Is Your Child Gifted     Pre-schoolers   Developmental norms      Keeping a journal
Characteristics           School age
 Note:  This is an unattributable article discovered in the file system of the GCABC.  It appears to be an article written in the early 1980's in the U.S. and is reprinted here due to parent requests for information on early childhood developmental norms.  If you can help us track down any of the sources quoted, please let us know!

Also, many parents are unaware that toy labels with age ranges may not necessarily relate to developmental stages but are often listed due to size of pieces and legal liability issues. 

Lesley Ansell-Shepherd,  president Gifted Children's Association of B.C.

Article from:
Somewhere to Turn: Strategies for Parents of the Gifted and Talented,
Eleanor G. Hall & Nancy Skinner.  (reprinted from the files of the GCABC, believe this is from  (Somewhere to turn: strategies for parents of the gifted and talented children. New York: Teachers College Press, 1980.)

How to Determine If Your Child Is Gifted

It is obvious from parent interviews and research in the field that the gifted child defies being pigeonholed into any classification that may be constructed.  Many of these children do exhibit their abilities early, and early identification is very important.  It increases the likelihood that their emotional and educational needs will be met once they are discovered.  Others, however, do not show their abilities until the middle elementary grades or later, so the identification process must be continuous.

Without proper identification, programming, and support, gifted children may begin regressing, hiding their abilities and developing personality changes by kindergarten.  Yet it is not surprising that many parents are unable to determine advanced development, for they often do not know the rate at which average children develop and have no basis for comparison.  They need some indication of "normal" development rates if they are to be better predictors of giftedness.  Normal development rates, however, are but averages arid subject to wide variation.  Parents who take them too literally, or believe signs of giftedness must appear in all areas, have mistakenly been led to conclude that their child isn't gifted because of slowness in one or more areas.  The areas, as one survey (Frinier, 1978) of mistaken parents showed, can be talking late (an individual who began talking at age three and earned a Ph.D. in physics at age 22), walking late (alone at 20 months), late toilet training (said to be a common area), no interest in books or in learning to read until taught in first grade, and no interest in school work.  Some of the parents were quite surprised to learn that their child was gifted.  Having one child identified as gifted often helps parents to pick up such traits in their other children, but it has also led them to believe gifted siblings were average just because they were not as highly gifted. 

Thus narrative descriptions of some of the characteristics of the gifted and parental comment and elaboration, along with developmental rates, are provided to give parents of possibly gifted children more information upon which to form an opinion.

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At Pre-school Age

The following development guidelines. Table I, for normal average children were compiled from a variety of developmental timetables, including the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, the Gesell Developmental Schedules, and the Slosson Intelligence Test.  Your child need not be advanced in all areas to be considered gifted.  However, if your child is about 30 percent more advanced than average on most items in at least one section of the table - in general motor ability, fine motor ability, or cognitive language - there is reason to believe that he or she may be gifted or talented.  For example, if an average child sits up alone at seven months, a child 30 percent more advanced would do so 2.10 months earlier (7 mos. x .30 = 2.10 mos.) or at 4.9 months of age (7 mos. - 2.1 mos. = 4.9 mos.)

