Is my child gifted?


In Chicagoland, if your child takes the MAP test, you may already have the data to answer that question! Every child has unique strengths and talents. Not every child has a high IQ. Not every child with a high IQ tests well. Some children are academically talented but not gifted – they don’t have a high IQ but they can perform well on academic tasks, and can function at above grade levels. The converse is very possible as well. Some children have non-academic gifts and strengths, that can’t be measured, such as amazing empathy and kindness. Some children may be artistically or athletically talented. We are all a sum of our strengths and weaknesses. In an ideal world, we celebrate and teach to the strengths, while we scaffold the weaknesses.


There are characteristics that many gifted children share, but it is a myth that they all present the same way or that they are all interested in academics. For example, while some gifted children may have amazing and early vocabularies, others may be speech delayed. Our very own local organization for gifted children, IAGC, has a brilliant article about the diverse types of gifted children. . This is of special interest to parents with more than one child. There is a widespread belief out there that siblings fall within a close range of each other for IQ – however giftedness may not manifest itself in similar or obvious ways in the siblings because of this diversity. This creates situations where a child’s needs may not be addressed and their gift can go unnoticed along with any struggles.


A fast way to identify many gifted and academically talented children is to look at their achievement tests on standardized testing. In Chicago, public and many private school students take the NWEA MAP tests. Most people and organizations will agree that 95% or above of grade level average RIT scores indicate giftedness, although I can argue that it can all depend on the curriculum and teaching and academic talent/parental time investment as well.  If the child is below that, it doesn’t mean they are not gifted, it just means that more information is needed to make that determination. Plenty of gifted children don’t do well on this sort of a test due to a variety of factors. The test can rule in possible giftedness and show academic talent, not rule it out.

As far as IQ goes, what constitutes giftedness on the IQ scale is a hotly debated topic. Duke TIP for example only considers IQ of 130 and up as gifted. The other Chicagoland private gifted schools consider IQ of 125 and up as gifted. You may wonder where we stand and why our IQ entrance point is set at 130. For us, it is more about providing services for the children that currently don't have choices in the City of Chicago. We feel that up until 130 or so, the other public and private options fit many students' needs and we want to concentrate the 130+ population in our school so that the kids have more peers at their level. The IQ 130, the 130 vs. 145 vs 160, etc., have drastically different needs emotionally as well as academically and making the cut-off simplifies how much we have to take into account. While we do allow the non-gifted siblings, we believe that this is a very small dilution of our population that would increase the quality of life for our students, versus also letting in students at large below 130 since there are so many more of them. . Because of asynchrony and slow processing, and various other challenges that are frequently found in the gifted, we take a very deep look at the test results. We try to understand each individual learner's profile. It's not about the number for us alone. It's about the fit. 


Now let’s have a look at typical challenges and comments people make:

·      He can’t possibly be gifted, he is not an early reader.

·      She was a late walker.

·      If he is so gifted, why does he always forget all his things everywhere?

·      She is not good at math.

·      He hates writing and his handwriting is atrocious.

·      She is very rigid with her social play ideas.


Many gifted children are very sensitive to their visceral feelings, to the environment, and to the emotions of others. Sometimes, this is to a medical level. When a gifted child also has special needs, the term for that is twice exceptional or 2E. A child can be gifted and be diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, OCD, SPD, etc., and be able to perform amazing feats in the area of their gifts in spite of their extreme challenges. The gifted developmental profile overlaps sometimes with some of the various conditions mentioned here. Having a characteristic of a condition doesn’t mean the child has it.  Many gifted children are misdiagnosed with something that is mistaken for their giftedness, and many are opposite – they hide their disability using cognitive compensation. Minority 2E students receive the least amount of support, historically, in academic settings. 


To summarize characteristics of the gifted, they present with one or more areas of strength as compared to peers, such as early speech, drawing and reading, large motor skills, attention, depth of interests, and complexity of logical or mathematical thinking. However, they can be asynchronous and also be behind in one or more areas than age peers, and also have behavioral, sensory, or learning differences just like the rest of the IQ spectrum. The GRO Gifted Institute has very well articulated brochures summarizing giftedness


It takes a long time and a lot of effort and is very challenging to raise a gifted child and to learn about them and how to best support them emotionally, socially, and academically. It is also very rewarding.  At MAGE, we seek to create a supportive community to educate and raise our gifted children. The most important question should always be, gifted or not, how can I help my child reach their full potential? Gifted? Now what? Click here to read about how MAGE can help!