Dimensions of Giftedness

Gifted children not only think differently from their peers, they also feel differently.

          -- Linda Silverman

[Gifted] is not a matter of degree but of a different quality of experiencing: vivid, absorbing, penetrating, encompassing, complex, commanding
-- a way of being quiveringly alive.

          --M. Piechowski

In the ordinary elementary school situation, children of IQ 140 waste half their time. Those above IQ 170 waste practically all their time. With little to do, how can these children develop powers of sustained effort, respect for the task, or habits of steady work?

          -- L. Hollingworth

From "Exceptionally Gifted Children" by Miraca Gross

"It would be simplistic to define intellectual giftedness solely in terms of IQ scores; nonetheless the intelligence quotient is a useful index of the relationship (and in the case of the gifted child, the discrepancy) between mental age and chronological age. A moderately gifted 9-year-old with a mental age of 12 and thus an IQ of approximately 133 is 'out-of-synch' by a matter of three years before he has even passed through elementary school; however, his exceptionally gifted age-mate with a mental age of 15 and an IQ of approximately 167 looks across a chasm of six years from the age at which he is capable of reasoning to the grade level in which he is likely to be placed on the basis of his chronological age. The IQ can assist us to understand the fundamental differences in mental processing between moderately gifted and extremely gifted students."

Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences

Annemarie Roper

From ERIC Digest E476

"Giftedness & The Gifted: What's It All About?"

"Giftedness is that precious endowment of potentially outstanding abilities which allows a person to interact with the environment with remarkably high levels of achievement and creativity."

"Talented tends to be used when referring to a particular strength or ability of a person. Thought should be given to whether the talent is truly a gift or is, rather, an ability that has become a highly developed skill through practice."

While all children have relative strengths and weaknesses, some children have extreme strengths in one or more areas. Extreme giftedness creates a special educational need, just as does retardation or learning disability.

          -- Ellen Winner in "Gifted Children"

Intelligence, IQ, and IQ Tests

Intellect is defined by Webster's as "the ability to reason or understand." Intellect, the ability, arises from our genetic inheritance. In other words, "nature" plays the greatest role in determining what our intellect or "ability to reason" will be. Intelligence may be defined as "mental quickness and mental flexibility." Intelligence is the behavior that arises from a person's intellectual abilities. We measure a person's intelligence in order to make a value judgement about the quality of person's intellect, less or more, fast or slow. The term "giftedness" is a value judgement made using the numeric data from intelligence tests. It is generally accepted that individuals whose I.Q. scores are above 130 qualify as "intellectually gifted."

The I.Q. score is often used as a "first approximation" when determining whether or not a person should be nominated for participation in special programs and educational opportunities. It is common in these cases to see tables where ranges of scores have been assigned labels. These category labels, e.g. "gifted" or "normal," unlike the I.Q. scores themselves, are subjectively assigned. Labels are assigned to differing ranges of scores depending upon the "agenda" which one wishes to support or advance. The labels themselves have changed over time to suit the tastes and sensibilities of various groups within society.

No matter how gifted, children do not develop their gifts without a parent or surrogate parent behind them encouraging, stimulating, and pushing. But the parents do not create the gift. The children are usually pushing the parents, sending out clear signals of their need for a stimulating environment. Parents try to accomodate.

          --Ellen Winner in "Gifted Children"

I.Q. Scores

The following is one of the more commonly used categorizations of IQ scores. Like everything else, different people have different ideas about where the breakpoints should be for each category and the numbers of people who fit into each category. Some of the more recent research seems to indicate that there are more individuals in the 160+ range than would be predicted by the Normal Distribution upon which the numbers below are based.

 85    Lower normal
100    Upper normal
115    Bright
130+   Gifted  (about 1 in 40)
135+   Highly gifted  (about 1 in 1,000)
145+   Exceptionally or Profoundly gifted (about 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 1,000,000)

At an IQ of 130, the intellectually gifted child is as different, in intellectual abilities, from the "average child" (IQ 85-115), as a child whose IQ is 70. "The profoundly gifted child of IQ 190 [no longer a possible score] differs from moderately gifted classmates of IQ 130 to the same degree that the latter differ from intellectually handicapped children of IQ 70." (Miraca Gross in "Exceptionally Gifted Children," page 9)

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

          -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Intelligence Tests

There are many different tests which are used to assess mental abilities. The two most commonly used with gifted children are the WISC-III and the Stanford-Binet. The Stanford-Binet has a higher range and is the test of choice for highly gifted children. Scores on the WISC-III of 135 or above may be artificially low since the test itself has a maximum of 150; the child may "max-out" one or more subtests which "clips" the scores at an artificially low level.

Neither of the "current" tests, i.e. the WISC-IV and the Stanford-Binet Revision V, is an appropriate assessment instrument for children whose true IQ is above 130. Due to the nature of these tests and how they are constructed it is quite likely that scores will be underestimated significantly for the gifted child. There is a growing body of literature, both reviews and research reports, which are bringing this problem to light. Reality is, however, that you take what you can get and right now, the WISC-IV and the Stanford-Binet Revision V are the only tests that the majority of school psychologists are trained and willing to administer.

When choosing a psychologist or other professional to administer an IQ test, parents should insure that the tester is familiar with the characteristic behaviors of gifted children. Otherwise, the test results may reflect the test administrators' expectations, e.g. looking for a learning disability, rather than the child's abilities. Common problems include starting too low on subtests having variable starting points and interpreting the child's demeanor as oppositional rather than inquisitive.

Schools may choose to use other tests in their screening processes for admission to TAG programs. Parents should remember that schools choose tests that meet their specific program goals -- i.e. identification of which children meet the school's criteria for inclusion in a TAG program. School selection criteria do not necessarily conform to accepted definitions of intellectual giftedness.

Last Updated: October 22, 2007
This webpage is maintained by Kit Finn (director@tagfam.org)