Table I: Developmental Guidelines
General Motor Ability Normal Months 30% more        advanced
Lifts chin up when lying stomach down    1     0.7
Holds up both head and chest    2     1.4
Rolls over    3     2.1
Sits up with support    4     2.8
Sits alone     7     4.9
Stands with help     8    5.6
Stands holding on      9     6.3
Creeps     II     7.7
Stands alone well     II     7.7
Walks alone    12.5     8.75
Walks, creeping is discarded    15    10.5
Creeps up stairs    15    10.5
Walks up stairs    18    12.6
Seats self in chair    18    12.6
Turns pages of book    18    12.6
Walks down stairs one hand held    21    14.7
Walks up stairs holds rail    21    14.7
Runs well, no falling     24    16.8
Walks up and down stairs alone    24    16.8
Walks on tiptoe    30    21.0
Jumps with both feet    30    21.0
Alternates feet when walking up stairs    36    25.2
Jumps from bottom step    36    25,2
Rides tricycle using pedals    36    25.2
Skips on one foot only    48    33.6
Throws ball    48    33.6
Skips alternating feet    60    42.0
Fine Motor Ability
Grasps handle of spoon but lets go quickly      1      0.7
Vertical eye co-ordination      1      0.7
Plays with rattle      3      2.1
Manipulates a ball, is interested in detail      6      4.2
Pulls string adaptively      7      4.9
Shows hand preference      8      5.6
Holds object between fingers and thumb      9      6.3
Holds crayon adaptively     11      7.7
Pushes car alone     11      7.7
Scribbles spontaneously     13      9.1
Drawing imitates stroke     15    10.5
Folds paper once imitatively    21    14.7
Drawing imitates V stroke and circular stroke     24    16.8
Imitates V and H strokes     30    21.0
Imitates bridge with blocks     36    25.2
Draws person with two parts     48    33.6
Draws unmistakable person with body     60    42.0
Copies triangle     60    42.0
Draws person with neck, hands, clothes     72    50.4
Cognitive Language
Social smile at people      1.5      1.05
Vocalizes four times or more      1.6      1.12
Visually recognizes mother      2      1.4
Searches with eyes for sound      2.2      1.54
Vocalizes two different sounds      2.3      1.61
Vocalizes four different syllables      7      4.9
Says "da-da" or equivalent      7.9       5.53
Responds to name, no-no      9      6.3
Looks at pictures in book     10      7.0
Jabbers expressively     12      8.4
Imitates words     12.5      8.75
Has speaking vocabulary of three words, other than ma-ma and da-da     14      9.8
Has vocabulary of 4-6 words including names     15    10.5
Points to one named body part     17    11.9
Names one object (What is this?)     17.8    12.46
Follows direction to put object in chair    17.8    12.46
Has vocabulary of 10 words    18     12.6
Has vocabulary of 20 words    21    14.7
Combines two or three words spontaneously    21    14.7
Jargon is discarded 3 word sentences    24    16.8
Uses I, me, you     24    16.8
Names three or more objects on a picture    24    16.8
Is able to identify 5 or more objects    24    16.8
Gives full name    30    21.0
Names 5 objects on a picture    30    21.0
Identifies 7 objects    30    21.0
Is able to tell what various objects are used for    30    21.0
Counts (enumerates) objects to three    36    25.2
Identifies the sexes    36    25.2

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Parents may elect to keep a journal recording the history of their child's physical, mental, and emotional development.  The more accurate and specific the record, the more useful it will be.  For example, instead of noting "Bobby learned to walk at one year of age," a more specific record would be, "At ten months, one week of age, Bobby began to take a few steps at a time without support.  He would take a few steps, stop, and start again, then drop down and crawl the rest of the way." The following guide suggests the kinds of information useful to include in such a journal.

Physical conditions and history

Prenatal period and birth

  • Mother's health during pregnancy
  • Condition of birth
  • Normal or premature birth
  • Early developmental signs
    • Age of holding head erect
    • Age of teething
    • Crawling
    • Pulling up to standing position
    • Age of walking
    • Self-help skills - feeding, dressing, and the like
    Physical characteristics and health Height and weight chart for continued growth
    • Right or left handed
    • Physical impairments, if any 
    • Record of childhood diseases
    • Injuries
    Language development                back to top

    Age of talking 

    • Number of words
    • Putting wards 'together to make sentences
    • Length of sentences and comprehension
    Age of learning to read
    • Able to recognize words
    • Reads sentences left to right
    Other skills 
    • Reading interests
    • Hobbies
    • Other
    Conditions related to emotional development

    Signs of nervousness

    • Sleepwalking, tummy aches, nail biting, bedwetting
    • Fearfulness, shyness, nightmares
    Social development
    • Tantrums - at what age and frequency?
    • Who are his or her playmates? 
    • How do they play?
    • What does he or she do for recreation
    Educational experiences                  back to top
    • Age when entering school
    • Level of cognitive functioning
    • Test scores of achievement or aptitude
    • Reports from teachers
    • Parent teacher conferences
    A summary statement of the child in general
    • Strengths
    • Underdeveloped areas
    • Problems
    • Sources of assistance in your area
    Some characteristics to look for, if you suspect your child is gifted, may be found in the various lists that have been compiled.  One, developed by Dorothy Sisk (1977) shows the kind of specific detail worth recording. It includes, along with some examples drawn from older children by way of illustration, the following: 

    Early use of advanced vocabulary. 
    Most children at age two make sentences like: "There's a doggie."  A two year old who is gifted might say, "There's a brown doggie in the backyard and he's sniffing our flower."

