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If 'gifted' is a bad word, what term can we use to describe the highly intelligent and creative members of our societies?

The word 'gifted', technically meaning intellectual giftedness, has become a terribly misused term.

'GIfted' has been used to refer to anything from any kind of elitist, socially challenged group of people, to a type of characteristic of a person or object that varies even slightly from the norm.

Many intellectually gifted people refuse to attend gifted programs in their local schools because they don't want to be labeled with something so many people think to mean 'better than others'. Then they don't get the help or varied learning experiences they need to make the most of their abilities, and therefore in essence 'waste' their talents and skills that could so definitely be used by the world.

So what word can we use for the 'learning enabled' individuals so that they can feel confident in their strengths and abilities but still get the help they need? What kind of phrase can be used to refer to the gifted that everyone will find acceptable and satisfactory?


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  • Mar 8 2011: Although the word & correct usage of the term has been co-opted and badly redefined, I think we're stuck with it. There have been many, many attempts to address this issue over the past century and it just doesn't work. This is what we have, and imo we're better off working to redefine it.

    Giftedness is a neurological condition - asynchronous development - and it includes a whole lot more than achievement. "Intellectual giftedness" is actually kind of meaningless, because either your brain is constructed differently or it's not, and the brain is not divided up into neat sections including "intellect", "artistic", math, reading, etc etc. (Not picking on anyone in particular, that's just my pet peeve.)

    Because giftedness is neurologically based, it is also closely linked with other nervous system asynchronies (allergies, asthma, sensory perception).

    if other children feel shortchanged, then perhaps the adults should rephrase what they have said. All children are gifts and all children do have gifts -- but they are not all gifted (neither are they all developmentally challenged).

    I think Debra has a lot of good points... and I apologize for the disjointedness of my comments. This is such a huge topic... It's difficult to draft any quick, simple reply. There are a lot of good articles addressing this issue at http://giftedhomeschoolers.org and at http://hoagiesgifted.org
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      Mar 10 2011: You make it sound as if we should call the gifted mutants. We are all asynchronus to some level.
      • Mar 11 2011: Actually, no, we aren't, unless you include the level of "0" in your range. There are many people who are in the middle ~68% of the bell curve in height, weight, IQ, emotional range, and a host of other areas.

        And there are many people who are, in fact, asynchronous, but not in the "older" direction. They are short or underweight or of lower intelligence or otherwise immature, while being apt for their age in the other realms.

        Suggesting there is a neurological difference is hardly the same as suggesting that we call the gifted mutants.

        However, we often treat them as if they are mutants - beings with no claim on services from our public schools and who should be punished for being who they are.
    • Mar 11 2011: "all children do have gifts -- but they are not all gifted (neither are they all developmentally challenged). "

      It depends on what you mean by gifts, I suppose.

      If you mean "areas in which they are more capable than 95% of the population," then I would have to say "No, not all children have gifts." All children have relative strengths, but it is possible for a child's absolute best area to be no better than average, if even.

      This is why they are not gifted.
      • Mar 11 2011: Sorry, I meant to say "all children are gifts" not "all children have gifts"... and yeah, I was using different meanings of the word "gifts"
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      Mar 11 2011: @Corin: Thank you for clarification.
      I read also here http://giftedkids.about.com/od/glossary/g/asynchronous.htm about "asynchronous development" and now I hope I understand better the "gifted" term used here.

      So, if "giftedness is neurologically based", what about autistic children?

      I watched Dr. Temple Grandin's TED talk and the movie about her life.
      Was she also a "gifted" child?
      • Mar 11 2011: I'm not Corin, but I play her on TV...

        Yes, I believe autism has a neurological basis - this is part of why the diagnosis is not supposed to be made without neurological data.

        And Temple Grandin most certainly was a gifted child - as are many autistic children.
        • Mar 11 2011: I'm not Josh, but I play him on the interwebz...

          Yes, of course autism spectrum disorders are neurologically based. The Dana Foundation can be a good source of autism research... they tend to public the latest on genetics, in particular.

          A person who is both gifted AND has another diagnosis (including autism) is considered "twice exceptional" or 2e. It is not uncommon - it is actually badly underdiagnosed, to the detriment of the children who are 2e and the adults they grow up to be. See 2enewsletter.com for more resources.
      • Mar 12 2011: The asynchronous development you're mentioning here is one of the reasons why the gifted need to be recognized in some way in order to help them find success in the best way they can. Just because they're 'smart' in one area or another doesn't mean that they can figure everything out on their own. They have their own challenges that they need help with, just like any other person has his/hers.

        Being gifted isn't easy. The gifted spend their lives out of sync with most of the rest of the people around them, which can be a difficult thing especially when they're young. In some ways they may be ahead of their peers and in other ways they may be behind. At times it's tough for them to find balance in their lives.

        This brief article, "GIftedness - It's All Starting to Make Sense" sheds a bit more light on the gifted and their diversity, and makes their situation a little easier for everyone to understand: http://giftedforlife.com/1064/giftedness-its-all-starting-to-make-sense/

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