“Gifted?” What Does That Mean, Anyway?

Posted August 17, 2010 by

After my daughter was diagnosed as Gifted I still didn’t know what to think.  Okay, well “gifted”  — that sounds good, right?  I had my 2 minutes of “Whew! What a relief!”  But, just like a mother with an autistic child, or an ADD /ADHD child, I still didn’t know what to do and it really wasn’t okay.   I had been desperately trying to find out what was “wrong” with my child and now I had a label.  Now I wanted to know how I could help.  How could I keep her from getting in trouble at school due to boredom?  How could I keep her challenged?

Along with “gifted” came a whole slew of other things that I mentioned to our Behavioral Pediatrician including my daughter’s immaturity, her super-sensitive personality, her Obsessive-compulsive tendencies, her anger and meltdowns.   I remember that the doctor smiled kindly and nodded as I spouted off all of these things.  Apparently these behaviors are all “normal” for a gifted child.  So, he set us free with a diagnosis of “gifted” and told us that she would always be one step ahead of us.  The only other advice he offered was for us to sign her up for a non-academic activity with her peers to help with social development. He said to contact him if we needed any more of his services.

Well, I was relieved in a way, because I have to admit I didn’t really want to keep paying for more services, but I guess my husband and I were really looking for a quick fix.  (Aren’t we all looking for a quick fix?)  Well, I have found that it just doesn’t exist.  My daughter continued to have meltdowns and 3rd grade brought more social issues.   I remember saying to my husband one evening after an exceptionally hard day with her, “Why can’t we have a normal child?!?”

The next day, I began researching on the internet, picked up a few more books and talked to lots of people.  My best advice is to take it one day at a time.  I have learned that I must be my child’s advocate.  I need to be there for her and help her through the moments when she melts down, or has problems with peers or teachers at school.  She needs me.  I also had to accept that some people weren’t going to like my daughter. People would get frustrated with her and she would be misunderstood.  I have learned to have a more open relationship with her and how to more effectively communicate with her. I actively listen to her talk about what she is feeling and why she reacts so severely sometimes.  I work with her on role playing, making eye contact, and how to tell people how you feel without sounding angry and frustrated with them.  I have accepted that sometimes her behavior embarrasses me.  I honestly believe her when she says, “I can’t help it!”   I sincerely see her remorse after she has overreacted;  she has so much empathy for those around her.

We definitely still have moments, and they sometimes last more than a moment.  However, I characterize it as a line graph…  it may dip down from time to time, but gradually we’re seeing upward improvements.  She has definitely changed my life and opened my mind.  I have learned about her, accepted her and I discipline her as is appropriate.  I love my “gifted” child, and I know that she is going to be okay.


Parent Blogger Amanda Lane is the mother of an 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter. Amanda has been married for 16 years and works as a Clinical Systems Analyst in the hospital in her rural community. She hopes to give hope and confidence to others as she writes about her journey through parenthood.

Popular on Empowering Parents

View Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. CBROOKS Report

    I have a 3 year old daughter who I believe is gifted. At 2 she could name all the instruments in the orchestra and told me that she wanted to play the flute or violin. She is hypersensitive to sounds, blow dryers, lawn mowers, hand dryers in the public restrooms. I have had conversations with her that I didn’t think I would have until she was a teenager. She has terrible tantrums and doesn’t sleep. I do not know how to control her, how to get her into a routine, I have been trying her entire life. I am exhausted and feeling like a terrible mother….Reading your posts has helped/ We are seeing a therapist next week and hope to start on a path to understanding. Thank you for sharing your experiences…this gives me hope.

  2. Charity Report

    Thank you all for the wonderful ideas! It is such a blessing to have some insight into what makes their little minds tick. It does at times become frustrating when all you hear is what new drugs can change your child. No parent wants to see their child miserable…. But there are many ways to help them cope with their challenges wirhout treating them like malfunctioning machines. They are children, and they are perfect in the eyes of our maker!

