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Gifted Definition, Characteristics, and Resources

May 4, 2011

Lori Higgins of the Detroit Free Press wrote an article five years back titled FROM GIFTED TO AT RISK: Money for Michigan’s Brightest Students Dwindles: Parents Choose Homeschooling, Private Schools.  In it, she talks about how funding for gifted education has been severely cut and many parents are choosing to switch to private schools or homeschooling to meet the needs of their gifted children.  Since then we have seen even more cuts in gifted education as budgets get even tighter and many parents of gifted students often don’t advocate for gifted education as loudly as parents of children in other programs being cut.

This, of course, has had detrimental effects on gifted students.  From the article, “Left unchallenged, though, gifted children can falter, advocates say. They become bored in school. They become at risk of dropping out. A widely cited study from 1991 found 1 in 5 dropouts was considered gifted. ”  We are also made to feel that our children are a tiny portion of school population and overlooked for the greater good.  But experts say generally 5% to 7% of the school population is gifted and about 2% of children are profoundly gifted.  I would guess that given the district demographics of Rochester Community Schools, we are looking at 10-15% of the school population being gifted.  Unfortunately, our district does not test for giftedness.

Lori has some statistics worth quoting and also provides definitions of a gifted child, characteristics to help recognize giftedness, and resources for gifted students.

Who’s gifted?

States have their definitions of gifted, and the federal government has its definition. Here’s what they look for:


Elementary and secondary school students who may be considered outstanding in school achievement or those who have remarkable abilities in particular areas of human endeavor, including the arts and the humanities.


Children or youth who demonstrate high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the schools to fully develop those capabilities.

Source: Michigan Compiled Laws, National Association for Gifted Children

General traits of gifted children

Characteristics of gifted children vary, often depending on just how accelerated a child is. But here are some things to look for:

* Reasons well.

* Learns rapidly.

* Has extensive vocabulary.

* Has an excellent memory.

* Has a long attention span if interested.

* Is sensitive, has easily hurt feelings.

* Shows compassion.

* Is a perfectionist.

* Is intense.

* Is morally sensitive.

* Has strong curiosity.

* Perseveres in interests.

* Has high degree of energy.

* Prefers older companions or adults.

* Has a wide range of interests.

* Has a great sense of humor.

* Is an early or avid reader or, if very young, loves being read to.

* Concerned with justice and fairness.

* Shows mature judgment for age at times.

* Is a keen observer.

* Has a vivid imagination.

* Is highly creative.

* Tends to question authority.

* Is good with numbers.

* Good at jigsaw puzzles.

Source: Gifted Development Center, Institute for the Study of Advanced Development

Where to get help

Parents with concerns about their gifted child, or who are looking for information about gifted programs can check out these resources:

  • Michigan Alliance for Gifted Education, Click on Chapters to see if your community has an organization for parents of gifted children. The group also has an e-mail list for parents, educators, or anyone interested in gifted education. Call 616-365-8230.  Rochester SAGE is not currently an affiliate of the Michigan Alliance for Gifted Education, but may become one in the future.
  • National Association for Gifted Children, a national advocacy group for gifted education,
  • Hoagies Gifted Education Page, a resource on gifted education,
  • Davidson Institute for Talent Development, an organization dedicated to recognizing, nurturing and supporting profoundly gifted children,
  • Genius Denied, a Web site with information about the book by the same name and also other resources,

Do you have a favorite gifted resource?  List it in the comments!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. kimberly permalink
    May 6, 2011 6:29 PM

    I live in Vermont and have two young “gifted” children. I am learning that there is no funding in Vermont for supporting their education needs. Fortunately, their school has a wonderful administrator and faculty–willing to work with their needs and find ways to engage them. I am lucky. However, I know there are children in this state that aren’t as fortunate as mine in this regard. I’d like to work to advocate for gifted funding in this state. I’m not sure where to start.

  2. May 9, 2011 8:13 PM

    Kimberly, first I would start by finding like-minded parents of gifted students. It helps to let the state know that there is a need affecting multiple students. Second, there are no- or low-cost gifted options and those might be the ones to pursue with your representative or your state board of education.

    One suggestion is clustering gifted students in a single classroom at each school under the tutelage of teacher who has taken classes on instructing gifted students. This allows one teacher to prepare a lesson plan for a number of students instead of multiple teachers preparing plans for 1 or 2 students.

    Another is a magnet school or magnet classroom for gifted students. While this may sound expensive, many school districts implement this with just the standard per-pupil funding.

    A third suggestion is partial acceleration. While students remain in their grade classroom for most of the day, they would go to a higher grade classroom for certain subjects.

    A fourth option is easier grade-skipping. Some school districts make it very difficult to skip a grade by having high standards. Instead, the state may have easier requirements.

    With these options, schools do not need additional funding for gifted. There would only need to be a mandate from the state to provide gifted education. I think many states are not willing to take on additional funding at this time, even for a great cause.

    Vermont really has no gifted legislation nor funding at this time. See

    I would also check out the Vermont Council for Gifted Education at

    I wish I could help you out more. Unfortunately, Michigan is essentially in the same boat.

    • Kimberly permalink
      May 9, 2011 8:48 PM

      Thank you, Joshua. Great ideas. I particularly appreciate the idea of starting with like-minded parents. I’m not sure that would have ever occurred to me, and it is an obvious first step!

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