Gifted Children


Mental health professionals interested in gifted children for several reasons. These may experience serious difficulties in school when they appear for their intellectual abilities to provide the best students. These challenges require a relatively new psychopathological approach since we are dealing with a continuum that takes us imperceptibly to the need for diagnosis and specialized help. Gifted children were mainly studied by psychologists.

Gifted ChildrenIdentifying giftedness requires the award of psychological tests. Cognitive sciences are naturally interested in gifted children that offer a sort of magnifying effect to certain aspects of cognition. Psychoanalysis also has a say because the motivations and personality organization play a role in cognition. A keen interest in gifted children manifested in France in recent years. This is due first to the activism of associations formed by parents of these children. They are not representative of their membership numbers, but they have come to be heard by public authorities. The media (especially television and magazines) provided the last years of records and testimonials.This media effervescence contrast to the near absence of scientific work on the subject.


But it is not the same in other countries. We can trace the beginnings of this notion in the nineteenth century when Galton began a scientific study of exceptional individuals that calls “geniuses.” He realized that there were many outstanding individuals in the family of geniuses.

He concluded that the genius was hereditary. Galton also made a decisive contribution to the quantitative measures. It made possible the statistical study of correlations between individual differences

Interest geniuses has given way to one for gifted children in the early twentieth century. It all started with the development in France by Binet and Simon a scale to measure intelligence. Terman, an American psychologist, revised the test and adapted it for his country as the “Stanford-Binet”. When the United States embarked on the First World War, Terman manages to use the test on a large scale to select the fighters. Terman then undertook a fabulous research on gifted children. He selected a large cohort (1500) of children whose intelligence quotient (IQ) reached or exceeded 140. He compared to a control group. The first results were published in 1925. The subjects were retested several times until 1947. The study continued after the retirement of Terman and even after his death.

The latest collection from 1994 concerned subjects with a mean age of 78 years.

Teachers and educators in Europe and the United States had not waited for the results of scientific research to help gifted in trouble. A new step was taken with the creation of national associations for these children. The consecration came in 1947 with the emergence of an international association called Mensa and is headquartered in Great Britain. It brings together people with IQs equal to or greater than 132 in Wechsler test. Inspiration declares generous “detect intelligence and promote its development for the benefit of humanity.” The two world wars in the twentieth century have caused or contributed to research and innovation for the gifted. We wanted to either respond to the desire for social justice in the masses, or offset losses in leaders and researchers. We drew a parallel between the way of treating the gifted and the treat elites. All ages need elites and young gifted appear as a pool.

The end of history brings us back to France. Julian de Ajuriaguerra, who finished his psychiatric career at the College of France, seems to have been the first to use the word “gifted” in his child psychiatry manual published in 1970. He found his inspiration in Terman and had adapted in French the term “highly gifted”. The term was known to the public when Chauvin published in 1975 a popular book. Thereafter, the interest for the gifted has mostly been maintained by associations enlivened their parents and some professionals coopted. The oldest association was founded in 1971 on the initiative of Terrassier, an educational and vocational guidance counselor.

Definition and qualification:

The abundance of names indicates the complexity of the subject.

Europe has preferred the term “high Ability” which means “high aptitude”. A learned society dedicated to the study and entitled “European Council for High Ability.” The word “gifted” was proposed in the United States in the 1920s and remains a much more widespread use. It is he that is used with search engines on the internet and in the title of several journals (Gifted Child Quarterly, Gifted Child Today, Roeper Rewiew, Gifted Education International Journal for the Education of the Gifted, High Ability studies, etc.). In France, it was translated as “gifted.” The adjective refers to a child whose intellectual efficiency assessed by tests is greater than that achieved by most children of his age. Some have subsequently found the term “politically incorrect” because it would state superiority and it would produce confusion with child prodigies. They preferred to highlight the intellectual precocity hence the acronym “EIP”. The intelligence of these children is growing faster than most children their age. It has not failed to criticize this view.Indeed, there is no guarantee that adulthood, these individuals will retain above-average abilities. Others prefer neutrality and speak of “child with high potential.” Quebecers have avoided any connotation, using a neologism: “giftedness.” In practice, it can be said as well: gifted, intellectually precocious gifted or high potential. It should differentiate gifted children child prodigies who have an exceptional level of ability, but in one area. Gifted are not geniuses who, with extraordinary abilities, realize inventions, designs or companies receiving universal recognition.

