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Giftedness means ‘significantly advanced’ in development or learning. The domains of giftedness are: intellectual, academic, verbal, social skills, emotional intelligence, physical skills, artistic expression and music. When a child’s skills in a given domain are in the top 3-5% of the population, they are considered significantly advanced or ‘gifted’.

Characteristics of gifted children

Gifted children vary greatly, so it is difficult to make generalisations about gifted children. If you think that your child is gifted, some characteristics that you might observe in an intellectually gifted child are:

  • Often achieve their developmental skills at least one-third earlier than their age-matched peers
  • Very observant and actively seek stimulation from their environment
  • Quick learners
  • Complex problem solvers
  • Creative, imaginative and curious
  • Have a wide range of and deeper knowledge than their peers
  • Understand complex and abstract concepts
  • Have an early and clear understanding of cause and effect
  • Have excellent and efficient memories (store lots of information, organise the information very well and can scan their memory quickly to access a wide range of useful information)
  • Have superior metacognitive skills (are aware of how they think and learn, know their own abilities and can regulate their own thinking processes by planning, monitoring and evaluating)
  • Use resources well and seek to master new tasks
  • Have a sophisticated sense of humour

Some characteristics that you might observe in an academically gifted child are:

  • Early reading, having advanced preferences for reading and/or an intense interest in reading
  • Read, write or use numbers earlier and in more advanced ways than their peers
  • Spell or write words other than their own name before entering school

Concerns for gifted children

Because gifted children are significantly advanced, their learning needs are different from those of their peers. In order to meet gifted children’s needs, they must be identified as gifted and provided with appropriate educational opportunities that meet their specific needs.

Gifted children whose needs are not being met can experience a range of school-based concerns, including: low self-esteem (from feeling: different or wrong compared to their peers, unsuccessful at school and like they do not have control over what happens to them in their school setting), social isolation (feeling isolated from their peers because they feel different from their age-matched peers and don’t have access to intellectually, like-minded peers), disengaging with school (exhibiting challenging behaviours, such as being frustrated, rule-breaking, mischief-making and nonconformity) and underachieving in school (exhibiting a gap between their potential and produced school work, feeling constantly bored and being unwilling to engage and/or persist in tasks).

Gifted children may experience the following emotional concerns that require help from a psychologist: low self-esteem, social skills (find it difficult to relate to their peers or to make and maintain friendships), dysfunctional perfectionism (find it difficult to tolerate or persist when they are unable to easily accomplish a task, are constantly trying to achieve unrealistically high standards, are never satisfied with their performances and/or try to exert control over all aspects of their lives) and high levels of stress/anxiety (experience excessive worry and predict that negative outcomes will occur).


Early identification and intervention with appropriate educational opportunities have been shown to provide the best outcomes for gifted children. If you believe that your child may be gifted, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a giftedness assessment.


We can help your gifted child if s/he is experiencing negative outcomes at school by conducting an acceleration assessment, providing your school with practical recommendations and/or by visiting your child’s school and meeting their school professionals.

We offer personalised, evidence-based treatments that can help your child if s/he is experiencing dysfunctional perfectionism, stress or anxiety. Please visit our treatment page for further information or contact us to schedule an appointment.

Children with multiple exceptionalities

Children can be intellectually and/or academically gifted and also have a specific learning disorder (such as a reading disorder or a maths disorder), a behavioural disorder (such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder) or a high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. These children are sometimes called Gifted-Learning Disabled or multiply exceptional.

Schools may fail to identify these children’s multiple needs. As a result their learning needs are not met and they are unable to achieve at their level of ability. These children can present in the classroom in a number of ways, including:

  • With a gap between their potential and their performance
    • Case study 1: They could be performing at an average level with their peers, but below their intellectual capability; these children are rarely identified for their learning disorder or their giftedness because they are considered average like their peers.
    • Case study 2: They could be performing at a level below their peers, which is significantly below their intellectual capability. These children are often identified for what they cannot do, but not for what they can do.
  • Having exceptional verbal abilities, a deep knowledge about particular subjects and/or thinking creatively, but producing poor written work
  • Struggling with reading, maths or writing
  • Being labeled as unmotivated, lazy or an underachiever
  • Exhibiting low self-esteem
  • Experiencing high levels of frustration in the classroom
  • Exhibiting challenging behaviours in the classroom (nonconformity, uncooperative, disruptive, antisocial, etc.)
  • Prefering solitary play and having difficulty empathising with others, making eye contact and making friends
  • Having trouble recognising and regulating their emotions

If you are concerned that your child has multiple concerns and you would like us to help, please contact us to schedule an appointment.