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The National Association for Gifted Children says giftedness is: when the child’s ability is significantly above the norm for their age. Children can be gifted in any of the following: intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, or even language arts, mathematics or science. The definition is nearly identical in every state, but doesn’t offer all that’s involved in identifying, or servicing gifted behaviors. Although every gifted child is different, the common traits may help a teacher, parent, or a friend recognize the giftedness.

1. Verbal Ability

Often, gifted children either begin to speak early or use advanced vocabulary earlier than their peers. Sometimes, they do both. Sometimes, gifted children are avid storytellers. They can craft a specific narrative that follows a character or characters into an intense setting that has action and leads to a conclusion, they understand idioms, puns, figurative language and can often pick the theme of a story. They have precise vocabulary they use correctly and often feel frustration with their peers who seem to have difficulty understanding how they are speaking.

2. Information Processing

Gifted children often have an increased ability to process large pieces of information. These students sometimes flounder in public school because a typical student needs several reminders of steps needed to complete a process. A gifted student can often understand and complete multi-step directions quickly and transfer those processes to other areas. Gifted students tend to be good at reading and math and can often be behavior problems in school because the public school model is to repeat given information until the student understands. If the gifted child understands the information the first time they’re taught it in the 4th grade, they will become bored in the 5th, 6th,7th, and 8th grades when that same information presented to an entire class. These students often become behavior problems because they are so bored.

Gifted Children and Twice Exceptional Children

This does not always hold true if the child is twice exceptional (2e). Sometimes, gifted students also exhibit traits of a person with a learning disability. These students fall into the category of twice exceptional.

This means that they are not only gifted, but also have a deficiency. In the case of information processing, a 2e child may have increased processing speed but have problem with interpretation. For example, if a child was given the following words: pear, boat, apple, plum, and told to pick the one that does not belong, a typical child will say the boat does not belong because it is not a fruit.

However, a gifted child may say that apple does not belong because the other words have 4 letters each. Gifted students often consider information in a different way. They often do not think in linear terms. They see relationships more clearly and in different terms than their peers. A 2e child may be very quick to answer a question, but may get the wrong answer. It is important to question why the child came up with that answer. If the child can defend their response, it is likely correct.

3. High Curiosity

Gifted students are curious about the world around them or about a subject that interests them. It’s not uncommon for gifted students to dive into complex subjects and learn as much as possible about that subject.

Whether it is about the names of dinosaurs, or how a black hole is formed, the gifted child can research, read, and retain more information than a typical child. Without this high curiosity, some gifted children would find education and learning incredibly boring.

4. Memory Retention

The gifted child can often recall information more quickly than other peers. Typically, there are three types of memory: long-term memory, short-term memory and working memory. Long-term memory is the ability to recall facts or information presented from a time more than a few minutes in the past. The Long-term memory stores could be limitless. Short-term memory is usually limited to a specific number of items. Most experts believe the average short-term retention rate is about 7 items. After seven, the person (child or adult) has a harder time recalling pieces of information. Working memory (holding information in the mind and manipulating it) is the ability to problem-solve based on current presented information.

Working memory is most responsible for decision-making and behavior. Gifted children can often recall names, phone numbers, addresses, baseball stats, planet sizes, dates in history seemingly instantaneously. They can also recall a greater number of items held in short-term. A person with increased ability in short-term memory may be able to recite Pi to 20 digits instead of the typical 7. A child with an increased capacity for working memory has an ability to take a set of objects and figure out a pattern to them. As said before, they may look at a list of similar items and pick out more than one similarity.

5. Intensity and Persistence

Gifted children often “feel” more strongly than other students. It seems that the gifted child either is having an awesome day, or a horrible day. Rarely will the gifted child not have an opinion about something. Given the opportunity to express that opinion, the gifted child will explain with great detail why their opinion is valid. This can sometimes lead to problems if their line of thinking is logically flawed. For example, if a friend is mean to them, they might think that it is OK to mean to other people.
More often than not, a gifted child will learn social cues by observing others. If the observation shows someone being praised while doing something incorrectly, the gifted child may “learn” to act that way thinking they should get the same result. This is not always the case. Coupled with a common problem of rigid thinking, this situation can make it difficult for a gifted child to understand why they are in trouble. In this case, the child may become belligerent becoming transfixed on the answer they THINK is correct. It may be difficult for them to think of a different solution to the problem.