Note that the American public gathers talented and gifted in the same category. The US gifted must have a very high IQ and show talent in one or more areas. The concept of multiple intelligence suggested by Gardner leads to also consider the performance and talent in social, emotional and practical. This leads us to insist on the distinction between creator and creative. If gifted often prove creative, they just generally become experts in adulthood (cohort Terman has featured almost no creator).

It insists that the gifted child is not forced child. Intellectual precocity may indicate a natural gift, but also a sign of forcing (the forcing means growing plants that are grown out of season or outside their natural place). It has often been suspected of gifted children parents or signs of having “forced” by the child education. The issue is complex because studies have shown there is a link between the child’s success and parental investment. But the children who are leaving no autonomy in their chosen field continue to pursue excellence as they can evade parental control.

It is assumed that the only indisputable criterion to describe this kind of child is in IQ. The notion of giftedness implies the idea that at a threshold increase produces a qualitative change. But fixing this threshold is a matter of convention.

The most often used is the limit of 130. The fixing this threshold determines the size of the population and, therefore, the scale of recruitment for associations. Since education is compulsory in France for children from 6 to 16 years, employee numbers would be 200 000 children and adolescents. The associations claim more than double.

Identification of giftedness:

It is difficult to present a list of signs recognized by all. The most highlight just intellectual precocity signs. The identification is based less on the presence of a particular symptom because they are often banal, that their coexistence and the chronology of their appearance. A good driving history generally matches the characteristics of the development of early child. The identification can be useful throughout growth. It prevents the occurrence of behavioral problems by providing young children difficult simple educational strategies parents. The discovery of early may provide an explanation for some adjustment problems faced by struggling students. Finally, identification of own intellectual gifted children profiles allows teachers and parents to consider their cognitive and emotional characteristics.

By browsing through the literature, there are over twenty criteria to locate and identify the gifted. They do not all have the same relevance. There are no pathognomonic selectively list to say with certainty that this child is gifted. But the grouping of several signs may consider a psychological assessment. However, confirmation of giftedness is not needed if the child is well. It becomes essential if remediable school failure, emotional distress or associated pathology.

The older the child gets older, more giftedness becomes recognizable.

Here are the signs that characterize rather the child starts primary school, usually around the age of 6 years:

• great energy that passes from one activity to another or to conduct two activities;

• great curiosity that grows to ask lots of questions, often varied and original questions;

• a preference for dialogue with adults and choice of older comrades;

• a great interest in books and encyclopedias, attractive to complicated games, especially those strategies;

• the sense of humor ;

• learning to read only (many consider him the most important sign).

most recently appearing signs was proposed in early childhood:

• the early acquisition of first words and first sentences (18 months). Conversely, the absence of speech up to 2 years and the sudden appearance of proper sentences have the same value. The professional experience proves particularly essential for this that lies at the boundary between normality and pathology;

• extreme sensitivity which can give the impression of emotional immaturity. It comes from intuitive operation reinforced by an amazing memory that can be insightful and profound observations on the entourage of moods;

• behavioral disorders, including the opposition;

• emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Psychological tests:

The diagnosis can not be established with certainty without placing intelligence tests. There are several hundred, but the most used is counted on the fingers of one hand. In practice, it uses the Wechsler Intelligence Scales: the child spends a WISC between 6 and 16, a WIPSI between 4 and 6 years and adults a WAIS, sometimes the Raven matrices. The results have three digits:

• Verbal IQ;

• the performance IQ;

• the total IQ.

The total IQ is not the average of the previous two, but the result of their combination.