  3. ann Report

    to lori h. it is never to late for children. continue trying with your children. i have a daughter who is 34, with two children. the boy has problems, which mostly comes from her. we are working with her and him. pray pray pray. and don’t give up. you are in my prayers. please keep us in your prayers.

  4. Kelly Report

    Thank you for your posts I have a ten year old son that has just been diagnosed with pdd on the Austisum Spectrum ,and all your stories resonate with me. I have found it very difficult getting,any help for my son because he did not have a label Though gifted in many areas is or has:sensitive ,social issues, depression, irrational fears ect.

    For thoses wishing for a normal child what is Normal and for that matter what is gifted or disabled? Why do our children need a lable to get the help the need? As Jodie Said I think we should open our minds and Celebrate our childrens Strenghts and supporting them Through any challenges they may have.( hopefully without making them fit a label.

    So when yoy are having a hard time, focas on the things you treasure about your child and remember you and your child are worth more than the struggle. There are many of us out there in simular situations all cheering you on !!!!

  5. Mokshamom Report

    My daughter is 13, sensitive, moody, slightly OCD, immature socially, extremely shy (at school only!). I struggle daily keeping my own energy in tact and with my feelings of frustration (wanting that NORMAL child). Listening is a great skill and often does ease the stress. Waiting for moods to pass, offering social skills practice, supporting her strengths, and not seeing her as a “problem” have been very helpful. I am always looking for more tools.

    Take time to visualize your child as okay and happy. It may surprise you how is comes to life more often when we allow the problem solving to slip away sometimes.

  6. Jodie Report

    When you say gifted I look at it in another light. I have a gifted child but not ADHD. I couldn’t understand what was going on with my child till she started to tell me things and I decided to open my mind instead of ignore it. I believe there are a lot of gifted children out there and the label ADHD is an easy out for the doctors. Try asking your children to explain things they see and hear and listen. Don’t ignore them and think it is their imagination, instead research what they are saying and it might surprise you. All of these symptoms are of a gifted child. Medicines work to a point to help block the part of the brain that deciphers it. But do we really want to keep our children on medicine for the rest of their lives? Remember most of the time it stems from the mother’s side of the family. Did you do ok when you were younger before these medicines became popular? I have personally started taking my daughter to meditation last year and seen a significant difference in her. It has helped her calm down and take things she sees and hears with stride. She is 9 1/2 now and just started 4th grade and all excited about a new year and new beginnings. This worked for me for now. I use the alchemy series cd’s and try ones like inner peace and inner healing. She loves them. I am keeping meditation for now and putting medicines far from my mind.

  7. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Report

    Kristen, thanks for this insightful post. I think it’s hard when you hear your child say “I can’t help it,” and you know they are telling the absolute truth. It sounds like you are doing all the right things for her. Keep up the good work, and thanks for bringing us along on your parenting journey through your blog posts.

  8. Connie Report

    Wow……thank you so much Kristen! This sounds so much like our 9 year old, and like you, we’ve struggled with her situation since she’s been very young. We’ve never gotten an official diagnosis, but have heard “she’s probably ADD.” A therapist that we’ve worked totally disagrees with that. A book that I’ve found extremely helpful is “Strong-Willed Child or Dreamer?” by Dana Spears. Thanks for blogging….I’ll be keeping up with your story.

  9. The Natural Way Report

    I have 2 sons, one 11 years old who is a high achiever in
    academics and sports, and a 9 year old, who is struggling
    in school, but able to interact with adult on their level.

