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Gifted 101

Are you seeking information about the best practices, policies and issues and gifted education?  Here’s a list of key terms, with links to our best blog posts on the topic, outstanding books or key websites.   You can also search our website for these terms.   Think of it as a self-taught Gifted 101 class.

Or, if you don’t want to be self-taught, we have two suggestions:

1.       Attend the AGATE Parent Institute, 6/3/11.  This is a fantastic 1 day download of all the key things parents should know about raising a gifted child.

2.       Participate in a SENG Parent Discussion Group.   Gallatin Gifted Group (G3) is planning to host some of these multi-week book discussion groups.  (Again, watch this website or join our email list for announcements.)

Identification of Giftedness

  • Roughly, gifted people score in the top 5% in intelligence tests.  Identification for GT programs is commonly based upon a combination of ability tests, achievement tests, parent and/or teacher documentation, and/or portfolios.
  • There are no set state-wide criteria in Montana nor is there a set of rules on how frequently students are tested.
  • You may need to request that your child or student be evaluated for giftedness.  If you school district won’t do it, you may need to pay a psychologist to administer an IQ test or have your child participate in the Western Talent Search, in order to gather data that your school might recognize as evidence of giftedness.
  • It’s important to differentiate between gifted, high achievers, and creative learners.

Pace of Learning

  • In terms of academic achievement, the primary difference with gifted students is that they absorb material much faster.   A gifted child may only require 1-2 repetitions to learn something, whereas an average child may require 8-10 repetitions.  Thus, a gifted child using an average curriculum (which typically repeats material year after year) will not be challenged.  Conversely, a gifted child using an accelerated curriculum can typically learn 1-1/2 years of material in one year.
  • The other learning differences are that gifted students remember more and make more original connections, synthesizing new material with what they already know.


  • Acceleration is the best way to meet the needs of gifted kids.  Acceleration may take many forms: grade skipping, subject matter acceleration, compacted curriculum, early college, cluster or ability grouping, GT-only classes, etc.
  • The seminal book/study on acceleration is A Nation Deceived, which can be downloaded free.
  • To assess a child for possible acceleration, the best, most comprehensive assessment vehicle is the Iowa Acceleration Scale. Your school district may require other tests.
  • Ability Grouping (or cluster grouping) helps meet the social and emotional needs of gifted students by getting a critical mass of them (at least 25% but preferably higher, up to 100%) into a single classroom.  However, for ability grouping to be successful as an acceleration strategy, it requires daily differentiation of curriculum by the classroom teacher.
  • Advanced Placement (AP) classes are commonly thought of as ideal for serving GT students.  However, with the push to have more students take AP, in reality, these classes are geared more to normal and above normal students rather than GT students.   They are also “a mile wide and an inch deep” and therefore don’t challenge gifted students to use their critical and holistic thinking skills.  That said, they are the best classes most high schools offer for gifted students.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) programs can be thought of as AP on steroids:  more rigorous, more globally focused and requiring more critical thinking and better writing and research skills.  IB is only offered by about 2-3% of US high schools, but are highly regarded by the most competitive colleges, which generally will offer more college credit for IB than for AP.

Social & Emotional Needs of the Gifted

  • In addition to academic/achievement needs that differ from the norm, gifted children also have social and emotional needs.  To some extent, these can be met by providing them opportunities to spend time with their intellectual peers – other people who “get” them –  either in ability-grouped classrooms or through out-of-school enrichment experiences.   But it is also helpful to understand how they differ.
  • One key study/theory in this area is Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities, which finds that gifted people are hypersensitive in 5 key areas: Psychomotor, Sensual, Emotional, Intellectual, and Imaginational.  Gifted children tend to have more than one of these “intensities”.
  • SENG (Social and Emotional Needs of the Gifted) was created to help parents address their gifted children’s needs.  SENG runs an annual conference and multiple webinars.

Twice Exceptional

  • A significant percentage of gifted children also have learning disabilities.  They are often referred to as “twice exceptional”, “2E”, or “dual diagnosis”.
  • The Council for Exceptional Children deals with both gifted children and special education issues.

Dual Diagnosis and MisDiagnosis

  • Some gifted people are also (rightly) diagnosed as having a learning disability.  Some are (wrongly) diagnosed as having a learning disability and no one realizes that they actually are gifted, and the giftedness causes symptoms that lead to an erroneous diagnosis.  Dr. James Webb wrote the seminal book on this topic.   Most pediatricians have never been exposed to this issue and may benefit from reading the book.

Would you like us to cover other issues, policies or practices?   Email our webmaster with your ideas.

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