5 Ways Gifted Children Learn Differently

Think your child is gifted? Learn how your child may have different learning needs and how you can help her reach her full potential.

By Jasmine Kaur

5 Ways Gifted Children Learn Differently

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines a gifted child as someone more able than the average child of her age. She could be gifted in different ways, from being a genius in maths to being a master in the creative field. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, approximately 3 to 5 per cent of children in India are gifted. Some of the famous personalities who were gifted as children are Janaki Ammal, Indra Nooyi, Einstein, Amrita Sher-Gil and Shakuntala Devi.

Dr Anitha Kurup, professor and dean at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore believes that gifted children are very prominent and easily stand out in the class. However, there are no strict guidelines for measuring if a child is gifted. Even IQ tests are a deeply contested method of identifying gifted children.

But, there are signs through which you can understand if your child is gifted or not. Here are some of them:

Gifted children often -

  • Tend to question instructions issued to them
  • Prefer the company of children older than them
  • Have a high level of energy at most times
  • Have a strong sense of justice

Raising a gifted child comes with its own set of challenges. One of the most crucial roles you play, as a parent, is to give them the kind of environment and education that enables them to perform to their best potential. To be able to help them, you need to know how they learn differently compared to an average child.

Five ways gifted children learn differently:

1. They learn quickly

According to a study titled ‘Teaching young gifted children in the regular classroom’, by Joan Franklin Smutny, published in the Council for Exceptional Children in 2000, gifted children tend to learn more quickly. This happens because either these children are born with a higher than average brain power, or they were provided a stimulating environment which helped build their mental capacity, as explained in a journal titled ‘Understanding the nature of the general factor of intelligence: The role of individual differences in neural plasticity as an explanatory mechanism’ by Dennis Garlick in Psychological Review (2002).

How parents can help: Providing support during the early learning stages is essential for gifted kids to thrive. Ask your child’s school if they conduct special classes for children with advanced learning capabilities. If the school does not provide such facilities, you can find out about centers offering specialised training for gifted kids. Choose the right programme for him and enroll him for the classes. Also, you could provide advanced learning material to compliment his academic growth.

2. They have better memory

According to Dr Anitha, gifted children have higher than average recall power, and are likely to start remembering things from an earlier age compared to their peers.

How parents can help:Your child doesn’t need to revise as much as the average child does, so do not push her to do so. Forcing her to revise will only bore her and not help her learn more. Remember that gifted children need constant mental stimulation.

Dr Anitha says, “a good memory is the most common trait in gifted children and most parents don’t know how they can help their child channelize this ability. It is important that parents involve their child in subjects that need him to exercise his power to recall rather than having him memorize meaningless things. Moreover, memory is usually found with other symbiotic traits like great logical thinking, good vocabulary, etc. Parents can help him build his memory power through activities that interest him. For example, if your child is interested in acting, encourage him to pursue his passion, as acting usually involves memorizing the script. It is of utmost importance that he is interested in that field.”

3. They tend to grasp concepts quickly

Gifted children tend to understand concepts faster than those with average capabilities. For example, once a gifted child understands that three and seven add up to 10, she can easily apply the same concept of addition to 4+7=11. This is because once she understands a concept, she can apply it in different contexts. This style of thinking is known as abstract thinking.

How parents can help: Understand that your child needn’t go through the entire material to understand a concept or a formula. However, he might still need your help. Dr Anitha recommends that parents should provide opportunities for their children to practice their abstract thinking to help them get better in solving complex problems. This could be done through increasing the difficulty level of the problems in their interest area. For example, if your child is in grade 6, you can give her problems from grade 8, depending on her ability. The problems should be such that they are challenging, but not so hard that she gives up on them.

4. They are more easily distracted 

According to a study titled 'Sensory sensitivities of gifted children', by Douglas R Gere, et al published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (2009), gifted children can be easily distracted, even if they don’t suffer from ADD or ADHD. This is mostly because they can absorb more stimuli in a given period of time. This, however, becomes a problem when they are in an environment with various audio and visual stimuli that distracts them from focusing on the task at hand.

How parents can help: Pick a space for your child where he can focus on his work. Make sure that it doesn’t have too much noise or is visually distracting (for example, a cluttered room can be distracting). You could do this by cleaning and organising his study space. You could even design his study space keeping his requirements in mind, which will help him focus.

5. They don’t like taking instructions

Dr Anitha explains, “A larger number of gifted children have a very strong sense of right and wrong and they don’t shy away from pointing it out, even to an authority as their responses are very spontaneous. Moreover, they don’t like taking instructions or being pushed to do something. This trait of theirs is often misinterpreted as disrespect. Therefore, it’s important to discuss and consult instructions with gifted children rather than giving them orders. It’s important for them to feel that they have some power over their own decisions and activities. However, if a gifted child trusts you then she is more likely to listen to what you have to say.”

How parents can help: As a parent, it’s important for you to help your child deal and wok with a figure of authority in a harmonious manner. While it’s important to listen to your child, do not allow their arguments to go on forever. Moreover, teach them that being right is important, but so is being kind and empathetic. They should learn to pay attention to the context and size of an error. Sometimes it’s better to let bygones be bygones.

At the end of the day, remember that gifted children are also kids who need your love and support to help them grow into healthy, confident, and successful adults. They have a gift. As parents, it’s your duty to nurture them. 

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