd grade, this note to parents that earlier testing has its place will be extremely helpful to any parent who reads the article, checks off the early signs for a child, and then wonders what to do about sending an avid reader to kindergarten.
I don't think I'll become a regular Parenting reader (I learned in other articles that I was endangering my child by putting him in the shopping cart seat and cutting his fingernails with an adult nail clipper) but it's always nice to see articles about giftedness that present the issues clearly.