    I have had many of the same struggles I have heard from
    others-we have even been called to school to talk about
    medication for my two-impulsive boys. My boys both have
    the DARE Program at school and I agree that they should not
    take DRUGS-especially ADD DRUGS, which I have researched, and found to be similar to street drugs, only they are legal.
    I have always known my boys are different and have always
    looked to natural medicine and therapies to try and help
    them be healthy emotionally and physically. I might add that I am a RN.
    Bach Flower Remedies for Children do help with the emotional struggles. Barbara Mazzarella has a book: “Bach Flowers for Children-a Parents’ Guide. We have also done Craniosacral work, accupressure, accupuncture, homeopathy, and energy work that is based on Quantum Energy.
    My boys are becoming much calmer, more focused, and are
    improving academically and socially.
    These children “on the Spectrum” ie ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, PDD, etc. are very sensative and many times Western medicine is just too much for their systems.
    Eastern Medicine believes that anger comes from the liver
    if you have anger try to cleanse with drinking water and vitamin C. Make sure your children stay away from food
    dyes and preservatives. Keep a food diary and see if things
    are more irritating to them.
    Good luck to all of you-I applaud all of you caring enough to try to do everything to help your children!!
    We can not let these children be taking over by the system and just exists. They all need their parents help and understanding! Children want to have good behavior and do what’s right!

  10. brokerchick Report

    One of the things you may want to consider is an evaluation for ASD disorders, such as Asperger’s. Our 14 year old son was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, giftedness and Ld, over a period of four or five years. At twelve he was diagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, albeit high functioning. AS assumes some of the behaviours typical of the other identifications. The AS diagnosis opened our eyes in so many ways. My husband and I share all the above frustrations, and sometimes joys of parenting an extremely challenging child. He is fourteen, taller than my husband, and very moody, and miserable. We have endeavoured to provide him with opportunities in every sport and camp you could imagine, and some of them have been successful experiences, but most not. Physical activity is very important for these kids, but getting any teen to exercise is tough, but throw in the opposition, and it is even worse. He is manipulative, mean, and very disrespectful toward us, however, we are managing to hold our own through patience and logic, and simply by not raising our voices and engaging in a battle, as they would go on all day if he had his way. We have found that one on one learning works best for him, but because he wants to be popular, and “not different”, he is going to a mainstream catholic high school in our neighbourhood. It has a good reputation, and we are well connected by the support staff. My few words of advice are to educate yourself, find support in the community, don’t burn yourself out as then you are no good to anyone, advocate, be patient and loving, and stay calm. I would also add, and very importantly, do not allow your child to be interviewed by any representative of the public school system or local police without you being there. Our son was involved in a school yard incident, a very minor one at that, and ended up signing a scripted confession prepared by the principal of the school. It has been an absolute disaster, and we have had to spend countless hours and dollars defending him, however, his rights were violated, and this OFTEN happens with youth who have neurological dysfunction. They don’t understand what they have done wrong, they are often agitated when questioned, and overly truthful, to their own detriment. BE CAREFUL, and protect your child and you family by making sure your child’s schools know they must contact you should issues arise, and that they must respect your child’s rights. Children and youth like ours need advocacy and extra protection in these circumstances as they are simply more vulnerable, and more likely to misread the situation. Good luck to all,and hang in there, it will all be worth it one day.

  11. KathyT Report

    I too have a “Gifted” child. My 11 year old son has been and is still going through some of the same issues as Kristen’s daughter. The impulsive behavior, lacking socialization skills, immaturity etc.

    My son’s teacher, school psychologist, principal and other staff kept telling me he was ADD/ADHD. I strongly feel this label is used when a child is viewed as a “problem” in a school setting. How convenient to take the child to a therapist, be labeled ADD/ADHD and put on meds. No wonder our children have addictive personalities!!! We now have a society that turns to pills for one problem or another instead of dealing with the “core” problem. What my son needs is an academic plan that fits his academic abilities so he does not get bored. However, a lot of schools do not recognize this or there is a gifted program but it is only for a couple of subjects and not available for all the gifted child’s classes.

    The FACT is it is NORMAL for the “Gifted” child to display the symptoms of an ADD/ADHD child but that is not the disorder they have. All a parent can do is be there for their child. When you see a situation starting to rise, develop a “code phrase” to help signal your child to get themselves back into appropriate behavior. Talk, talk, talk with her/him during a “neutral” or quiet time. Do not do it in the heat of the moment. The situation will escalate instead of getting better. And take every day, one day at a time. Don’t let yesterday’s problem taint tomorrow. Start each and every day as a new day.

