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In England, the Department for Education (DfE) distinguishes between gifted learners and talented children:

  • Gifted learners are those who have particular academic abilities
  • Talented learners are those who have particular abilities in the creative arts (such as music, art and design, drama, and dance) or PE

Gifted children can often be misunderstood and thought of as disruptive, display inappropriate behaviour or are thought of as lazy as they are daydreaming and not involved with everyone else. This is due to boredom, and frustration.

A ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ child can easily do things that other children are attempting and enjoying. If things are too easy, they become bored and then you have problems at home or in their early years setting. The solution to this is creating extension tasks for these children.

Being ‘gifted and talented’ can be very confusing for the child. It doesn’t always make them popular when they succeed or achieve something their peers haven’t. They are prone to bullying as success does not always mean popularity.

Their social and emotional development tends to lag behind their intellect and ability. This makes it hard to mix and make friends with their peers as their thought processes are different.

Just think about Sheldon Cooper in the ‘Big Bang Theory’. Due to his high intelligence, Sheldon, at times, doesn’t know how to act, takes things too literally, doesn’t always understand humour, and is often laughed at for this.

‘Gifted’ and ‘talented’ children as they get older are often disaffected as they can find activities painstakingly slow and boring and don’t want to seem arrogant or precocious. When a child picks things up very quickly they tend to be told to do more of the same, repetition, which is hard for a brain or body that learns very quickly. This is the DANGER ZONE… When boredom sets in, the child resorts to switching off, having imaginary ailments or being disruptive.

Do ‘gifted’ children have special needs?

Currently being ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ does not fall into the category of special educational needs which makes it harder for teachers and parents. A child assessed as highly able does not have access to additional resources and funding. Therefore a ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ child is a disadvantaged child. They are disadvantaged because they require additional support and resources along with other children who have special educational needs, and these are just not being made available for them.

In England, there is no national definition of “more able” or “gifted” students or national support programme since the Young Gifted and Talented Programme closed in 2010.

The funds for the “Young Gifted and Talented Programme” were diverted into other projects and evidence has since suggested that the absence of monitoring controls results in a lack of services to ‘gifted’ children in local school environments.

Importance of assessment

When a child is assessed and found to be ‘gifted’, the additional information from the assessment about the child’s intellectual ability and potential will help everyone plan the best way forwards.

If they are not recognised and encouraged early enough, there is the risk that the child will merge into the crowd or become disruptive and become a high-ability, low performer. This is frustrating for the child, the parent, and the teacher especially when we all want the children to reach their full potential.

Spotting the ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ child in a pre-school setting

There are some simple signs to look out for as ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ children may remember and retell events in greater detail than expected.

  • They can use an extremely broad vocabulary
  • They can complete more advanced puzzles and activities that you set to challenge them
  • They typically read earlier than other children
  • They prefer the company of adults or older children
  • They play and create games with quite complex rules
  • They can explain things and their understanding of the world in ways you would expect from a much older child

If staff do not recognise that the child can do things easily, they become bored attempting things the other children enjoy. This then becomes a problem for everyone! The best thing to do is to stimulate high-level thinking by including extension tasks in their activities.

Stimulate high-level thinking

When the child is playing, support them by asking probing and open-ended questions from time to time. Questions such as:

  • “What if...?”
  • “When might...?”
  • “Which would...?” “Who might...?”
  • “Why do you think...?”
  • “How could we...?”
  • “Would you rather...?”

These questions can also be asked when you are sharing a book or when you are collaboratively exploring learning games or participating in creative role-play

Be flexible with time

Sometimes they will want extra time to explore an activity at a deeper level or follow something that catches their interest. They may return to that activity over days, weeks or even months. They are not repeating, they are delving more deeply. At other times they will master or understand the skill or concept very quickly and be ready to move on.

Being tuned in to their needs helps you assess how they are progressing, and create activities to allow them to explore more deeply.

Increase the level of challenge and complexity in all activities

  • Jigsaw puzzles and new equipment that covers a range of levels and difficulty
  • Resources and problems that may be considered too challenging for them
  • Giving them challenges and asking questions helps them to promote deep thinking

The ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ child needs nurturing, and attention, like all children, they are part of our diverse society, and they must not be unseen or left behind.

About the author:

Gina is a dynamic and accomplished educator with a rich background in movement and dance. Initially trained in ballet, she has dedicated the past 27 years to imparting her passion for movement and dance across various educational settings, ranging from mainstream to early years and SEND environments, as well as esteemed dance schools.

About the author:

Gina is a dynamic and accomplished educator with a rich background in movement and dance. Initially trained in ballet, she has dedicated the past 27 years to imparting her passion for movement and dance across various educational settings, ranging from mainstream to early years and SEND environments, as well as esteemed dance schools.

About the author:

Gina is a dynamic and accomplished educator with a rich background in movement and dance. Initially trained in ballet, she has dedicated the past 27 years to imparting her passion for movement and dance across various educational settings, ranging from mainstream to early years and SEND environments, as well as esteemed dance schools.

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