I have been reflecting on the “gifted child” topic for a while here now on this blog and recently I have been asked to explain the differences between gifted, twice exceptional (2e) and prodigy as it relates to being gifted.
There are similarities between these three categories but their main differences are explained below:
1. Being “gifted” means showing advanced abilities, or the potential for advanced abilities, in one or more of the following domains: intellectual ability, academic achievement, visual and performing arts, leadership ability and creativity.
2. A twice-exceptional child displays advanced abilities like a gifted child in one or more of the same domains while also exhibiting some special issues like attention problems, dyslexia, dysgraphia, Asperger’s or other autistic spectrum disorders, anxiety, sensory processing issues, and more.
3. A prodigy, which has been given a lot of attention in the media lately, is a distinct and extreme form of giftedness, which must be looked at separately. Similar to a gifted child with advanced abilities, the prodigy will have an intensely focused, specialized and niche form of skill typically in one area such as in art, sports, science or mathematics. However, unlike a highly gifted child with advanced abilities relative to peers, the prodigy has skills that are considered “world class” and/or are leaders in their respective fields of study and practice.
Recently, I discovered a show on YouTube called Prodigies. You can watch all of the episodes in the series here:
The show, produced by THNKR, presents an average five minute piece spotlighting an incredible kid with an extraordinary talent such as surfing, painting, cooking, science excellence and so on.
I was at first skeptical of this show because of late I have felt that the media confuses what it means to be gifted and what it means to be a prodigy. While watching various episodes of this show it occurred to me that the parents of all the kids in this series were actually good examples of how parents should embrace and nurture their child’s advanced abilities as well as how they should still present a balanced life for the child and encourage them to still be a kid when possible.
These kids, at least the ones on the shows, seemed to have a good balance between going to school (usually an alternative and flexible learning environment), coaching and opportunities to develop their advanced ability, as well as time to be with their friends. These kids seemed to have both a level of maturity beyond their years, and also times where they were merely their age of 12, for example.
I have come to see this show as a way to help explain what all gifted kids need: advanced material, instruction, and coaching in their areas of strength, while also being able to act their chronological age. All children need to be understood and seen for who they are, their differences, and their talents. As I often say, "this is not rocket science," yet it seems to be a difficult concept for many to understand. While there are far more gifted kids than prodigies, it seems that gifted kids could benefit from this model of education and parenting.
Dr. Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Summit Center (http://summitcenter.us/), which provides educational and psychological assessments, consultations, and treatment for children, their parents, and families. Summit Center works with all kids, including those who are highly gifted and those with learning disabilities.