Area 51: Traits of the Gifted Child

4 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Area 51 by Karen Campos

Thanks for joining me in the fifth and final post of my “Initiation into Giftedness” Series. If you missed any of the riveting previous installments you can read back from the beginning with “The Gifted Have Character.” We’ve discussed how to identify your child as gifted and the value of an IQ score, so now we must wade through Area 51, the mysterious and different ways giftedness shows itself. It may not look at all like you might expect and at times it will feel like you are living in an alternate reality. Let me give it to you straight, giftedness does not always mean straight A’s on report cards or self-confident leaders.

Gifted kids are not average kids therefore they cannot be parented with average techniques or motivated with average strategies or understood with average approaches. We must know how our child perceives life in order to meet their needs, especially their social and emotional ones. The common thought that gifted kids can take care of themselves and can handle whatever comes their way is far from the truth. Their views of the world can be very narrow or too broad and we must be on the alert for their safety and guide their ingenuity. These gifted kids have lots of potential, and that is the key word, potential.

As I mentioned in “The Score is Just the Beginning,” not all gifted kids are gifted in all areas. Yet, we do tend to know “famous” people by the way they used their giftedness. Michael Jackson was musically gifted. Albert Einstein was intellectually gifted. Leonardo da Vinci was creatively gifted. Bill Cosby is socially gifted. Michael Jordan is physically gifted. We know them because they embraced and used their gifts. Learning how to acknowledge the gifts is a huge part of the journey. Allow me to share with you six predictable patterns of how kids deal with their giftedness as researched and published by Betts and Neihart and further researched by Dr. Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, for a doctoral dissertation. Your child may not fit neatly into one type or another, but is it a spectrum to help the adults around them understand their how their feelings, needs and behaviors all come together.

Type 1: The Successful

These are the “easy” kids. They are high achievers, fairly confident and know how to work in the system and do what it takes to succeed with possibly as little effort as possible. They blend in relatively well and have few behavior problems which pleases their parents and teachers. They depend on routines and the predictability of school, so tend to be less imaginative or creative. They have a hard time stepping out and pursuing a goal or dream and later may struggle with autonomy in later life.

Type 2: The Challenging

These are the divergent gifted. They challenge authority, have social problems, and their behaviors tend to be interpreted as rude or sarcastic. They buck the system and do not feel valued. Although they are highly creative, it often is not recognized by their parents or school so they are frustrated most of the time. These kids are at risk for dropout, drug addiction and delinquent behavior if intervention isn’t sought by junior high.

Type 3: The Underground

These are the gifted that do not want to shine. Junior high girls and senior high boys often want to blend in at all costs. Their need to be socially accepted will lead them to push their giftedness underground. They are often insecure and anxious but with highly fluctuating emotions. These frequent changes in emotions and needs set them up for conflict with parents and teachers. A balance needs to be found so they can fit in for the moment but not ruin all relationships with adults in their lives.

Type 4: The Dropout

These are the angry kids. Their giftedness was discovered late and they have years of angry baggage they are carrying around. Angry they are misunderstood, angry at the school and parents for not meeting their needs, angry at having to perform and angry at feeling rejected and from their point of view, neglected. They may be depressed, withdrawn or defensive. They may need individual and family counseling and benefit from beginning to build trust with one adult. Traditional school environments will not work for them and they may need academic testing to see if there are any gaping holes in their learning.

Type 5: The Double Labeled

These are the gifted who do not “look” like it because of a more obvious challenge of some sort. (Often this kids are referred to as Twice Exceptional.) They have physical, emotional or learning disabilities which may get all primary attention. They may have low grades, poor handwriting or act out when in reality these behaviors may be their way of covering up a challenge they don’t want to admit to or high amounts of stress that come with it. They are frustrated, impatient, may appear confused and often do not conform well to classroom settings. They are typically viewed as simply average with the giftedness being completely overlooked.

Type 6: The Autonomous Learner

These are the well-adjusted gifted kids. They know how to make the school system work for them, have high self-confidence, are good communicators about their needs and fears, are socially settled, can take a risk, show leadership traits and have goals they actively seek out. They are well respected, often serve in their communities, and are recognized for their efforts academic and otherwise. They accept themselves and are independent, acting with personal power directing the steps of their lives rather than letting others do so.

Keep in mind that many of these characteristics aren’t observable until junior high or so, but knowing the paths these. kids take puts you in the driver’s seat to assess how your child is accepting their giftedness. Just as Area 51 has become a focus of supposed UFO activity and conspiracy theories, its secretive nature and undoubted connection to classified aircraft research, were all events that clearly led to that common conclusion. But now you are informed. You know the six most probable ways your child (or your friend’s child or your grandchild) will deal with their giftedness and it doesn’t need to be an Area 51 for you anymore!

What patterns of giftedness do your kids exhibit?

Image courtesy of artur84 at at


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