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Giftedness Defined: Welcome

There is as yet no universally agreed-upon standard definition of giftedness. Giftedness, intelligence, and talent are fluid concepts, and definitions and assessments of these traits are hotly debated topics. Many of these children have asynchrony, which is uneven development, such as having cognitive abilities surpass motor or emotional development.  For instance, the child may be able intellectually to understand abstract concepts but unable to deal with those concepts emotionally.

The federal government developed a guideline in the 1972 Marland Report to Congress, which has been modified several times since. That definition, which is located in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, states “Students, children, or youth who give evidence of 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 school in order to fully develop those capabilities”.  States and districts, however, are not required to use the federal definition, although many states base theirs on the federal definition.

The Columbus Group (1991), in an attempt to more adequately define the essence of giftedness as separate from achievement, defines giftedness “as 'asynchronous development' in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally”.

IQ is often used as the basic measure for giftedness. The most common standardized tests used to measure intelligence are the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test and the Wechsler Scales of Intelligence.  Ranges are based on a standard bell curve. Most people fall in the range between 85 and 115, with 100 the absolute norm. The farther away from the absolute norm of 100 a child is, the greater the need for special educational accommodations, regardless of whether the distance is on the left or right of 100.

The California Association for the Gifted (CAG) website (, under frequently asked questions, expertly answers the question “Why is raising a gifted child so challenging?”:

“Gifted children often exhibit unique social and emotional needs that may include a strong sense of justice, extreme idealism, moral intensity, perfectionism, hypersensitivity, and unreasonably high expectations for themselves and others. They can be emotionally hypersensitive, such as to criticism, and/or physically hypersensitive, such as to touch and smell. Some may appear to be perpetual motion machines or show wide swings in mood and maturity.

Their vast emotional range can make them appear contradictory – aggressive and timid, mature and immature, arrogant, and compassionate – depending on the situation. They may push the limits of rules at home and school, challenge their parents and teachers with constant questioning and engage in risky behavior. The discrepancies between their physical, emotional, and intellectual development make parenting and teaching gifted children especially challenging.”

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