  12. tiredmom2 Report

    I have experienced many of the same things — worry, embarassment, frustration, concern, and angst in trying to raise our two gifted boys. One now 12 and the other 8, turning 9 in a month. Our DS12 is beginning a new school into 7th grade this year, and it has been one of the most traumatic weeks of his life. He is highly gifted, and he has had to go to bed early at 7:30 p.m. every night for the past week since school started. It’s such an emotional roller coaster, and he thinks a lot — but not about what he is supposed to be learning. This will be his first year of really having to work. The 8-year old is beginning 5th grade and has been staying up unusually late since school began. He used to fall asleep willingly at 8 pm. each night, but suddenly, it’s 11:30 p.m., and he’s still awake. He is also highly gifted, and I think he is very worried about measuring up. It has been a serious struggle to raise the younger child, and though diagnosed with giftedness, various professionals have assigned additional labels like autistic, ADHD, and emotionally disturbed.
    I think the main thing is to know that others out there are struggling with very demanding children these days, who are enigmas and a struggle to raise. I honestly thing God gave us these kids to teach us a lesson, or because perhaps we need to learn patience!
    Either way, if we press forward and do what we can to teach and love them, we are going to be very happy with the adults they become!

  13. 4kidsandacat Report

    WOW ! You just described my son! He was diagnosed as ADHD in 2nd grade and gifted in 3rd (funny thing is, he couldn’t test into gifted until we started meds because he just could not focus long enough on the test to complete it!) The meltdowns, the opposition, the clever way he tries to get out of things, the arguments, are all frustrating to us and yet his gifted teacher has told us this is all normal for a gifted child. And, it’s something that there is no quick-fix for, as you said. We just have to keep working with him and hope that one day it will “take”. Wish there was a book for dealing with the ADHD/gifted/underachiever!

  14. Lil P Report

    I think it is so important to place the focus on the child’s strengths. I am in the middle of a divorce and it is so easy for my ex to play the blame game and put the reasons for my daughters meltdowns as bad things she has learned from me. I am in the field of education and have a strong foundation of right verses wrong in working with children. As no one is perfect, I will concede to having moments of not getting it right. But as you have stated–trial and error in learning what works for your child. With his focus on “your fault!” he refuses to acknowledge that she has behavioral differences and her temperment is highly sensitive. She can be such a love and unfortunately some of her meltdowns could be compounded by the separation and her lack of control. I just wish that I had the support that you 2 seem to have in working with your child. Our goals should be to build them up and not squelch them down. Thanks for sharing–any little bits help!

  15. Sue Dawson Report

    I too look forward to reading that book as although my daughter is identified as LD (learning disabled) we too deal with the emotional and social issues that sound so much like yours. She is just turning 12 now so we have the added issue of hormones. We have been working with a therapist for a number of years and although we see improvements over the years, it is very slow. My only advice is to be very up front about the issues and to offer people strategies to help with the meltdowns and the emotions. I am very careful about letting my daughter go on playdates at other peoples houses unless I feel the parents understand her issues and are comfortable dealing with them. We also have a code word and if my daughter calls me and says the code word, I immediately go get her and blame it on a family situation. Good luck to you all-these are very special individuals and the rewards you get when you see improvement are incredible.

  16. Tasha Report

    After reading these post and sat here and cried. I have been searching desparately for answers for several years now and this is truly the first time I have even felt close. My daughter will be six in about two weeks and today is her second day of kidnergarten. She missed the cut off last year by 8days. She has always been different than other children her age. Her counselor has described her as having the reasoning skills of a 15 year old, but the emotions of a 5yr old. She has wowed me with her intelligence ever since she began speaking in complete sentences befor she was two. As she has grown it has been difficult for her to intgrate with other chilren. She can really be a monster at times. She doesn’t understand why they act like, well, children! She is super sensitive and easilly angered and frustrated. She gets bored easily and worries consantly. She is super eager to learn new things, but becomes angry when anyone tries to help,and even more angry if they don’t. She could have the dream day of most kids and at the end still isn’t happy. I am at a loss. I am the kind of parents who wants guide her into who she will become,nurturing her individual gifts and loves, not force her into what I think she should be. Right now, I have no idea what to do, how to discipline her, how to teach her, or even how to show just how much I love her. Thank you to everyone who posted. I am excited to read the book suggested, but the most impotant thing I found her is hope.

