Knowing the telltale signs of a gifted child

Every child is special. But a few children have exceptional intelligence. Can you tell if your little one is more than just smart and actually in the leagues of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton or Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize? It pays for parents to know the telltale signs that they are taking care of a future Mensa member.

An article published by—What Are Signs of Genius?—said there are many different signs of genius. Together they are called “giftedness” in children. The article said, “no two brains and no two people are the same (even twins!). Different geniuses can display different traits.” 

The article said there is no official checklist for signs of genius, but some of the signs that often appear in children include: Intense need for mental stimulation and engagement; ability to learn new topics quickly; ability to process new and complex information rapidly; desire to explore specific topics in great depth; insatiable curiosity, often demonstrated by many questions; learning educational material at grade levels ahead; emotional depth and sensitivity; excitement about unique topics or interests; a mature or unique sense of humor; imaginative and able to discover creative solutions to problems; quick learner; and more aware than other kids of self, social situations, and global issues.

In a long-running research called the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, scientists followed 5,000 kids who tested in the top one percent of intelligence for over four decades. The findings, published in the science journal Nature, contradict two long-held theories:First, the idea that high performance comes mainly from practice, and second, that “anyone can get to the top with enough focused effort of the right kind.”

The research suggests that early cognitive intelligence has more effect on success than deliberate practice or outside factors like one’s socioeconomic status.

“The kids who test in the top one percent tend to become our eminent scientists and academics, our Fortune 500 CEOs and federal judges, senators and billionaires,” Jonathan Wai, a psychologist at Duke University Talent Identification Program in Durham, says in Nature.

The research also emphasizes the importance of nurturing precocious children and the significance of allowing fast learners to skip grades in school.

From The Washington Post: “Alena Analeigh Wicker is like other 13-year-olds in that she enjoys going to the movies, playing soccer, baking and hanging out with friends. But very much unlike other teenagers, she just got accepted to medical school. In May, Alena was offered a spot at the University of Alabama’s Heersink School of Medicine for 2024, as part of its Early Assurance Program—which offers early admission to applicants who meet specific requirements.”

“I’m still a normal 13-year-old,” said Alena, a student at both Arizona State University and Oakwood University, where she is simultaneously earning two separate undergraduate degrees in biological sciences. “I just have extremely good time management skills and I’m very disciplined.”

While trying to keep up with friends and regular childhood activities, Alena has stayed laser-focused on her academic and professional goals, the report said. “I have a hunger and desire to learn, and that’s just always been me,” said Alena. She became NASA’s youngest intern in the summer of 2021—which was a long-held dream.

The report narrated how Clayton Turner, the director of the agency’s Langley Research Center, came across a news story last year about Alena—then a 12-year-old who was headed to college and who hoped one day to work at NASA. He decided to reach out.

Turner became Alena’s mentor and got her an internship at NASA, where she did various assignments, including remote research for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, which she visited during her internship. “Alena is one of those exceptional intellects,” Turner said.

The Washington-based National Association for Gifted Children estimates that 3 million children in America are gifted. They define “gifted” as “those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude or competence in one or more domains.”

Although there’s no current data for exceptional children in the Philippines, it’s about time Filipino parents start nurturing their kids and teaching them to think and see beyond the box. It’s also important for parents to learn how to recognize the telltale signs of a gifted child. We need to discover Filipino kids who are potential Mensa members.