Have you ever known a truly brilliant person who wasn’t also quirky? I often ask parents this when discussing gifted children. Young, brilliant minds are easily misunderstood, a fact recently highlighted at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ annual meeting.

Dan Peters, a Ph.D. in child psychology, addressed the gathering and pointed out that gifted kids are often given an inappropriate mental health diagnosis, because they may struggle with academic underachievement (due to boredom), power struggles with authority figures, social isolation from peers, perfectionism, anxiety and depression.

Dr. Peters noted that frequent, incorrectly assigned behavioral diagnoses given to extraordinarily bright children include: ADHD, learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, mood disorders and anger disorders.

Gifted children are diverse, however, according to the National Association for Gifted Children, they exhibit many common characteristics, including:

  • Rapid learners
  • Strong memory
  • Unusually large vocabulary for age
  • Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors and abstract ideas
  • Often self-taught reading and writing skills as a preschooler
  • Deep, intense feelings and reactions
  • Abstract/complex/logical thinking in advance of age
  • Idealism and sense of justice at early age
  • Highly sensitive and strong reactions
  • Long attention span and intense concentration
  • Preoccupied with own thoughts
  • Impatient with own or others’ inabilities or slowness
  • Asks probing questions
  • Wide range of interests (or extreme focus in one area)
  • Highly curious
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Keen and/or unusual sense of humor

Kids with an extremely sharp mind are such a gift to this world, but they can present special challenges to parents and teachers.

If you believe your child is extraordinarily gifted and have questions about parenting your child, or how to handle his or her education, please talk with your provider at Eugene Pediatrics.