What is a Gifted Child?

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Exactly what is a gifted child? Willard Abraham, in his book Common Sense About Gifted Children tells about a graduate student who attempted to find a definition of gifted children, and came back three weeks later with 113 separate definitions, some overlapping and some polar opposites (21). The definition used by the Federal Government defines the gifted children thus: "The term "gifted and talented" when used in respect to students, children, or youth means students, children, or youth who give evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership ability, or in specific academic fields, and who require service or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities (Turnball 269)." Current ideas of giftedness state that it comes in multiple forms, is developmental and process-oriented, field-oriented rather than school-oriented, and encompasses people of all races and social classes (Turnbull 270).

However, in the public mind, the phrase "talent and gifted" is mainly used in reference to children who are academically or intellectually gifted, and conjures up images of spectacled youngsters poring over books when they should be outside playing. Despite these images and perceptions, there has been a growing movement among teachers, parents, lawmakers, and the children themselves to see that the needs of gifted youth are met. Interest in cultivating talented youth has a long history. Some of the earliest "intelligence testing" happened in China 2200 B.C., where it was required to pass a series of difficult tests to enter official ranks. Later, the Chinese had a series of contests to pick a Model Scholar, who would receive elaborate recognition from the state. (Laycock 100). In the Western world, as early as 2,000 years ago Plato suggested that children with high intelligence be selected and offered specialized instruction...