Gifted children are those considered by educational systems to have significantly higher than normal levels of one or more forms of intelligence. During the 20th century these children were often classified by the use of IQ tests, but recent developments in theories of intelligence have raised serious questions about the appropriate uses and limits of such testing. The fact remains that there are those children who are beyond their peers and often feel either alienated or limited by those about them. Towards this end, many schools in both the US and Europe attempt to identify and to offer additional or specialized education for these students, in hopes of nurturing their talents. The general cutoff for such programs occurs around the sigma 2 level on a standardized intelligence test, children above this level being labelled 'gifted'.

Generally, these students learn more quickly, deeply, and broadly than most of the population; and generally operate at the same level as normal children who are significantly older. Many schools offer gifted education programs: however, many of these programs (by nature only targeting a portion of the population) are often cut back due to budget restrictions. For some children, the only educationally available options are homeschooling, grade acceleration, or early college. However, gifted children and their parents say that grade acceleration is not a very good solution, especially radical acceleration (more than 2 grades), since before long the child is ahead again. Also, the teaching style used for normal children is often boring for gifted children even if the concepts are new. For example, teachers tend to redefine a new concept several times and then give a number of examples, then let the child do yet more examples on their own. Most gifted children would understand the concept early on in this process and get bored.

These children are characterized by high reasoning ability, creativity, curiosity, a large vocabulary, and an excellent memory. They often learn to read early and can master a subject with few repetitions. They are also often very physically and emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic, and frequently question authority. They often perceive their teachers as their peers or even as inferior to themselves. Some have trouble relating to their age peers because of differences in vocabulary size (especially in the early years), personality, and interests, and so they prefer the company of older children or adults. Gifted children, especially gifted boys, are also more likely to have autistic tendencies or even Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism with good language skills). This may develop into High-Functioning Autism (HFA) later in life.

Introversion is more common in gifted children. Gifted girls are more likely to conform and hide their abilities. One gifted six year old girl was described as reading quite well at home, yet at school her reading ability appeared average. It's possible there are different types of giftedness with their own unique features, just as there are for developmentally delayed people.

It is common for a gifted child to be picked on at school, as they are usually socially retiring. There may be a relatively high correlation between giftedness and Social Anxiety Disorder, although the causality (whether giftedness and a socially retiring nature causes SAD, or vice versa, or whether there is just a high "co-morbidity") is unclear. Many gifted children turn out to be the computer geeks (a compliment) and engineers of society, as well as talented mathematicians, musicians and just about anything else they decide to turn their hand to — they can succeed extremely well at whatever they are actually interested in.

Some gifted children with heightened sensory awareness may seem overly sensitive to sight, sound, smell and touch — they may be extremely uncomfortable when they have a wrinkle in their sock, or unable to concentrate because of the sound of a clock ticking on the other side of the room. Hypersensitivity to external stimuli can be said to resemble a proneness to "sensory overload," which can cause persons to avoid chaotic and crowded environments.

Others, however, are able to tune out any unwanted distractions as they focus on a task or on their own thoughts, and seem to seek and thrive on being in the midst of lots of activity and stimulation. In many cases, activities awareness may fluctuate between conditions of hyperstimulation and conditions of withdrawal.

Some may find these conditions similar to symptoms of hyperactivity, bipolar disorder, conditions in the Autistic Spectrum, etc.

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