  17. Lynda Report

    Thanks for your post. It was comforting to hear that I’m no alone! Although they have only escalated in the past year or so, my daughter is just turning 6 and exhibits many of the same behavioural issues that you described. My husband and I are just beginning to wonder “what’s up”… I’ve been to the pediatrician and we are beginning to “monitor” things. I’m a Kindergarten teacher and so I’ve taught many children with many different diagnoses. In a way, this haunts me because I probably read too much into everything my daughter says and does. But something still doesn’t add up to me. Gifted has crossed my mind…
    She begins first grade in a few weeks and we’ll see what happens this year. In the meantime, your blog has offered me a few things to think about that will make supporting her easier! Thanks for your honesty! And thanks also for the book suggestion you gave Melody. I’ll check it out!

  18. girlymomma Report

    This sounds just like my nine year old. She was born on the last day of the cutoff for school. Should we send her with the class she should be in or should we hold her back. Academically, she was always very smart (bright) but socially a little on the immature side. There is no real answer for anyone in these types of situations. She is not “identified” as “gifted” through the school system and didn’t qualify for these services but a high achiever. There is a difference and it fits her to a “T”. She has had difficulty in small or large groups of girls. Best to play one on one with a friend. The power of 3 is terrible for her and we often end up in this situation, tears, betrayal, drama. I have found the American Girl Book about Bullying will help her. It discusses how not to let yourself be the victim in social situations. Snappy comebacks and advocating for your feelings works well. This book doesn’t deal with changing the bully, just the intended target. She is learning responsibility for her own feelings of anger and sadness and how to effectively deal with the girl thing. Wish this book had been around for me….Good Luck everyone, girls are a delight and don’t we all remember being there.

  19. Alicia Report

    I just came across your blog (including the one from June) and first want to thank you for posting these. It is such a relief to find someone who has gone through some of the exact same struggles with her child that I am facing now. Your daughter is a bit older then mine, so I feel like I am peeking into the future as I read. Mine is 6 and has followed a similar path as what you described. My husband and I have struggled with figuring out what’s “wrong” with her for as long as we can remember (basically infancy). I feel that she is misunderstood by so many people and I can’t wait to read the book that was reccommended (The Gift of ADHD). I don’t know how many time’s I’ve heard someone tell me “she probably has ADHD” over the years, and I don’t deny she has the symptoms. I’m just not into the whole diagnosing-and-medicating-little-kids thing. The label of “gifted” did not come until recently, and after an overwhelming whirlwind summer, it has been decided that she will now be entering second grade instead of first, so we now have a whole new set of circumstances to face with her. I feel relief and comfort in this plan, and truly believe it will be best for her, but at the same time, I am so nervous for her. It is such a blind leap and all I can do is hope that we made the right decision. I am convinced that there is some kind of significant giftedness/ADHD crossover though. Please continue to write, as I am really looking forward to gaining more insight in this area!

  20. Kristen Report

    Melody, I recently stumbled on this wonderful book, called “The Gift Of ADHD: How To Transform Your Child’s Problems Into Strengths” by Lara Honos-Webb and I would recommend it to any parent. This book has wonderful advice on how to channel the energy and emotions in many different ways depending on your child. I am always looking for new ideas and this book is really helping me get back on track as school is getting ready to start! I am really thinking lately that ADHD and GIFTED, may be the same thing…it is all in what you call it and how you treat it. Kristen

  21. Melody Report

    Kudos to you Kristen. Thank you for your honest insight and reflection. It’s powerful to admit that we would like a quick fix, but to realize that there really is none. I’ve often wondered if it is a “gifted” child I have on my hands despite the ADHD and often extreme opposition to “everything”. We have children around the same age and I look forward to reading more of your posts.



Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help


Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families