Blog for Parents

How to Recognize When a Child is Gifted?

Sections of Amanda Marrone Interviewing Andi Stix on Sept. 1, 2017, NY Metro Parents

Gifted kids show amazing talent that needs to be nurtured–but they can also display unique social and behavioral issues.

Andi Stix, director of  G-tec Kids, a program for gifted and talented students in New Rochelle, NY, was teaching a math class about finding a pattern to discover the square root of any given number. The class eventually came up with a pattern, until one child proclaimed, “The pattern will work up until 10,000 and then fall apart.” Astonished, Stix says she asked how the child knew that, and he answered, “I can just see it.” He turned out to be right—a case of profound giftedness or some may even say, a prodigy.

Every child has her own talents and all children are unique in their own ways. But when it comes to cognitive development and intelligence, how do parents and educators judge whether a child is more than just your average smart kid?

Identifying Giftedness in Kids

Giftedness can present itself in early childhood, according to the National Association of Gifted Children, which lists the characteristics of gifted children, such as an excellent memory, an unusually high vocabulary or sentence structure for their age, or a highly developed curiosity. However, there are different ways to classify and identify giftedness, since every child is unique.

There are many smart kids in the world; however gifted students make up only 6-10 percent of the population, according to the NAGC. Clinically, giftedness is defined as anyone with an IQ of 130 or higher. If an IQ exceeds the 145-150 range, a person is considered profoundly gifted.

Although there are tests to prove that a child is gifted rather than just bright, many experts in the field believe giftedness can be discovered without a test. Nevertheless, educators will administer tests to see if a child is gifted, including the Stanford Binet (L-M), Wescher Intelligence Scale for Children, or general standardized tests such as the SAT.

“There are so many factors that come into play when determining whether a child is gifted, so it is important for educators and parents to see the child as a whole. Many kids can score very high on tests, but IQ is not the only factor when it comes to true giftedness,” Stix says. The way a child challenges material and reacts to that material is where people see true gifted potential.

Stix, therefore, is not a fan of just using (a single) test to judge giftedness. “I am very uncomfortable with the idea of testing giftedness on a single measure because you are saying that on that date, at that time, and in that environment, a child will present themselves to meet the standards of the school’s test,” she says. “I think the most important thing I use to distinguish between a gifted child and a bright child is to observe whether the child is inventing, creating, producing, designing within whatever area of expertise or passion that they have.”


What if a child’s cognitive level exceeds even giftedness? These children are extremely rare and present themselves with seemingly miraculous capabilities. These kids are generally known as prodigies.

“One definition of the term prodigy is a child who has achieved an appreciable measure of adult intellectual understanding in a particular field before he or she is out of the years devoted to secondary school education,” according to the article “Prodigies of Nature” by J.S. Jenkins in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Stix, who also has worked closely with some prodigies, explains: “I think with prodigies, the speed they integrate information is simply much faster. The links they make in terms of integrating material are higher and their productions are most complex. It is a very difficult thing to raise a prodigy because emotionally they want to be their age level but cognitively they can be light-years ahead of themselves.”

“Prodigies often experience a lot of loneliness because other kids cannot connect with them,” Stix says. Parents raising a prodigy need to try their best to try to get their child into programs to engage with others like them, she advises.

Raising a Gifted Child

Whether someone is bright, gifted, or even a prodigy, parents need to keep in mind that every child is still an individual, and parents and educators must cater to what is in the best interest of that particular person. The most important factor in helping a child is trying to keep her brain stimulated.

Whether it is signing the child up for a gifted and talented program or speaking to an educator to ensure the appropriate measures are taken within the regular school environment, it is important that giftedness is not ignored, experts agree. By enriching a child or putting him in a gifted program, a child will be given the tools to thrive.