Statistics construction gives 100 average IQ. If we represent the distribution of IQ in the general population, a Gaussian curve is obtained curve or “bell”. intelligence as average or normal is considered between 85 and 115. This concerns only 68% of the population but is selected 2.3% of this population with an IQ equal to or greater than 130. We have seen that this is the threshold usually admitted for giftedness.

It is noteworthy that we have since July 2005 of the fourth version of the WISC. There will be no major changes since the total IQ is retained. But the introduction of new indices will make it more accurate calculation and detail, the more the child’s profile.

The WISC-IV is based on 15 subtests: 10 are retained from the previous and 5 are new. The big change is in the abandonment of the division in verbal and performance for the benefit of 4 indices:

• comprehension index;

• Perceptual Reasoning Index;

• working memory index;

• processing speed index.

It is not enough to place the child on a scale of intelligence because children with very different intellectual functioning can occupy the same place on this scale.

A basic indication due to the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the results. The WISC comprises ten events.

The child can get consistent results in all these tests (eg well above the average) or heterogeneous results (eg some clearly above and another part far below the average). It is entirely possible since the IQ is not an arithmetic average.

IQ reports an intellectual functioning all the more determined that it is homogeneous. This reflects the successful integration of the personality. Conversely, a heterogeneous IQ does not predict what the child will be able to do next.He will succeed brilliantly, as may collapse unexpectedly. Another indication may be provided by the comparison between the verbal and performance. Sometimes one is much higher than the other. The difference is statistically significant when it is greater than 12. The greater the difference is revealed, the more the clinician is prompted to wonder about the integration of the personality.

Although the assessment of IQ is the subject of a relative consensus, there is no lack of recall his relative and arbitrary. Intelligence tests do not undertake genuine measures. They only allow comparison of the results of an individual within the calibration of a population. Psychologists who practice tests results can be varied from 10 to 20 IQ points as he put the child in confidence or has stimulated. It does not lead to the same results by using different tests.Moreover, it is called a “packing effect” to the end zones, especially for the higher numbers of IQ.

In recent years, we focused on the fact that the gifted think differently instead of insisting on its high performance. A new intelligence test was developed by Kaufmann in the United States. It was built from neuropsychology and cognitive psychology.

There are two main types of mental processes: sequential and simultaneous instead of basing the results on the evaluation of verbal and performance. The designers have been able to innovate without breaking with established tradition. The standard notes of their scale can be transformed into IQ the same way as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. There is a fairly good correlation between IQ obtained K-ABC and that obtained WISC.

Early child favors a global, simultaneous to the detriment of a sequential approach, analytical. This explains the contrast between the extreme rapidity to find some answers and unable to explain how the good result was obtained.Shikamaru has more intellect than average. But he especially thinks otherwise. His ideas flow at high speed, leading many associations. This results in the creation of many networks and gifted happens to carry several lines of thought at a time. The gifted child and has an impressive working memory. It happens twice to store more data than a child of average intelligence.

An experienced clinician does not rest on the diagnosis only digit IQ. He appreciates that figure by taking into account the clinical picture and the environment in which the child lives. He also knows that more than the picture is complex, you will need the results of a comprehensive psychological assessment. The statement of the figure is not enough. We must take advantage of the meeting to clarify and exonerate the relationships between parents and children, between teachers and children.

Specific reasons for consultation:

Gifted can be achieved by any psychiatric disorder. But the frequency of problems encountered is not the same as for other children. Also, diseases are nuanced by emotional and intellectual characteristics of these children. The most difficult is to decide what comes of giftedness and what is caused by related disorders.

