My Child is What? Gifted? And Why Gifted is a Misleading Term

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Giftedness may seem a sort of special privilege, but to the gifted individual, often it feels like a distinct disadvantage,"(Silverman, 1993, p.3).

Maybe I was a lot like you. When I found out I was pregnant after being told that I might not be able to have children, I dove into the pregnancy and parenting literature. I read everything I could get my hands on from what to expect and what to eat during pregnancy through child development, temperament and sleep habits. When our son was born, I felt prepared. I felt confident that the three shelves of books (and websites that I visited daily) had prepared me for what was to come; and if not, I felt confident that I could go back to those references and find an answer if I had a question.

Like all new parents, we had lots of questions. And I utilized all of the lovely books that I had so thoughtfully purchased, and several of the websites that I had bookmarked. The information was very helpful and useful, most of the time. There were a few questions and concerns that weren't addressed in the books and websites early on, so we improvised and didn't think too much about it. So our son wasn't much of a sleeper. And, he seemed to have been born "opinionated" knowing what he wanted early on, training us towards his likes and dislikes. I knew it was a little odd that he said his first word at 6 months, and that his first word was the name of his favorite toy "gorilla," but choked it up to some sort of neural anomaly. What I didn't know then, was that this was only the beginning. As my son grew and developed, more often than not, the flipping through the books and the inquiries on the websites left me without answers.

It didn't dawn on me that our normal was not so normal. Wasn't every child intense? Yes, I was secretly jealous of the details of "me time" that my mommy group members shared when their child took naps throughout the day. Our son didn't seem to sleep much and when he did, he didn't sleep for very long. Didn't all 2-year-old kids read road signs and get upset when their little hands couldn't make the picture on the paper that was in their mind? I was confused when a friend of mine suggested that we explore private preschool and elementary schools for gifted children. I thought gifted meant that you must be really smart or talented. Being that our son was 3, how "smart" could he be? He only had three years’ experience under his belt; not much time to develop a talent. I was just grateful that he was out of diapers! And so, I ignored the suggestion of my friend and continued on raising our son.

One day, our son came home from preschool stating that he was different than the others. He began to cry. My son then went on to tell me that he had decided that he must be the bully, because in preschool, the bully is the "different" one. Our hearts were broken. He was not a bully: he was a wonderful, creative, sensitive and loving child. We couldn’t even watch the news because he would get worried about everyone who was suffering in the world. Not normal, was turning out to be a bigger problem than we thought.

We had him evaluated by an emeritus professor from Purdue, a specialist on gifted children. She tested and talked with him over two days and then gave us her determination: "he's classic gifted." And with that she made some recommendations on private schools, made some recommendations on enrichment courses and provided some information on state and national organizations. Our son was 4. We moved him to a private gifted school and he thrived at the school, but we still struggled at home.

I once again put on my researcher hat, went back to get a second master’s degree in counseling focusing all of my research and studies on the gifted population, volunteered for the Illinois Association for Gifted children, did outreach, and still there was something missing. 15 years of neuropsychology and mental health work, and still something missing. Then I found out that there are evidence-based parent methods and though I was skeptical at first. Really? Isn’t parenting just unconditional love and isn’t it supposed to be innate. Turns out, no. We’ve had researched based methods since the 60s that not only teach you how to fix common behavior problems, they make you feel great and give you tools to create that loving parent-child relationship and home life you always dreamed of. And when I used these methods at home combined with what I now knew about Gifted, my life changed. And I started teaching others first through volunteer work with IAGC and CGCC, then with parents from The Davidson Institute and most of the private gifted schools in the Greater Chicagoland area. I’ve been teaching parents of gifted children over the last 7 years and I’m excited to share with you what I know through Encouragement Parenting.

Here are a few things that I learned.....

  • Nobody agrees about the exact definition of gifted, but the term has been used to describe a population of individuals in scientific literature since the 1920s. Gifted Children: Their Nature and Nurture by Leta Hollingworth was one of the first books with sections devoted to development, family history, special talents, highly gifted, experimental education and development of a new philosophy of education for gifted children (Leta S. Hollingworth, 1926).

  • After reviewing the literature, it seems clear to me that gifted and talented are different things. Talented means being capable of scoring high on group achievement testing; further individualized IQ, out of level academic testing and informal and formal psychosocial measures must be given before a child can be labeled “gifted” (RhodeIslandStateAdvisoryCommitteeonGiftedandTalentedEducation, n.d.). But, not all states and/or organizations follow Rhode Island's guideline.

  • I like the Columbus Group definition of gifted. The Columbus Group defines gifted as “asynchronous development' in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.” (The Columbus Group, 1991, in Morelock, 1992).

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Warm Regards,


About Catherine

Catherine Gruener, M.A., M.A., PDTC, Author of "Parenting Young Gifted Children What to Expect When you Have the Unexpected" providing you heart-centered, research-based practical tools to help you understand your kids, and create more loving, more fulfilling, more connected relationships with your children. As a mother of a twice-exceptional child, who was blown away after 15 years in the mental health field to find out there was a population of neuro-diverse children who were not being talked about in counseling or assessments, becoming certified in Positive Discipline, trained from the Yale Parent Center in Parent Management, and diving into the more than 80 years of research on the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted children, in order to provide you with transformative trainings on Parenting Your Gifted Child. Find out more about my classes at

As Seen at The Davidson Institute, Chicago Gifted Community Center, Illinois Association for Gifted Children, Quest Academy, The Science and Arts Academy, The Avery Coonley School, Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted, Parents of Gifted Education, Community Organization for Gifted Children

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