6. Sense of Justice

Their issue with persistence may also be exacerbated by their innate sense of justice. Gifted children often look at the world in terms of “fair.” If the gifted child sees an adult eating ice cream before dinner, their natural inclination may be to demand to have ice cream as well. Gifted students will look at a situation and decide which way is the fairest way to solve the situation.

If the gifted child doesn’t have all the information, they may end up thinking there’s justice when none exists. They may also see what they think is an injustice when given the information necessary to make an informed decision. Again, this issue creates problems if the child becomes fixated on the response and is unwilling to listen to other opinions.

7. Sense of Humor

Gifted children often have an increased sense of humor and may be able to find humor in more complex examples, they are drawn to satire and word play, or can become very interested in puns and idioms. Sometimes,puns and figurative language becomes the preferred mode of communication for the gifted child. This can lead to trouble in class if the child does not know or accept classroom boundaries.

This trait often is what makes gifted children so entertaining. Their increased vocabulary and ability to use multiple-meaning words in situations that are ironic, satirical, ambiguous can lead to very interesting conversations. However, the gifted child can also take a joke too far. Often, gifted children are seen as mean because they will joke but not stop when the subject of the joke is hurt or takes the joke wrong. Because they are seen as mean, sometimes, gifted children become isolated which makes it even harder to adapt socially.

8. Strong Imagination

Some gifted children exhibit a very strong imagination. They can often place a fictional character in a fictional situation and continue the situation until their story concludes. Often, gifted children can appear to be talking to themselves. They may also use their imagination to rationalize conversations they have seen or been a part of.

For example, if a gifted child gets into trouble, they may isolate themselves and role-play the conversation they had with the parent and the conclusion and try to figure out how that situation may have changed if one of the participants behaved in a different way. If a child continues to use their imagination incorrectly, this may lead the child to begin lying or covering up facts in order to avoid getting in trouble. In the extreme, a child who has an overactive imagination may lose touch with reality creating imaginary characters who blamed for problems.

9. Keen Observation

Gifted children often see details much more clearly than their peers. Gifted students can observe smaller aspects in a big picture and become transfixed by them. This attention to detail makes close work like building model airplanes enjoyable for them but can also lead to frustration if they cannot figure out a problem or find a solution quickly.

Sometimes, gifted students are perfectionists and become angry if a situation works out differently than they expect it to turn out. Because they are so detail-oriented, they may need to tell a whole story in order to tell a situation that happened. Teachers and parents often become frustrated with gifted children because they just want the child to “get to the point.”

10. Problem solving capability

Gifted children are often able to solve complex problems seemingly without effort. These children relish the time they can have to take a complex problem and break it down into parts that are easily understood. They also become fascinated with solving problems in innovative ways. They strive to find a different answer than anyone else has come up with. Sometimes, this problem-solving capability can be a detriment to their learning. If the gifted child cannot come up with a solution, they may spend several minutes, hours, days trying to work out a problem.


Although, this is not an exhaustive list of gifted traits, it does list some of the most notable or common traits shared by many gifted people. These same traits do not end when a child becomes an adult. Far greater is the gifted child who learns to navigate life by figuring out how to manipulate the system. Gifted children will learn to notice word choice and base decisions on specific words rather than context. A gifted child may take a command of “don’t hit your brother,” and pinch them instead and say, “well, I didn’t hit him.” Gifted adults utilize their increased ability to their advantage but can be seen as rude, judgmental, or confrontational. It is important to remember that giftedness carries both good qualities and bad.

If your child is a gifted child, or you suspect they are a gifted child, it may be time to consider how to mitigate instead of trying to correct. If your gifted child spends too much time playing games on the computer, see if there are other activities on a computer that may be able to teach them while playing a similar game. It is much easier to compromise with a gifted child than to flatly deny their request. Their sense of justice and attention to detail may not allow them to see that they are wrong.

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