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Gifted or high potential children have above average intellectual capacities for their age category (in relation to their peers). They have particularly developed capacities in the areas ofabstraction, logic and forming categories. This means that their cognitive capacity responsible for Reasoning is highly efficient.
This does not mean that the entirety of their cognitive functions are highly efficient. A child said to be gifted, may have difficulties with cognitive capacities that are not focused on emotion, such as attentional or related to movement. They may for example, struggle with concentration or writing. Alternatively, they may have difficulties with cognitive capacities that are related to emotion and social interaction: they may be sad or find it challenging to understand the feelings of others.
This is what we refer to as “dysynchrony”: the child’s cognitive development may be heterogenous. It is not because one cognitive capacity is above average and particularly efficient (such as Reasoning), that the others are also. They may be simply normal or even below average.
Gifted children may show specific signs as listed below. However, it is rare for a child to have all of the signs or symptoms. For example, some gifted children do not necessarily enjoy reading and instead prefer sport, or are not hyper-sensitive. Others will have no difficulty socialising with their peer group. Everything depends on the child’s personality. Thus there are as many types of “gifted” as there are “gifted children”.All the more, there are many “normal” children with several of the characteristics listed below. This list can therefore not be used to replace a psychological assessment.
Their development is not balanced as they focus a lot more of the mind than the body and they may suffer from coordination disorders (dyspraxia).
At any one point in time, our brain is carrying out complex procedures to gather and process the information it encounters. In order to do so, it uses what are known as "cognitive functions". Cognitive functions can be defined as the cerebral activities that lead to knowledge (cognition). They include all types of mechanisms for acquiring information, namely:
It is thanks to the efficiency of our cognitive functions that we can participate in the world around us and learn. When a child has difficulties learning or being in the world, it means that there are deficits or at least difficulties with one or more of their cognitive functions.
Due to the complexity of the brain and it’s functioning, an exploration of the different capacities that may have an influence on the relationship with the world and learning, is essential. For example, children with autism often display varying difficulties that should be assessed, such as emotional, social, attention, language-based and mobility impairments.
If a giftedness is suspected before the age of 6, a developmental assessment can be carried out. This involves assessment of the child’s stage of development in relation to that of other children of the same age. The following aspects are examined:
A developmental assessment enables the detection of deficits as well as helping to make diagnostic hypotheses and to orient and start psychoeducational strategies at school and at home.
Under the age of 6, the child is in a stage of phenomenal neuronal and psycho-affective development. The diagnostic hypotheses based on the developmental assessment should be verified around the age of 6 once the brain functions are not in such a major phase of development.
As the brain functions are still in the process of developing, we cannot expect, for example, a 3-year-old to have fully developed attentional capacities and to be able to concentrate. For this reason, this cognitive cannot be assessed. Certain cognitive functions cannot be assessed before the age of 6.
Therefore, a full psychological and neuropsychological assessment at the age of 6 allows for the diagnosis to be confirmed or otherwise and for an evaluation of the totality of the cognitive functions in depth. In the meanwhile, psychological treatment can be offered to assist the child in their development.
In case of a suspected giftedness, for children from the age of 6 and above, a cognitive psychological assessment should be carried out. The full assessment links together cognitive development with emotional and affective development.
Cognitive psychological assessment examines some domains of the cognitive development. It analyses part of the intellectual functioning of the child in order to confirm or not a high level of reasoning. It examines mainly the following domains:
Other domains are analysed as well:
If some difficulties are detected during this assessment (emotional or social difficulties, difficulties in the areas of attention, executive functions, langage, visuospatial skills, motor skills) other assessments may be suggested.
As soon as giftedness is suspected, an assessment can be envisaged. It can help those concerned to explain the child’s behaviour by putting words and meaning to it.
An important motive for consultation would be boredom or a dismissal of education.
Sometimes parents are held backby modesty or a fear of labelling their child early on. However, assessment of intellectual giftedness helps to answer many questions:
The evaluation can identify and define any advanced traits or capacities your child may have and consequently allow for a diagnosis or diagnostic hypothesis of giftedness. This can help in:
The evaluation can guide the follow-up treatment and maximise the learning potential and well-being of the child. The objective is to help the child to flourish on all levels - academic, social and emotional. The evaluation helps:
Not all gifted children skip a year.
If the child feels sufficiently stimulated by the pscyhoeducational programs in their class, then it may be appropriate for them to stay in the year that corresponds to their age. It is not a good idea to unnecessarily disrupt their relationships with their school friends.
If the psychoeducational programsare unsatisfactory in relation to the child’s need for stimulation then skipping a year should be considered. The primary risk is that the child may become bored and disengage from their education. The secondary risk is that they never experience making an effort intellectually and coping with the frustration of learning (when encountering difficulty). They may be ill adapted to the energy required for the more challenging demands of the years above that require considerably more intellectual effort than primary school.