Giftedness (High Potential) FAQs

Happy girl raising her hand in class

What is Giftedness (High Potential)?

While there is no single definition of giftedness, most definitions involve the presence of high aptitude or intellectual ability. Children who are gifted have the capacity to achieve more and with greater facility than their typically-developing peers. Giftedness may manifest in one or more academic domains or may appear in an artistic or creative form. Giftedness is not the same as achievement: Though gifted children have high aptitude, they may require extensive support to achieve their full potential. In fact, some 'twice exceptional' children with high potential also have learning, developmental, or emotional and behavioral difficulties.

Signs of Giftedness

Every child is unique and uniquely talented, and no two children with high potential are alike. Nevertheless, there are a number of traits and qualities that appear more often in gifted children: 


Language Abilities

  • Early language acquisition
  • A large and highly-developed vocabulary relative to age peers
  • Use of sentence structure/complexity or grammar that is advanced relative to age peers
  • Precocious reading ability
  • Fast and enthusiastic speech
  • The ability to participate fully in conversations with adults and older children
  • The ability to understand and follow complex directions earlier than other children
  • An intense interest in language or reading

Learning Abilities

  • The ability to learn concepts and tasks quickly and often with little direction
  • An intense interest in the world or how things work
  • An excellent memory and recall
  • Deep funds of knowledge relative to age peers
  • The ability to concentrate for a long period on a task of interest
  • A strong interest in learning or a tendency to see learning as fun
  • Flexible and creative thinking
  • The ability to identify patterns and infer relationships more easily than age peers
  • The ability to ask insightful or incisive questions
  • The ability to solve problems more quickly than peers

Other Traits & Abilities 

  • The early development of fine or gross motor skills
  • A high activity level or high level of alertness relative to age peers
  • A tendency to talk endlessly and about a wide variety of topics
  • High academic achievement
  • High artistic or musical achievement
  • Strong emotional intensity 
  • Emotional sensitivity and perceptiveness
  • Perfectionism and anxiety
  • A tendency to play with older children or have older friends

Girl listening attentively at school

I Suspect My Child Is Gifted. What Now?

If you suspect your child is gifted, a good first step to take is to talk to your child's educators and determine whether or not your child's school has an identification program in place. Identification is especially important when a child is showing emotional or behavioural difficulties resulting from her or his advanced maturity or capacity. Misidentification or misattribution can lead to inappropriate efforts at remediation.

Boy writing in notebook while teacher observes

Identification of Giftedness

The process for the identification of giftedness may differ from school-to-school. Because every gifted child is different and manifests different abilities, evaluation for giftedness should include a variety of measures, comprising both standardised assessments of aptitude or ability (IQ tests) and qualitative assessments of aptitude, such as teacher and parent observations, portfolio reviews, and records reviews. In most cases, education authorities require a valid and reliable evaluation of cognitive abilities (IQ) before providing gifted and talented services; however, IQ tests alone cannot provide a complete picture of a child's potential.

Girl concentrating and writing in a notebook

Impediments to Achievement 

Because gifted children experience the world differently than others, and because they tend to be cognitively far advanced of their age peers, they may experience emotional, behavioural, or social difficulties that harm their ability to thrive and achieve their full potential. Some common problems experienced by children with giftedness include perfectionism or a reluctance to perform tasks that may not be completed perfectly, social anxiety or difficult relationships with age peers, test or performance anxiety, distraction or boredom in school, hyperactivity, intense emotions or hyper-sensitivity, and a tendency to talk out-of-turn or talk back. Fortunately, all of these impediments to achievement can be remediated with appropriate supports.