What does gifted and talented mean?

Girl writing on blackboard
Has your child been identified as gifted and talented? Headteacher and G&T expert John Senior explains some of the characteristics of able children – and some of the parenting challenges they offer!

It will start with small things. Your son or daughter may read well before his or her friends. They may never stop babbling or talking (or they may never say a word). They may ask rather unusual questions, such as ‘Why can’t I see the world?’ or ‘Why can we see through glasses?’ You may be shocked by the extraordinary memory your child demonstrates, their mature interests and, frequently, a sense of humour well in advance of their years. If there is anything a bright child enjoys it is a pun – you have been warned!

What is a gifted child?

There is no typical ‘gifted and talented’ child. The accepted working definition in England and Wales defines ‘gifted’ as relating to pupils with abilities in one or more subjects in the statutory school curriculum; ‘talented’ as those who do well in art, music, PE, sport or creative art.

The absolute golden rule is to see your child as a complete person and not to focus on the definitions of the ‘gift’ (‘She’s brilliant at numbers’) or the ‘problem’ (‘He just won’t mix with other children’) or the ‘talent’ (‘...is a Wimbledon Champion in the making.’). Your child, like all children, is unique.

Don’t all parents think their children are brilliant?

Probably! Normally a child will be labelled as gifted and talented by a member of the teaching staff; test results plus educators’ and parents’ views will be the starting point for formal identification.

The following statements are sometimes used as a ‘checklist’ to help identify children who are very able – do a large number of them describe your child?

Solves problems in a creative way
Asks challenging questions
Sees connections between subject areas.
Demonstrates determination to ‘find the answer’
Shows an ability to achieve in a wide range of contexts
Communicates ideas and views in a clear and appropriate manner
Is particularly creative (likes to draw, paint, write, make)
Demonstrates particular physical ability
Demonstrates high levels of attainment across subject areas
Shows unusual levels of empathy and sensitivity with regard to others
Possesses extensive general knowledge with quick recall of information, facts and figures
Requires the minimum amount of explanation with new tasks or new concepts
Becomes impatient with slow explanations, grasps ideas quickly, wants to ‘get on with it’
Appreciates humour and visual/linguistic word play
When interested in an activity can become very absorbed over an unusually long period
Mental agility is often frustrated by physical capabilities
Sees unusual and surprising relationships rather than the obvious and conventional
Prefers talking to writing (which is a ‘slow’ form of communication)
Authoritarian behaviour is seldom accepted without an acceptable explanation

You'll find 30 enrichment activities to try out at home in our gifted and talented learning pack, or read more about the characteristics of gifted learners and how to spot your children's hidden gifts. John Senior's books on enrichment and supporting gifted and talented children are published by Optimus Education.