blue okeefe.jpgFrequently Asked Questions About Giftedness


Q: Your child has an IQ of 171 as scored on the Stanford-Binet. What does this mean and what can you do?

A: It means that you have a "genius" under your roof! And you will need to find the right school that can understand and challenge your child. Your approach to parenting will have to change to meet your child’s needs. And, yes, it’s good news, because some of your child’s strange behavior will seem more understandable.


Q: Your child is writing music at age 5. You wonder, "Is my child gifted?"

A: Yes! Not all gifted children manifest traditional giftedness as measured by an IQ score. I explore types of giftedness in music, art, or leadership that are measured generally by performance, excellence, and acceleration at the task.


Q: Your child is reading at an 8th grade level in kindergarten and you’re not sure what to do about his education.

A: What are the realistic affordable options? What kind of learning environment will challenge your child? In the end, after talking to a professional, choosing a school is an extremely personal decision that only the parent can make.


Q: Your 6-year-old is terrified to return to school even though he is well loved by other children and the teacher.

A: You can calm a gifted child by modulating his mood swings, which are a reflection of the intensity of feelings that he experiences. Keep your own composure.


Q: Your five-year-old refuses to get ready for school even though she knows the drill. You have to scream to get anything done.

A: Handling discipline can be extremely difficult because gifted children like to get their own way and are capable of outsmarting their parents. But you can learn to outsmart your children.


Q: Your daughter wants to try every after-school activity that she hears about and you wonder why. Is she hyperactive?

A: Enrichment activities are necessary but can be overdone (too many) or under-focused (too generalized). You need to learn to set limits.


Q: Other mothers refuse to acknowledge your problems with your gifted child: "You’re so lucky! Why are you complaining?" So you feel alone with your problems.

A: You have to find the right peers for yourself who will support you. Other parents with gifted children will likely empathize.


Q: Your little darling fights with her brother, who has teased her endlessly.

A: Sibling rivalry and other types of competition from friends and relatives are common. First of all, don’t ignore your problems; it’s better to talk them out.


Q: The children at school think your child is a nerd. What do you do?

A: Socialization problem with peers, a mentor, parents, and other adults are often very common. Definitely you have to find some smart or like-minded friends for your child.


Q: Your daughter pretends that she can’t spell so the other kids will play with her. But then the real problems begin: she cries at night or actually believes she is becoming "dumber."

A: Self-esteem problems usually revolve around being smarter than peers and feeling like an outsider or nerd. Many gifted children dumb themselves down to fit in.


Q: What happens when a gifted child is not parented with special attention to their learning highs and lows?

A:  Gifted children who are ignored by parents or teachers become adults who are frustrated because they are unable to reach their potential.

Q: People tell me not to push my gifted child. How do I avoid pushing her?

A: Be smart yourself: Ask yourself if the activity is for me to show off or for my child to have fun. Remember, children deserve a childhood no matter how advanced she may be in science, mathematics, art, music, or athletics. Every child needs to learn social skills. Make time for your child's friendships. If she ever complains about being "pushed," then set goals together that are easy to achieve.


Q: My two sons are in a gifted and talented magnet program. Lately I’ve noticed that they often talk about kids who aren’t in their G/T program as being “bad” kids who aren’t as smart as they are. What should I say? How can I help them understand that the “regular” classes have a diversity of kids – many of whom could be potential friends?

A:  First and foremost, you should teach your child and show by your example respect for other people’s uniqueness. Parents often think that talking about their child’s giftedness will feed into the child’s arrogance or sense of elitism. The opposite is true. You should talk to your child about what they think it means to be gifted and how they feel about being in special classes. You will be surprised to hear their reactions and they will be relieved to have parents that are concerned about their thoughts and feelings.


Q:  My daughter is always in trouble at school. I think it’s because she has a 145 IQ and is bored. The school wants me to talk to our doctor about medicating her – possibly for ADHD. What should I do?

A:  Boredom in gifted children is often a “cry for help” to parents and teachers. You need to gather more detailed information about your daughter’s problematic behavior. Ask for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) so you can better understand how the school environment is not meeting your child’s academic and social–emotional needs. Your child may need more challenge and more meaningful friendships. Behavioral interventions such as family counseling should always be given a long chance to resolve problem behavior. Medication should be considered as a last ditch effort.

Q:  My son always finishes his work faster than the other kids, and constantly complains about being bored. His teacher has bought some workbooks for gifted kids that he is supposed to work on at the back table in the classroom when he finishes early. I think this is a terrible idea, but need a better suggestion to take to the teacher. Do you have any advice?

A:  The most up to date educational research on meeting giften children’s needs for challenge indicates the use of a differentiated curriculum. Differentiated curriculum is more complicated and comprehensive than giving a child an extra workbook in the back of the classroom. Ask your child’s teacher if they have any experience with this innovative curriculum. Remember not to be bossy or insistent. Rather, you should try to work with your child’s teacher on developing realistic challenges.


Q:  My son is extremely bright – and has terrible social skills. He is 11 and has no friends. He doesn’t seem to care, and is always in his own little world. I want him to have a best friend (at least one!), but isn’t it too late to teach him how to be a friend? Should I worry?

A:  The social–emotional development of a gifted child can be very difficult and should be a primary concern for parents. Coaching your child in how to develop friendships is very useful and effective. Also, gifted children often do better if they have other gifted children to play with or adults who encourage their interests. Don’t leave your child’s socialization to chance. Set up social situations or excursions where your child has to interact with peers and adults.


Q:  What is boredom?

A:  Social and emotional issues can be as important as the development of motivation or achievement for the gifted child or adolescent. If your child is having problems with her homework or complains of boredom, perhaps you are unaware of other emotional issues related to anger or feeling like a misfit. Academic problems for gifted children are more often than not rooted in unhappiness with themselves or others.