By: Alissa Talamo, PhD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
All children have learning strengths and weaknesses, and as parents we are proud of all our children. However, there are some children who are precocious and seem to learn many skills early and with ease. According to the National Association of Gifted Children, there are certain characteristics that parents will often notice and wonder if their child is gifted. Some of these characteristics include:
- Unusual alertness, even in infancy
- advanced vocabulary
- heightened sensitivity
- remarkable memory
- rapid and constant learning from their environment
- seeming to know things without the effort required to learn it
- longer attention spans and intense concentration skills; yet at the same time they can become preoccupied with their own thoughts, often being labeled as “daydreamers”
- demonstrate a wide range of interests
- display a highly developed level of curiosity and ask probing questions
- vivid imaginations (often including imaginary playmates during pre-school years)
However, there are also some challenges for gifted children as they tend to be highly sensitive, and they feel things deeply and respond with intense feelings and reactions. When a child demonstrates advanced cognitive abilities, that does not mean that they are emotionally mature enough to manage the information they are able to access. For example, a young child who can read at an advanced level is not necessarily mature enough to read books intended for older children, as the content is beyond their ability to process emotionally. This discrepancy is referred to as asynchronous development. Often highly gifted children will be advanced in many academic areas but may lag behind their peers in their development of social skills. They can also demonstrate perfectionism and anxiety, often as a result of their asynchronous development.
Unfortunately, at this time, Massachusetts does not have a definition of giftedness and does not collect data on gifted students. However, if you believe that your child is gifted, there are many things you can do to support them. For example,
- allow them to dive deeply into subjects of interest to them
- encourage them to take risks and make mistakes, as this will allow them to develop coping strategies as well as improved problem-solving skills
- provide opportunities outside of school, such as enrichment programs in their areas of interest
- consider participating in opportunities for activities that occur with like-minded peers, that teach in depth, encourage creative problem-solving and are fun (e.g., those provided by the Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education, MAGE)
Finally, early identification improves the likelihood that a child’s gifts will develop into talents. If you suspect that your child is gifted, consider both objective testing (e.g., IQ testing, academic achievement tests) as well as collecting subjective information (e.g., teacher observation and rating forms, parent reports, examples of child’s work).
NESCA’s comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations provide a highly-detailed description of an individual’s developmental status, thinking patterns and learning style based upon a very careful integration of findings from developmental history, observations by parents, teachers and clinician(s), and data from NESCA’s own testing. These evaluations, which seek to paint a recognizable portrait of the whole person, assess the underlying reasons they may be struggling academically, socially or emotionally and offer parents and teachers a set of tools for supporting the individual’s development.
About the Author
With NESCA since its inception in 2007, Dr. Talamo had previously practiced for many years as a child and adolescent clinical psychologist before completing postdoctoral re-training in pediatric neuropsychology at the Children’s Evaluation Center.
After receiving her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, Dr. Talamo earned her doctorate in clinical health psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.
She has given a number of presentations, most recently on “How to Recognize a Struggling Reader,” “Supporting Students with Working Memory Limitations,” (with Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP of Architects for Learning), and “Executive Function in Elementary and Middle School Students.”
Dr. Talamo specializes in working with children and adolescents with language-based learning disabilities including dyslexia, attentional disorders, and emotional issues. She is also interested in working with highly gifted children.
Her professional memberships include MAGE (Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education), IDA (International Dyslexia Association), MABIDA (the Massachusetts division of IDA) and MNS (the Massachusetts Neuropsychological Society).
She is the mother of one teenage girl.
To book a consultation with Dr. Talamo or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.
Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-658-9800.