I recently watched the movie Gifted on an airplane ride back from a conference. It is a heartwarming tale of a brilliant, young, first grader with advanced mathematical abilities. The movie opens with Mary reluctantly attending school for the first time, after being homeschooled by her uncle. After Mary demonstrates exceptional skills in class, her teacher discovers that Mary’s deceased biological mother was gifted herself. Mary then becomes caught in a custody battle between her uncle and grandmother. (I won’t ruin the rest of the movie for you, but I definitely recommend this as a cozy, weekend movie!)
As I reflected on the movie, Mary portrayed many of the gifted children that I have worked with. Most people have a basic understanding of what it means to be gifted. A child who is considered gifted demonstrates exceptional performance and potential in learning, reasoning and problem solving abilities compared to others their age. These exceptional abilities are not limited to academics, but include creative thinking, social, musical, artistic, and kinesthetic abilities. Gifted children often report being “bored” at school, and as a result may present as having attention issues, lack of motivation, and behavioural problems in the classroom. An intellectually gifted person typically has a Full Scale Intelligence Quotient (FSIQ) of 130 or higher, as determined by a psychological assessment.
But most people are less familiar with the social-emotional impacts that come along with exceptional abilities. Although gifted children develop intellectually faster and more advanced than their peers, their social and emotional development often lags behind. This often presents as trouble making and keeping friends and emotion regulation problems (e.g., outbursts and tantrums inconsistent with age expectations, easily frustrated). As with Mary’s mother, children who are gifted are at a higher risk of developing additional mental health issues. Perfectionism and anxiety can trickle in to cause big problems, especially as social demands in school grow. Further, gifted children may be at a higher risk of depression due to peer rejection and the feeling that “no one gets me.”
If you have recognized any of these signs in your child and you are looking for an answer, please get in touch with us for a free consultation. We can provide you with a full assessment, including measures of cognitive (FSIQ), academic, and social-emotional screening. If you are interested in applying for specialized programs (e.g., Westmount Charter, CBE Gifted and Talented Education), now is the time to have your assessment completed in order to submit applications for the next academic year. Together, we can work to find answers for your family.
Andrea Stelnicki, MSc