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Tips for Supporting Young Gifted Children by Catherine Gruener [Spark 2(1), p. 2, 9]

March 01, 2014 8:29 PM | Deleted user

Catherine is the owner and CEO of Gruener Consulting LLC.  She holds a Master’s degree in neuropsychology as well as a Master’s degree in counseling from the Adler School of Professional Psychology. She is a licensed clinical professional counselor, a national certified counselor, and holds certifications to teach Positive Discipline to parents and educators. She founded Gruener Consulting in order to positively affect the health and well-being of make about  children. Through Gruener Consulting LLC, Catherine offers counseling and therapy, individual and organizational consultations, not parent education, and presentations on quickly;  parenting, gifted children, and Positive Discipline. Her contact information:,, Tel: 872-216-5860


Characteristics of Young Gifted

While some gifted children go unnoticed until formal testing has taken place in the school system, there are gifted children that evidence characteristics from birth, characteristics that often last throughout their lifetimes. If I had to use only 2 words to label these characteristics, I would call them intensity and purpose.

The examples below are not all inclusive and are not tests of gifted, merely examples of descriptors offered by parents of later identi­fied gifted children from Deborah Ruf’s 5 Levels of Gifted (2009), and from anecdotes from other parents of identified gifted children.

In Infancy: makes eye contact soon after birth or within the first month; very alert (others make comments on this); early awareness when caregivers are out of the room (so much so that it causes immediate distress); shows purpose with toys; says first word within first 6 months (like boots or gorilla); seems to listen and follow directions (like understanding what is next in the routine); attends to activities that caregivers do (like watching TV or looking at books that caregivers are watching or read­ing).

In Toddlerhood: long attention spans; self-driven interest in letters, numbers, talking; uses puzzles and games that are beyond “age level;” counts, organizes colors, knows the alphabet, may spontaneously read; is tena­cious in doing his own thing and not wanting to stop; has an advanced sense of humor; attends to the feeling of others or is easily affected by the feelings of others.

In the Pre-School Years: catches mistakes and holds adults to their words (promises and changes in plans); becomes completely engrossed in a task (for play or purpose); prefers older children and adults;  is tenacious in doing tasks her way or when completing an undertaken task; becomes highly competitive or conversely withdrawn from others; becomes very talkative and inquisitive; loves to debate, reason and argue; tends to think ahead or make predictions which can lead to anxiety or fears; can become annoyed with others who don’t understand the rules; is very creative (which can seem like manipulation); can become very focused when performing a task and can voice concerns about own skill (throwing crayons and destroying work because his drawing doesn’t look like the drawing either in their mind or in the picture).

In Kindergarten: others make comments about child's skills (if not before); takes information in very quickly; has a huge vocabulary; reads simple books or chapter books because of self-interest; shows interest in more mature subjects (death, natural disasters, meaning of life); has a huge memory for facts, events, and information; conceptualizes and theorizes; does complex puzzles or games that are very advanced; displays a need to engage others in meaningful ways or conversations that interest her (that are often way beyond age level).

Characteristics: Blessings and Curses

Saunders and Espeland (1986) in Bringing out the Best (1986) describe the gifted child as the “child of extremes-in talents and abilities, mood shifts, demands, and delights,” (pg. 37). Often, the very characteristic that is prized can turn out to become problematic, either in the here and now, or in later development. Where high verbal proficiency makes for great conversations and a huge vocabulary, once in a school setting children can seem like they talk too much or talk above the level of their peers. Long attention spans are great for wrapping oneself up in an area of interest and finding that flow, but in extremes can result in tunnel vision, a resistance to move onto a new task, or overextension of one’s energies. Quick understanding and exceptional memories can turn, at the extreme, into frustration with multi-step issues or a propensity to believe that everything in life should or will come so quickly. Divergent thinking and creativity, the intricate worlds, stories, and imagination are wonderful for viewing the complex layers of the world, but in extremes can lead to rejection of the norm, escape into fantasy or a resistance to the simple.

What seems like blessings in any child can become problematic in the “extreme” gifted child. Many parents of gifted children state that they feel “different” from the rest of the population, and are faced with unique challenges (Saunders & Espeland, 1986). The following are helpful tips for parents of young gifted.

Tips for Parents of Young Gifted

Your child is your child, not a label. Parents’ reactions to the label of gifted can range from panic and fear to outright refusal of the term. No matter where you fall within the spectrum, always remember that your child is a unique being with strengths and weak­nesses, that you don’t need to know every­thing to be their parent, and that connection and encouragement are the most important aspects of all that you will do with your children

Take parenting one step at a time. It can be overwhelming to parent a high needs, intense, “extreme” child. Take time to take care of yourself and your adult relationships. Use humor. If you find yourself reacting to things rather than being proactive, it is a sign that you need to take some time to regroup, rest, reassess, or plan a new way of approaching this job of parenting.

Seek out others. Being different, an outlier, can create feelings of isolation or of being alone on your parenting journey. Join parent groups, go to seminars specifically directed for gifted children, join online groups, connect with parents at enrichment classes, or connect with other parents at your local gifted PTA or organization (if your school has one). Resources like these can be found through CGCC.

It’s OK to be different. Gifted children can feel isolated and alone too. They can sense that they are different and that others don’t get them. Help them develop a sense of belonging. We all need to feel as though we belong in our communities. Our first commu­nity is family. Support them in finding belong­ing and significance at home (helping with chores, reading together, scheduling family fun time each week). Then find them at least one or two more children who share similar interests (look to enrichment courses, parent clubs, private gifted schools, local special interest classes). If you can’t find a club that meets your child’s need, talk with CGCC and see if they can help you organize one.

Seek out support. Gifted children have special needs. Often these needs are in educational settings, but sometimes in social and spiritual areas as well. If your child or your family is struggling, consider seeking help from a pediatrician, a child psychiatrist, or mental health professional familiar with the issues of gifted children. Lists of professionals familiar with gifted children can be found through IAGC and SENG, but do not be deterred from asking local professionals for help in specific areas that you need. Call the providers and ask if they have had experience with the issues that you are struggling with, and then ask if they have experience or knowledge of gifted children.  


Posted retroactively on March 13, 2015. 

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