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Could your child be gifted?

Boy looking through a magnifying glass
Does your child excel in academic subjects, on the sports field or with a musical instrument? We take a look at how to tell if they are exceptionally able – or just bright.

Every child is special and each has their own set of strengths – but some children stand out from the crowd and show exceptional skills, reaching developmental milestones way before other children their age.

“A bright but normal child will probably be above average in the classroom in all or a few of their subjects,” says psychologist Professor Joan Freeman, who specialises in the study and assessment of gifted children.

“A gifted child, however, usually has a certain quality – perhaps curiosity, a keen desire in creative work, a dedication to a subject of their choice, or maybe a powerful laser-like intelligence – which is obvious.”

Identifying a gifted learner

Historically, the term 'gifted' referred to children who excelled in some or all academic subjects, while 'talented' was used to describe those who had a flair for a non-academic area, like music, sport, drama or art.

Now, 'gifted and talented' is less widely used, but there's no single term to describe children who would have been labelled G&T. Some of the terms you might hear include:


  • High/higher/highest achiever
  • High ability
  • More/most able
  • High learning potential

There isn’t a set of government standards that your child has to meet to be considered gifted. However, some of the characteristics of an exceptionally able child are:

  • Being a good reader
  • Being very articulate or verbally fluent for their age
  • Giving quick verbal responses (which can appear cheeky)
  • Having a wide general knowledge
  • Learning quickly
  • Being interested in topics which one might associate with an older child
  • Communicating well with adults – often better than with their peer group
  • Having a range of interests, some of which are almost obsessions
  • Showing unusual and original responses to problem-solving activities
  • Preferring verbal to written activities
  • Being logical
  • Being self-taught in their own interest areas
  • Having an ability to work things out in their head very quickly
  • Having a good memory that they can access easily
  • Being artistic
  • Being musical
  • Excelling at sport
  • Having strong views and opinions
  • Having a lively and original imagination/sense of humour
  • Being very sensitive and aware
  • Focusing on their own interests rather than on what is being taught
  • Being socially adept
  • Appearing arrogant or socially inept
  • Becoming easily bored by what they perceive as routine tasks
  • Showing a strong sense of leadership
  • Not necessarily being well-behaved or well-liked by others

No child will have all of these characteristics; in fact, some contradict each other. 

If you feel you have an exceptionally able child on your hands, talk to their teacher about their abilities and how they compare to others in their class.

You may also want to have an assessment done, such as an IQ test with MENSA (only available to children aged 10.5 and over) or a full assessment with Potential Plus UK (for children aged 4.5 and over).

As well as confirming your own beliefs in your child's ability, their results might help you discuss the matter with their school to ensure they're receiving a quality of education that fits their needs.

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