Giftedness, a world in itself, has vocabulary that can help you understand it better. These terms are provided by the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC), and may help you put into words what you already know, or are newly learning, about giftedness.



Gifted children often have significant variations within themselves and develop unevenly across skill levels. For example, a gifted child may be excellent in math, but poor in reading–or vice versa.  Often, intellectual skills are quite advanced, but fine motor or social skills are lagging. Experts do not completely agree, but because asynchrony is so prominent in gifted children, some professionals believe asynchronous development rather than potential or ability, is the defining characteristic of giftedness. 


The process of determining students qualified for gifted or advanced programming, identification most commonly occurs through the use of intelligence or other testing. Many researchers place emphasis on using multiple pathways for identification, adding teacher, parent, or peer nominations or authentic assessments such as portfolios of student work to the process.


The ability to learn, reason, and problem solve. Debate revolves around the nature of intelligence as to whether it is an innate quality or something that is developed as a result of interacting with the environment. Many researchers believe that it is a combination of the two.


Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified five areas in which children exhibit intense behaviors, also known as “overexcitabilities” or “supersensitivities.” They are psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational. Gifted children tend to have multiple intensities, although one is usually dominant. Examples: a child complain about the seams in his socks, putting her hands over her ears when the movie starts in the movie theater, having trouble sitting still, getting moved almost to tears by a piece of music or work of art, etc. Read more about the types of overexcitabilities here.

Socio-Emotional Needs

Gifted and talented students may have affective needs that include heightened or unusual sensitivity to self-awareness, emotions, and expectations of themselves or others, and a sense of justice, moral judgment, or altruism. Counselors working in this area may address issues such as perfectionism, depression, low self-concept, bullying, or underachievement.

Talent Development

Programs, curricula, and services for gifted and talented students that can best meet their needs, promote their achievements in life, and contribute to the enhancement of our society when schools identify students’ specific talent strengths and focus educational services on these talents.

Twice Exceptional

A term used to describe a student who is both gifted and disabled. These students may also be referred to as having dual exceptionalities or as being gifted with learning disabilities (GT/LD). This also applies to students who are gifted with ADHD or gifted with autism.


A term used to describe the discrepancy between a student’s performance and his or her potential or ability to perform at a much higher level. 

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