Gifted toddlers are not always easy to spot. Some are quiet and aloof around strangers, but capable of amazing feats around family members. Others are plagued by anxiety and behavioral issues, which can make intellectual capacity less apparent to caregivers and outsiders. My own toddler shows signs that she is gifted, but she experiences her own behavioral pitfalls and areas of lagging development. If your toddler is gifted, he may show a few– or all– of the following developmental signs.
1. He reaches milestones early. Most definitions of “gifted” indicates that a child’s overall intelligence is above-average by 10-30 percent or more. This means that a gifted toddler will typically reach cognitive and speech milestones about several months sooner than his peers. For example, an average toddler can correctly point to body parts at roughly 18 months of age, although any time between 12-24 months is considered normal. If your toddler can correctly respond to “Where is your eye?” before his first birthday, it is considered to be advanced. If you notice this pattern in several milestones, it’s likely that you have a gifted child.
2. She speaks in unusually long sentences. In speech and language pathology, experts partially gauge a toddler’s development by noting his medium length of utterance, or MLU. This measurement is calculated based on the number of words and modifiers in the child’s sentence. While a normal toddler begins using two-word sentences around the time of his second birthday– gradually advancing to 3-4 word sentences by age three– gifted children generally use longer sentences at an earlier age . If your toddler routinely rattles sentences with ten or more words, she is almost certainly gifted.
3. He remembers everything. You bring your toddler to a playground that he hasn’t visited in several months. When you arrive, he begins telling you about the children who he played with, their names, and the colors of their shirts. If this sounds like your kid, it’s likely that he is gifted. Many gifted toddlers have an impeccable capacity for memorization. They can remember names, events and places long after they encounter them. For gifted children with autism-spectrum disorders, excellent memory may express itself in the form of delayed echolalia– the rote recitation of stories, songs and movies long after your child’s exposure to them.
4. Her development is lopsided. Almost all gifted children experience what is known as asynchronous development, according to the National Association for Gifted Children. People with extreme asychronous development, such as the slow-to-talk Albert Einstein and the “real Rainman” Kim Peek, are known as savants. In its more mild form, asychrnonous development causes gifted children to reach certain milestones at a slower rate than her peers. My own daughter experienced mild delays in her gross and fine motor development, and could recite Shakespearean soliloquies long before she could use the potty. Very frequently, a gifted toddler will be “behind” his peers in his emotional, social, or physical development.
5. He has severe tantrums. Tantrums are common among toddlers of all tiers of developmental achievement, but they tend to be the most severe in children who are either developmentally delayed or advanced. A gifted toddler’s mind moves quickly, changing thoughts and emotions faster than their words can keep up. A gifted toddler might have a raging fit for three hours about the color of his shirt or the subtle difference between Cheez-Its and Cheese Nips. As a parent, it’s your job to guide him through the emotional struggles associated with giftedness, but not to over-indulge him because of his special needs. Love your child for who he is, not what he does.
Read more from Juniper Russo:
Do Gifted Children Have Special Needs?
Potty-Training the Gifted Toddler
Echolalia in Toddlers- Normal, or a Symptom of Autism?