    Keen observation and curiosity
    A gifted child might pursue lines of questioning such as, "What makes Scotch tape sticky on one side and smooth on the other? How can they make a machine that puts on the sticky part without getting the machine all gummed up? Why doesn't the sticky side stay stuck to the other, side when you unroll the tape?"
    A gifted child will also observe details.  At a very young age the child might remember where all the toys go on the shelf and replace everything correctly.

    Retention of a variety of information.
    Gifted children amaze parents and teachers by recalling details of past experiences.  For example, one six year old returned from a trip to the space museum and reproduced an accurate drawing of a space rocket he had seen.

    Periods of intense concentration.
    A one year old gifted child might sit for five minutes or more listening attentively to a story being read to an older brother or sister.  Older gifted children can become engrossed in a book or project, totally oblivious to the events happening around them.

    Ability to understand complex concepts, perceive relationships, and think abstractly. Although an average four year old looks through a picture book of baby and mother animals with interest, a gifted four year old is more likely to observe concepts such as how much animal mothers and babies look alike except that the baby is smaller.  If a fifth grade class were told to write a paper on what it's like to be poor, most of the children would write, "I would be hungry" or "I wouldn't have enough money."  A gifted fifth grader would tend to view the problem more abstractly and might write something like, "Being poor would only be a problem if others were not poor.  If everyone else also had very little money, then we would all have less to spend and things would be cheaper."

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    A broad and changing spectrum of interests.
    Gifted children often show an intense interest in a subject, perhaps dinosaurs, one month, then turn to a totally different subject such as French literature or railroad engines the next.

    Strong critical thinking skills and self-criticism.
    Gifted children evaluate themselves and others.  They notice discrepancies between what people say and what they do.  But they are usually most critical of themselves.  For example, a gifted child who has just won a swimming race might complain, "I should have beat my time by at least one second."

    Parental descriptions of their gifted child's early behaviour also supply the kinds of detail useful in determining a child's giftedness.  For example, a dozen parents interviewed by Frinier (1978) were asked, "now that your child has been identified as gifted, can you look back at his or her early childhood and tell about something you think might have been an indication of exceptional ability?"  Their responses, stimulated by items drawn from a list of gifted children's characteristics, included:

    • Has displayed unusual talent in music, drawing, rhythms, or other art forms.
    • At three he sang songs in tune and clapped to the beat of the music on his own, 
    • As a baby, he liked to hear recordings and have lullabies sung to him...He would hum many songs back in perfect tune by age one... four we learned he had perfect pitch. 
    • At three, she drew a picture of her baby sister in a buggy from side :perspective five drew a picture of tigers camouflaged in a jungle scene.
    • Asks many "intelligent questions" about topics in which young children do not ordinarily have an interest.
    • At three while on a jet ride and the pilot came back to talk to passengers, J. became very worried and asked, "Who's flying the plane?"  He often asked how things worked, such as the vaporizer, vacuum, etc. and how planes stayed in the sky.
    • Keen observation and retention of information about things he or she has observed.
    • When H was two or three she would notice if the smallest item in a room had been moved.
    • His photographic memory showed up the Christmas he was three and a half.  He asked us who had sent each of the seventy-five to one hundred Christmas cards and would tell the exact signature after seeing the picture on the card.
    • At two and a half when being instructed why streets were dangerous, he recalled the parade he had watched six: months previously and said those people shouldn't have been walking in the street.  At three, he would recall incidents of eighteen months previously that had not been mentioned since, such as "Remember when I fell out of the wagon and got scratched right here?" or "Remember at Christmas, not this time, but the other time, when I..."
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    The ability to attend or concentrate for a longer period of time than other children his or her age.
    At two and a half she would play in her room for up to an hour working on projects of her own.
    At three and a half he would come and tell me which Lincoln log building he was going to make and then spent up to an hour revising it.

    An early interest in clocks and calendars, and an ability to understand their function.
    At three and a half he would tell me which numbers the hands were pointing to and what time he thought it was and what we should be doing (especially at seven in the morning).  At four he told me he liked a digital clock better because it was easier to tell time.

    The early accurate use of a large vocabulary.
    D. always used the correct word for things from the time he started talking, even four syllable words.

    Spoke in entire sentences at an unusually early age.
    At age one, S. greeted all the guests at her birthday party and asked them in.  Although three other children who were born on the same day attended, none of them talked in sentences as S. did.
    At two he was averaging seven and eight word sentences with correct use of all parts of speech.

