What it Means To be Gifted

Giftedness is a confusing label and rife with misconceptions, myths and stereotypes. Understanding the true essence of giftedness is a process. It’s important to appreciate what giftedness is and what it isn’t.

Giftedness isn’t simply talent or high achievement; there are plenty of gifted learners who don’t test well or get straight A’s in school. In fact giftedness isn’t a function of how children perform, but rather of who they are. Their cognitive and emotional makeup is truly different from the norm. Gifted students are children with special learning needs. Without being recognized and supported as gifted, these students can quickly lose motivation. Gifted children have the right to be challenged, engaged, and learn something new everyday. 

Gifted learners have advanced cognitive abilities but not necessarily in every area. A student may excel at math but struggle with writing or vice versa. Equally important is that they may be unusually sensitive, passionate and emotionally intense. They have a heightened sense of awareness and a strong intellectual drive.
Perhaps, most notably, gifted children experience “asynchrony”—uneven academic, emotional and physical development. Because asynchrony is so prominent in gifted children, some professionals believe asynchronous development is the defining characteristic of giftedness. A definition of giftedness that captures the essence of this uneven development was developed by the Columbus Group in 1991. (See right)

Finally, giftedness isn’t restricted to any particular social stratum; gifted children can be found in every part of society. Because their inner lives and educational needs are so markedly different, gifted children thrive in an environment that understands and meets their needs, where one size is not expected to fit all.


Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.  

This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching, and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.

- The Columbus Group