A state of intellectual or creative giftedness.
There are differences in intellectual attainment among children. Some children make strides in learning and creativity that are well beyond what would normally
Infancy and preschool
Because it is impossible to tell which infants will become gifted children, it is extremely difficult to study environmental influences on giftedness from infancy. So researchers generally study gifted children only in later years, relying solely on unscientific methods such as selfreports and memories of parents and teachers. While this is not the most reliable method of study, it does offer some insight into the development of geniuses.
Psychologist William Fowler has done extensive research in this area and has found that parental intervention is by far the most important determinant of intellectual giftedness. In a 1981 study, Fowler surveyed decades of scientific inquiry into the making of genius. He found that in one important study, 87% of the gifted children studied had been given substantial, intensive training by their parents at home, focusing on speech, reading, and mathematics—all highly structured avenues. The parents of these gifted children had ambitious and sometimes very specific plans for their children. The parents were nearly all from the professional class, allowing them the time and the money to devote such resources to the intellectual development of their children.
Many psychologists suggest reading to infants and preschoolers can be beneficial in their later acquisition of linguistic competency. Of course, infants have no understanding of the content of what is being read to them, but the rhythmic patterns of formal writing, as opposed to the haphazard, often jumbled, syntax of human speech, is craved by the developing brain, which seeks to order all the sensory information it is receiving. This also helps explain the beneficial effects of classical music, which is also highly ordered and full of patterns, repetition, and variations, just like language. Other findings indicate that gifted children tend to be firstborns or only children, and that they come from cohesive families with a stable socioeconomic status.
One major study tracked a large pool of children, beginning in infancy, with the intention of discovering what factors led to the development of giftedness as shown by high IQ test scores. The Fullerton Longitudinal Study, completed in the early 1990s, was a breakthrough study in this area. Its results supported the findings of other researchers, namely that parental intervention in a child's education was by far the most significant factor in the development of genius. The study also suggested ways to recognize the propensity for genius in early infants, something that psychologists have debated for some time. It found that infants who became gifted "show[ed] significantly greater goal directedness, object orientation, attention span, cooperativeness, positive emotional tone, and responsivity to test materials." It also found that potentially gifted children may be identified by their ability to pay attention, while maintaining a positive attitude, to the sometimes difficult tests researchers use. So even if an infant or very young child scores well in only one area, the fact that she was able to maintain her attention for the duration of the test may be of more significance in predicting later giftedness than her poorer scores on other tests.
Psychologists have examined various home-tutoring techniques and have found that there appears to be no single kind of stimulation that might turn a normal child into a gifted child. All methods seem to work, provided they center on language or math. It has even been suggested that the method matters little because the child is responding to the quantity of attention rather than to the content of what is being taught.
School-age and adolescence
When a child reaches school age, it becomes possible to measure his or her intelligence more reliably. Intelligence tests are the subject of intense debate among psychologists, educators, and the general public. Most standardized tests measure logical-mathematical, linguistic, and spatial intelligence. However, the idea of multiple intelligences was formulated by psychologist Howard Gardner, who defined six components of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodilykinesthetic, and personal. Today, many people regard intelligence as comprising different types of skills and talents. Most school systems, however, continue to measure intelligence, and giftedness, according to test results measuring logical-mathematical, linguistic, and spatial intelligence. Gifted children are often identified by their unusually high scores on traditional intelligence tests.
Gifted children usually become bored in the regular classroom. When a gifted child is placed in the highest track and is still bored, educators may promote the child a year or two to challenge her academically. However, most psychologists believe that the social costs of skipping grades probably outweigh the intellectual benefits, especially in young children. Learning social skills is just as much a part of school as academic advancement.
If a gifted child is not promoted or sent to another school, there are various activities that can facilitate the child's intellectual development. Parents and teachers can devise after-school and weekend projects. Many community colleges offer evening and weekend classes that gifted adolescents can attend. Libraries and museums offer lectures and programs by visiting scholars and curators, which gifted children might find highly stimulating. Older teens can work part-time after school at tutoring
Gottfried, Allen W., et al. Gifted IQ: Early Developmental Aspects. New York: Plenum Press, 1994.
Howe, Michael J.A. The Origins of Exceptional Abilities, Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 1990.
Allman, Arthur. "The Anatomy of a Genius." U.S. News and World Report, October 25, 1993.
Begley, Sharon. "The Puzzle of Genius." Newsweek, June 28, 1993.