    The ability to tell or reproduce stories and events with great detail at an early age.
    At two and a half he would tell the story of the Three Bears and imitate the voices of the bears.

    Carries on intelligent conversations with older children and adults.
    He was quite tall for his age and at three and a half his playmates ranged from three and a half (whom he considered a baby) to six years of age.  The five and six year old boys assumed he was in kindergarten.
    At four, E. described to me how a plane shudders if it is too steep a dive. At three, he explained to me why there must be traffic lights at intersections.

    Learned to read early, with little or no formal teaching.
    We didn't realize that M. was reading at age two and a half.  We thought he had memorized the stories.  But at age three, he picked up my golf score card and began reading the rules on the back to us.
    I realized that D. was reading at age four and a half, and when I mentioned this to her kindergarten teacher, she brushed it aside ...Four months later, she had discovered that D. was reading at second grade level.

    Can write short stories, poems, or letters.
    He would dictate letters to me at age three

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    Other information gathered from parents, in addition to the checklist items, were:
    • She had a sense of humour at two and was not fooled when teased   She would turn the situation around to benefit her.
    • He understood cause effect relationships at three and would theorize about what would happen.
    • She was extremely sensitive to the feelings and needs of others at three, had a fear of death  four.
    • At two she realized situations. that were potentially dangerous and would tell others to be careful
    • She kept eye contact with me from the minute she was brought to me in the hospital and always looked at who was holding, her and talking to her. He looked straight at the doctor in the delivery room.  The doctor even commented on it. 

    Many parents reported that when their children were in the primary grades, they were bored, becoming behaviour problems, or becoming quiet and unhappy in regular classroom settings., A definite personality change was noticed by one mother,  who said her son, now a surgeon, never returned to his outgoing, happy personality after entering school.  His giftedness was not discovered until sixth grade, and he later was allowed to proceed more rapidly, completing pre med and medical school in six years.

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    At School Age

    Parents must also help identify school age gifted children.  There is a tendency for teachers to nominate achievers - compliant, neat, behaving children who may or may not be gifted, while other areas of giftedness are overlooked.  Identification is left to the parents, too, when gifted children hide their, abilities at school, as many of them do, in order to appear more similar and more acceptable to their age peers.

    Dorothy Sisk (1977) for example, has described characteristics of children who are gifted in other than academic areas - in the creative, visual and performing arts and in physical psychomotor skills.  Such creatively or physically gifted children demonstrate their talents early.  A visually gifted child might draw a man riding a motorcycle, while classmates are still struggling to put nose, eyes, and mouth in the right places in drawing a face.  Overall children who have special creative abilities will display many of the characteristics just cited as common to intellectually gifted children, but they also differ from intellectually gifted children in many ways.  They are likely to have one or more of these characteristics: a reputation for having wild and silly Ideas or ideas that are off the beaten track, a sense of playfulness and relaxation, a strong tendency to be nonconformist and to think independently, and considerable sensitivity to both emotions and problems.

     Elizabeth Drews (1963) has described four types of gifted school age youth, all of whom should be identified and guided along the avenues toward their potential. 

    • The high achieving and studious are hardworking, striving A students who value parent and teacher expectations.
    • The social leaders value peer attitudes.  Social interests come before other interests.  They sometimes do well academically, but this depends on the peer group of which they are a part 
    • The creative intellectuals are divergent thinkers; that is, they look for a number of alternatives and creative answers to questions.  More of the highly gifted are in this group, although they may receive lower school grades than the social leaders or high achievers.  They conform neither to teachers ' standards nor their age peers ' expectations,  They aren't the leaders, and they don't want to be.  They often ask searching questions.
    • The last are the rebels.  Rebels dislike rules and rebel against them. David Smith (1957) has suggested that students also rebel when neither the school nor the home environment is challenging them.  They do not achieve well and may receive poor grades despite their high potential.
    Parents, then, should recognize that although their child may not be achieving in school today and may even be failing, he or she may still be gifted.  If they've kept some kind of early record of their child's development such as the parents' journal previously described or a baby book, it may be checked against the development table previously presented. If they still suspect that their child has outstanding potential, they should seek assistance in identification.  Many schools will administer individual intelligence scales when parents request them, particularly if the child displays some problem behaviour.  If a local parent organization does not exist, contact, the state education department official for the gifted and talented for the names of state persons or universities and colleges in your area where information is available. These individuals often can recommend psychologists who understand gifted children to administer individual intelligence scales.  This is important for accurate measurement of IQ.
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