Academic difficulties and delays:

It’s about the school that the consultant is often sought. It comes willingly ask his opinion on a class break. The child he has above-average intelligence? A procedure was proposed by Terrassier: the IQ offset. A simple calculation to see what intellectual reserves the child would have if he was in the upper class. Another case of consultation: the child has a good intellectual functioning, but the teacher is a little immature. Come there to adapt to change if he skips a class?The proportion of school difficulties and delays increases with age. Many gifted children are unable to use their high intellectual potential in school and a third of them are found about experiencing failure late in the third. These problems belong to several causes that can intermingle and strengthen. The most specific cause is the lag between the expectations of teachers who are trained to meet the needs of average students and the particular intellectual profile of the gifted. Teachers are taken to signal a lack of method, difficulty sustain the effort in the exercises, a lack of attention (for unchallenging material). Another cause is in the greatest frequency in the gifted learning disorders such as dyslexia, dysgraphia or the difficulty to write. Finally, disorders of the type oppositional behavior and emotional disorders such as anxiety make the child more difficult to support and manage.

Hyperactivity and opposition:

The restlessness that was hyped as “hyperactivity” label, is also a frequent reason for consultation.

In the case of the gifted, it insists that such child is very active by nature, he can become hyperactive if bored in class.It happens to show strong and sustained attention is passionate about a subject then he can become inactive if he is forced to participate. We consider giftedness as a cause of motor instability when the child became hyperactive to entry into kindergarten or even in first grade when he is calm at home. This selective aspect of the disorder is easily confirmed by the Conners scales. The child gets neighboring numbers of normal at home while they are frankly abnormal in school. The opposition is a symptom that is associated with the previous willingly. It can be expressed in behavior before the appearance of language. Oral fluency can mean an argument as tight an irritant. This conduct is more often found in boys as the girl bends excessively to the expectations of others.

Emotional disorders:

A distinction is to facilitate the presentation, anxiety and mood disorders, although they are frequently linked together in children.

Anxiety seems present in all gifted children. Great intelligence increases anxiety because it imposes excessive questioning for age. This results from 3 years by excessive interrogations about life and death.

Later, concerns seize diseases, global catastrophes, such as family tragedies. The child usually keeps his secret fears because he is afraid of appearing ridiculous in the eyes of other children or worry his parents. A serious risk is the occurrence of obsessive ideas and rituals. The child will be relieved to talk about his obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) to a person who does not judge and do not make fun of him.

mood disorders, including depression, are often found among the gifted. We have long known that boredom can be a warning sign or first degree of depression. We must be attentive to depression as adults still hesitate to admit this confusing lived in a child. Depression can take two aspects in adolescence due to giftedness. A gifted teenager began to divest the school while he had good grades before. Conversely, a teenager, although depressed, gets to keep his investment and he pursued a pretty good education.

Finally, hypomania can evoke giftedness through its effects on the mind: the ability to polarize, speed of thought. But this impression does not last and the underlying depressive pain reappears.

Anorexia nervosa:

Anorexia nervosa occurs mostly in adolescence. Anorexics are known to be good students because they over-invest the intellectual sphere. But most anorexics do not owe their academic excellence at giftedness, but their hard school work. Sometimes gifted make an anorexic episode but it usually follows a depressive episode.

Sleeping troubles:

It is rare that giftedness is mentioned about sleep disorders. Yet they are very common. Various causes succeed with age. In young children, the anxiety amplifies giftedness can make the separation difficult night. Later, the child refuses to go to bed because he wants to continue to explore and learn. Some think the REM phases are longer in the gifted than the general population.

Psychoanalytic approach:

Psychoanalysis is more interested in the overall intellectual functioning rather than a particular faculty, such as intelligence, for example. Furthermore, psychoanalysts have long considered thought as a scene in which could manifest mental pathologies. They only studied the influence of instincts and neurotic conflicts on the aberrations of thought. They insisted on resistance later she brought to me by the integration of sexual and aggressive fantasies.

We find in Freud’s work as partial contributions of thought and intelligence. It was first located the origin of intellectual curiosity in research on sexuality. This is the sublimation of sexual impulses that provides energy intelligence needs to develop. Later, Freud established the foundations for an art of thinking which not only fall within the sublimation. He described the consequences of the substitution of the reality principle to the pleasure principle. The opposition between pleasure principle and reality principle is correlated with that between primary and secondary process. Thus most intellectual activities are located on the side of the secondary process and the reality principle.

