Understanding Giftedness

Definition of a Gifted Learner

The Ontario Ministry of Education defines exceptional pupils in the Special Education Handbook 1984. Giftedness is defined as:

"...an unusually advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided in the regular school program to satisfy the level of educational potential indicated."

ABC believes that this definition should include pupils who may have a specific intellectual ability. This change would ensure that pupils with exceptional intellectual ability in one area can have these needs addressed. ABC defines a bright child as:

"...one who has the potential for unusual accomplishment in any of several areas, including intellectual and creative ability, musical, artistic and athletic performance and social and leadership skills."

What does it mean to be gifted?

Bright and gifted learners are children first and benefit from the opportunities all children need for social, emotional, physical and intellectual development. And, like other children, their rate of development in each of these areas may be uneven.

However, for gifted students, intellectual development is significantly more advanced than what is typical for same age peers. They are advanced or high potential learners. That does not make them better children, but it does indicate that they are different learners.

Gifted learners require opportunities to learn at a faster pace and with their intellectual peers to stimulate their intellectual growth and achieve their full potential. Learning experiences that are broader and deeper than those normally provided in the regular classroom can be delivered through individual education plans, differentiated instruction, acceleration, curriculum compacting, cluster grouping and many other strategies.

Contrary to popular belief, not all bright and gifted students flourish without special help. Many deliberately limit their achievement in order to gain peer acceptance. Others become so bored that they clown, disturb others or daydream. Most regular assignments provide little challenge for bright and gifted children/youth and they become accustomed to working much below their capacity. They actually learn "how not to learn." Some "turn off" to such an extent that they are identified as having behaviour or learning problems. Even those who appear to be doing well in school may be using only a small part of their abilities.

All children/youth, including the bright and gifted, deserve to be accepted for who they are and to have the opportunity to realize their potential as fully as possible. Bright and gifted learners should not be left to develop by chance. To ensure that the needs of bright and gifted students are met, ABC needs the support of all concerned parents. When ABC advocates for educational excellence on behalf of bright and gifted learners, your child benefits.

Does this sound like your child?

  • Rapid mastery of basic skills
  • Advanced reading ability
  • Extensive vocabulary
  • High energy level
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Clever sense of humour
  • Special talent in one or more areas such as math, computers, music . . .
  • Prefers older playmates or adults
  • Perceptive, inquiring mind
  • Strong sense of ethics and values
  • Emotional intensity
  • Long concentration span in areas of interest
  • Unusual insight and originality
  • Able to see connections between ideas
  • Advanced abstract and critical thinking skills
  • Superior judgement and reasoning ability
  • Not all bright and gifted children have all of these characteristics. However, displaying some of these characteristics may indicate high learning potential.

How can a bright child be recognized?

Each child is different. It is difficult to generalize, but many bright children have some of the characteristics listed below:

  • perceptive, inquiring minds
  • unusual insight and intellectual curiosity
  • superior judgment and reasoning ability
  • abstract and critical thinking
  • originality
  • ability to see connections between ideas
  • long concentration spans in areas of interest
  • advanced reading ability and extensive vocabulary
  • keen powers of observation
  • strong sense of ethics and values
  • a sense of humour
  • a rapid mastery of basic skills
  • special ability in one or more areas, such as music, art, computers, or mathematics

This is far from being an all-inclusive list, and not every bright child has all of these characteristics.