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Bright Versus Gifted: What’s the Difference? To Publications / Articles - Bright Versus Gifted: What’s the Difference?

Posted 8/23/16

There is a difference between a child who is smart or bright and one that is gifted. All gifted children can and are considered to be bright, but not all bright children can be considered gifted. The fact of the matter is there are many, many factors that come into play when defining the difference between these two children, but here’s a quick example of how fine the line between the two really is: A bright child may feel satisfied when he has answered questions correctly while a gifted child may be highly critical of himself, despite having provided correct answers, often to the point of being seen as a perfectionist.

Misinterpreting Giftedness

Gifted students are sometimes confused with those who are high achieving. High achievers may get a lot of attention as they are generally on time with their work and perform it neatly and in a well-developed manner. The high achievers also consistently get high grades and display appropriate behaviors beyond those typical for their grade levels. Experts in the field of gifted education often try to show educators and parents that while high achievers are valuable in the school setting, they do learn differently than gifted students will. The gifted student is often going to think in a more complex manner and will have a more diverse perception than the high achiever does.

Behavioral Differences Between Bright and Gifted Children

There is a continuing dispute among some experts regarding the difference in behaviors exhibited by a bright child versus a gifted one. One expert, Janice Szabos, stated it is the gifted child who exhibits “wild” behavior and shares silly ideas, but others disagreed with her, asserting that it is the creative thinkers who should be categorized with what is defined as “wild” thoughts. Not all gifted children display a high level of creativity. Another difference Szabos listed, which has also been disputed, is that the gifted learner often prefers to spend time with adults while the bright child enjoys other children more. This led to a negative stereotype of the gifted child and showed them as being out of sync with society and displaying poor social skills. What has been found since then is that the gifted child will often seek out those with ideas that match their own, not necessarily older people or adults.

The Bright Child Versus the Gifted Child in the Classroom

Bright children are often a treat to have in the classroom. They typically do not question their teachers (or challenge their knowledge), and most often, they answer questions respectfully. The gifted child often needs something different in the classroom. Gifted children often display boredom when things become too repetitive for them, and they may even fall behind if they find the work uninteresting. Many gifted children do not like the classroom setting or going to school as ordinary schoolwork is simply not challenging enough. Additionally, when they feel that a teacher is presenting information that is wrong or simply not complete, they may challenge the teacher’s response, an action that some adults find difficult to handle.

A gifted child may also become disruptive when he feels bored. He may even annoy his teachers by giving wild and silly-looking answers or by just not getting involved in the classwork at all. However, the same child who does poorly in such situations may perform incredibly well on tests. Though a gifted child is extremely intelligent, if not challenged, he may act out and appear to be anything but bright.

How Do You Know If Your Child Is Gifted?

There are common characteristics that distinguish the bright child from the gifted child. How many of them fit your child?

* Early reader

* Persistent in his interests

* Wide knowledge and interest in the world

* Enjoys problem-solving and makes original connections

* Has an unusual and vivid imagination

* Has strong feelings and opinions

* Sets high standards

* Is a perfectionist

* Compassionate and morally sensitive

* Concerned with justice and fairness

* Keen observer

* Odd sense of humor

* Vivid imagination

One thing to keep in mind is that while many gifted children struggle in school simply because they do not feel challenged, many thrive in a home-education setting. Homeschooling allows parents to tailor education to their child’s unique interests, educational levels, and needs. And it allows homeschoolers to advance at their own pace or delve more deeply into subjects about which they are passionate. This sort of customized learning is often just right for the gifted child.