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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
  • 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)
  • 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 has 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 visit our giftedness assessment page to learn more about the assessments we offer or 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. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.

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 can 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 can not do, but not for what they can do.
  • Have exceptional verbal abilities, a deep knowledge about particular subjects and/or think creatively, but produce poor written work
  • Struggle with reading, maths or writing
  • Being labeled as unmotivated, lazy or an underachiever
  • Exhibit low self-esteem
  • Experience high levels of frustration in the classroom
  • Exhibit challenging behaviours in the classroom (nonconformity, uncooperative, disruptive, antisocial, etc.)
  • Prefer solitary play and have difficulty empathising with others, making eye contact and making friends
  • Have trouble recognising and regulating their emotions

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

School refusal

School refusal is when a child doesn’t want to go to school, refuses to attend school or feels emotional distress (feels fear or anxiety) about going to school. School refusal can occur at any time, but is more likely to occur when children start primary school, children transition to high school and during high school years. The most common underlying factor of school refusal is anxiety.

Signs that your children might be school refusing

If your child is school refusing, s/he might:

  • Speak negatively about school
  • Refuse to get out of bed in the morning
  • Indicate that they feel unwell (eg. headaches)
  • Have physical feelings of anxiety (eg. racing or pounding heart, body temperature increase or decrease, dizziness, tightness in his/her chest, shortness of breath, trembling/shaking, nausea, exhausted or excess of energy)
  • Express fears, worries or concerns relating to school
  • State that they want to stay home with you
  • Display challenging behaviours before school to delay leaving (eg. having tantrums, being argumentative, being non-compliant, etc.)
  • Struggle to separate from you before school
  • Refuse to get out of the car at school
  • Frequently arrive late to school
  • Frequently go to sick bay at school
  • Frequently come home early from school
  • Frequently stay home from school

Reasons for school refusal

Children who school refuse usually have an underlying emotional concern, such as:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Children may school refuse if they are having social problems at school, such as:

  • Being bullied
  • Having trouble making and maintaining friendships
  • Finding it difficult to get along with a teacher

Children may school refuse if their learning needs are not being met. As a result they may be experiencing a range of emotional and social concerns. If your child is school refusing, he/she may:

  • Have a learning disorder such as dyslexia or dyscalculia
  • Be gifted

Children may school refuse if they are experiencing family stress, such as:

  • Having an illness that has required them to be away from school
  • A close family member or friend having an illness
  • The death of a family member or friend
  • Parents separating or divorcing
  • A traumatic event
  • Moving to a new home

Concerns for school-refusing children

When children school refuse, they have an underlying concern or issue that isn’t being addressed. Their underlying concerns or issues must be identified and addressed so that they can feel like they are understood and that their needs are being met. Once their needs are met, it is imperative that they return to school as quickly as possible.

Chronic school-refusing children are at great risk of falling substantially behind their peers in their education and feeling socially isolated from their peers. The ultimate risk for school refusing children is early school leaving. Early school leavers are at risk of a range of negative life outcomes, including: lower health outcomes, lower life satisfaction, lesser likelihood of participating in formal education, greater likelihood of experiencing extended periods of unemployment, greater likelihood of experiencing limited career paths, greater likelihood of being reliant on government assistance and greater likelihood of being involved in criminal behaviour.


During your first session we meet with you and your child and conduct a clinical interview to identify your child’s underlying emotional and social concerns and to develop a personalised, evidence-based treatment plan. For more detailed information on what to expect in your first session with us, please visit our Appointments page.

During your first session, we might decide to conduct assessments (in future appointments) if we believe that underlying educational concerns might be impacting your child’s well being. For more detailed information on the assessments that we conduct, please visit our Assessments page.

If your child is school refusing and you would like us to help, please contact us to schedule an appointment.


Individual treatment

If your child is school refusing, we can use a number of approaches to treat your child’s underlying emotional, social and/or educational concerns, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (for treating anxiety and depression),
  • Exposure-response therapy (for treating fear and anxiety),
  • Social skills training (intervention for social deficits, social isolation and help in making and maintaining friendships),
  • Assertiveness training (for bullying),
  • Reading intervention (for dyslexia) and/or
  • Acceleration options (for giftedness).

Parenting strategies

If your child is school refusing, we can help you to understand your child’s underlying concerns. We can also help you to develop parenting strategies to help you to understand your role in and the steps you can take to help to address your child’s concerns. We can also help you to develop a return-to-school plan and provide you with strategies to implement your return-to-school plan.

Schooling strategies

If your child is school refusing, we can help you to work with your child’s school to help them to implement a return-to-school plan. Our return-to-school plans incorporate a number of important facets, such as: developing a communication strategy between you and your child’s school, dealing directly with any underlying social or educational concerns at school, providing relevant teaching staff with psycho-education so that they understand your child’s emotional concerns and providing teaching staff with strategies and suggesting possible curriculum modifications to meet your child’s needs.

If you would like us to help your school refusing child, please contact us to schedule an appointment.