Intelligence plays a role in all stages of child development. It is not surprising that the two founders of psychoanalysis of children have enriched the psychoanalytic knowledge of the intellect. Anna Freud, who first worked as a teacher, anima research groups on the contribution of psychoanalysis to pedagogy. Subsequently, his school of thought localized intelligence in the autonomous functions of the ego, in the area beyond the psychic conflict. Conversely, Melanie Klein has postulated a epistemophilic drive and she related to the symbolization. This much later Bion allowed to propose a theory of thought where affect-related knowledge plays a role as important as love and hate.

Psychoanalysts could not ignore the masterly description by Piaget development of logical thinking in children. They must be located vis-à-vis the learning theory supported by behaviorism and cognitive theories of. One lives in the years 1950 and 1960 appear two psychoanalytic theories of thought: that of ego psychology, in affiliation with Anna Freud, Melanie Klein and the students and based on object relations.

Ego psychology has conceived the idea as part of the autonomous functions of the ego. According to this, the thought undergoes relatively little influence of impulses, and thus the conflict. She described one of the instruments of thought: one, controlled temporary regression which maintains reality testing and the synthetic function of the ego, on the other hand, a selective style of thinking as mathematical processing.

The real test is designed as a test action saving of psychic energy. As experimental as these actions are internalized, logical contradictions are eliminated.

The Kleinian school took a turn when prominent students have sought to treat disorders of thought, especially in schizophrenic. Bion was able to develop a theory of thought that has been adopted by all Kleinians. The fate of thought depends on the baby’s ability to tolerate frustration. If it does not support at all, he just lived to evacuate its unbearable by projective identification.

The baby gets to develop a device to think that if its projections are transformed in part by his entourage, including through the “maternal reverie.” He succeeded in internalizing an object capable of holding its projections, to give meaning and change before returning to the them. Bion has provided the concept of psychic container. He also place in basic affects, the knowledge side of love and hate.

It was a connection between the psyche of some gifted and defense mechanisms as intellectualization and rationalization. When the subject speaks of his experience and his conflict, he tries to control his emotions and feelings. Abstract thinking takes over the emergence and recognition of affects, it can thus keep them away or assign a rational justification and moral order instead of the game from the unconscious. Today mentalizing allows renew the deal and provide a counterweight to the cognitive approach. It refers to the activity carried out to transform the stimuli coming from the body symbolized a mental content. It is a complex and ongoing task to produce and maintain preconscious psychic contents. Some have sought to combine mentalizing with the theory of mind, that is to say, the attribution of mental states to others and give them meaning. High intelligence does not automatically accompanied by a good mentalizing. It can even lead to its opposite: the operational thinking. Even though it appears to have succeeded in controlling the inner life, psychosomatic manifestations are evidence of deficiencies in the integration of the psyche with the soma.

When psychiatric consultation, we encounter many more problems in the neurotic register with children who seem gifted. It is difficult to explain this finding. If gifted seem better equipped than average to prevent psychotic disorders, most disturbed of them are on the border between neurosis and psychosis. It seems that the adjustment difficulties increase as and when the intellectual level rises. Children whose IQ is 160 tend to isolate themselves from other children and less fit socially. The most difficult situation to appreciate is when a child develops a high potential personality disorder. The child uses his intellect to jeopardize strategies to avoid the impact of mental suffering or the effect of destructive impulses. The gifted can happen to mask his deep disturbance becoming a personality “as if”, especially if the environment is assured or enhanced by this type of loan personality. When the child is tested, it often retains an impressive verbal IQ facing a very average performance IQ or at the limit of normal.

Some children, because of their great sensitivity and their overactive intellect, experience soon the needs and vulnerabilities of their parents. They adapt themselves too, at their expense. They learn to hide intense feelings but reprobates like anger, despair, jealousy or fear. These feelings may resurface if trying circumstances occur because they are not integrated with their personality.

