Myths Exposed – Are all children gifted in some way???

This is probably the one myth I hear the most – from educators, from parents, from Joe Q Public. “Everyone is gifted in their own way.”

While it is true that the definition of giftedness is a bit nebulous, and it is also true that everyone has their own strengths, this does not mean that everyone is gifted.

Let me repeat that again, although everyone has their own gifts, not every one is gifted.

The term “gifted” refers to a specific constellation of attributes and speaks to innate potential.  It is a descriptive term, just like hair or eye color, or height – not a subjective one. Saying that all children are gifted is the equivalent of saying that all children are of the same height, with the same eye or hair color. And we all know that is not true.

The truth: 

Being gifted isn’t only about achievement or intellectual abilities (IQ). Gifted children possess unique characteristics in their intellectual processing, personality and emotional domains (Webb, Gore, Amend, & DeVries, 2007). The specific characteristics of giftedness include the following:

Cognitive Attributes:

  • Exceptional reasoning ability
  • Intellectual curiosity
  • Complex thought processes
  • Vivid imagination
  • Passion for learning (not necessarily for school)

Social/behavioral Attributes:

  • Insightful
  • Perfectionism
  • Need for precision or logic
  • Excellent sense of humor
  • Highly sensitive
  • Intense in several domains, including psycho-motor (the need for excessive movement or talking), sensory (being highly sensitive to sounds or other types of sensory input or craving sensory stimulation), emotional (intense mood swings, strong affective memory, and deep feelings about…everything)

Understanding these unique characteristics – and more importantly, understanding that not every child possesses these characteristics – is the first step towards dispelling this myth and meeting the needs of these diverse learners.

How do you feel about this myth? Do you think all children are gifted?

8 thoughts on “Myths Exposed – Are all children gifted in some way???

  1. Agreed!

    All children are not gifted, and it’s ridiculous to pretend they are. But many people have never met a gifted child or had any reason to study the characteristics of giftedness. It’s understandable why the more optimistic of these folks might assume the warm and fuzzy attitude of “all kids are gifted.”

  2. Not all kids are going into the NBA, NHL, NFL, etc. Not all kids are athletically gifted and not all kids are academically gifted.

    All kids do have talents, however.

    1. Josh Shaine

      Ginger, what do you mean by “talents?”

      If you mean “areas of relative strength to their other aptitudes,” then I would agree.

      If you mean “areas of strength relative to the majority of other people,” then I have to disagree. Not everybody has something they are good at compared to other people, except being themselves.

      You can have a person who is not above the 50th percentile in any realm, be it academic, social, physical, creative, etc.

  3. Josh Shaine

    Your basic premise is one of the hard truths that I firmly agree with and express, myself.

    However, the “specific characteristics of giftedness” that you list from the Webb book are falsely exclusionary. A couple examples from the list:

    Perfectionism – not everybody who is a perfectionist is gifted. Nor is everybody who is gifted a perfectionist. Yes, there is a lot of overlap, but even if one cedes a high incidence of perfectionism among the gifted, it is far from universal.

    Excellent sense of humor – This is just not true. Setting aside the simple truth that one person’s funny is another person’s stupid, there are many gifted people who have little sense of humor at all and others who have a sense of humor, but for whom it is not a particular feature of distinction.

    The sensitivities that you mention – often talked about with regard to Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities – are not even remotely within each and every gifted or even highly gifted child. Some of them may have that psychomotor propensity. Some may have the sensual reactions – and only some of their senses, at that, and some may have that intense emotional depth. Some may have all 3 of those and the rich imagination, too.

    NOT all. Maybe not most.

    No, not all children are gifted. But neither do they all fit into the description given.

  4. I’ve helped out in my kids’ classes starting with my oldest in the mid 1990’s and while I can say from observation that not all of the kids I came in contact with fit any of the above descriptions, it sure did and still does seem like at least half of them do! But then maybe I’m being overly optimistic and am assuming a warm and fuzzy attitude?

    EXCEPT, I HAVE (not meaning to shout, I just don’t have italics) met plenty of gifted children. I was in the gifted programs beginning in elementary school and all three of my kids were or are in GATE. Maybe it just seemed/seems that way because my kids would tend to be more comfortable having other friends who were “gifted” –birds of a feather?

    1. Tom

      Hi Donna, “Birds of a feather” for sure. There is an overwhelming sense of connectedness you get between gifted peers. It doesn’t happen between each all of the time, but the bonds/relationships between gifted individuals is pretty incredible to experience certainly.

      There are very few (if any) “rules” when it comes to identifying gifted people, but I would say there are tendencies or common traits at the least. The list Christine provides is as good as any I’ve seen.

  5. Christine Fonseca

    Thank you all for your comments. I wanted to quickly and briefly address Josh’s concerns, comments. My purpose in listing some of the general, agreed upon, evidence based characteristics of giftedness was to open the dialogue up in understanding that being gifted has to do with specific characteristics a person possesses – not the number on an IQ test, or grades in school. I believe the post has done that. And yes, your position is also correct that there will be some exceptions – that some children may not have ALL of those characteristics. Like most things when it comes to human beings, it’s about looking at the total person in making the determination.
    Thank you all again for your insightful commentary.

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