In closing, we have to address the concept of dyssynchrony because it is advanced as one explanation for the difficulties faced by associations for the gifted. What is it about ? In the early 1960s, Zazzo had refreshed approach to mental retardation. He had proposed to consider IQ, not as an age quotient, but as the relationship between mental growth rate of an individual and the average speed of mental growth of her age group. The moron is not developing in the same way as a normal child. Specifically, it develops at different speeds according to the psychobiological sectors.

There is thus a heterochrony between the growth of the body and the mind. Terrrassier resumed later this notion to transpose the gifted. He changed the name and spoke of a “dyssynchrony syndrome”.

This is manifested in two aspects: in the gifted person in his social relationship with the environment. Regarding the internal shift, it appears most often between psychomotor development and intellectual development of the gifted child.Roughly, the head moves faster than the body. Thus the child starts to speak it before walking or he quickly learns to read while just learning to write. Another well-known shift concerns the intellect and emotional. In other words, emotional immaturity does during the sparkle of intelligence. The same reasoning is used to explain the difficulties of social life but it seems less convincing. The spirit of the gifted child grows faster than the average of other children.

It would suffer in relation to this average more valued by teachers. The gifted child would be forced to distraction to defend against boredom generated by a little stimulating atmosphere.

Navvy described a “syndrome”, that is to say a set of symptoms that can be observed in many disease states.

It does not support unless the dyssynchrony does not seem to be part of psychopathology. He rejects any relationship with the “evolutionary disharmony” which implies a profound personality disorder. This merits discussion. The concept of evolution disharmony comes from Anna Freud had highlighted some children are not harmonized development lines. This concept was taken to France by Mises to emphasize the dynamism and complexity of limit states in childhood. The question remains open as gifted children confront us in the delicate flower of paradox.

Helping gifted in trouble?

It is difficult to address this issue without raising the passion for whether we feel personally involved and take the advantage of this type of child, or one keeps a step back and risk the opprobrium of militants. Many gifted children are mentally healthy and take advantage of their high potential in their studies. Regarding education, it seems that we can distinguish their destiny into thirds: one third success, one third of average results and a third of serious difficulties and failures.

We do not have statistics on the entire population. There is a bias for extrapolations since associations recruit almost exclusively the early side whose psyche is disturbed and struggling or do not follow in class. This bias is also found among health professionals as a significant proportion of them have children early or were themselves teenage children.

Note the relative novelty of such consultations. It will never matter to cure a child’s giftedness. However, it may be helpful to offer advice to parents, therapeutic measures such as psychotherapy or rehabilitation or promoting educational responses.

Regarding education, the responses boil down to a triad which has been used in all combinations:

• acceleration of the curriculum;

• enrichment programs;

• grouping students in special classes.


Insist on ending the paradoxical features of this small part of the population. There is no doubt that it is intended to be part of the intellectual elite. But, meanwhile, the associations call for them similar educational measures to those mentally deficient benefit, disabled. Moreover, the coexistence of giftedness with limits or narcissistic pathologies brings us to the heart of a debate within child psychiatry at the time of international classifications, including DSM-IV: the “organic whole” or “whole psychic “.

It seems that three requests for reason of intellectual precocity, one would correspond well to this cause. It is easier for parents and sometimes to teachers, to believe that the child’s difficulties are related to something he would be more than average, something provided by the genetic distribution, rather than with psychological distress, a relational problems caused or enhanced by an innate characteristic. A high intellectual potential often goes with a narcissistic fragility.

Professionals are useful when intellectual precocity is accompanied by emotional and cognitive difficulties. They seem indispensable when giftedness is associated with other difficulties: learning disorders, emotional and behavioral disorders. For mild disorders, identifying giftedness helps educate parents and teachers in particular profile of each child.

This also helps to adequately use existing therapeutic range. A first reference center for gifted children has recently become available in Rennes. It is hoped that there will be others. The objective is that the differences of these children are a source of wealth and fulfillment, not of failure and rejection.