If you have a sense that your young 5-year-old might be a gifted and prodigious genius, then there are signs that you can look out for. In today’s blog we want to share a collection of the most promising signs that your child could be a genius.
We share this mostly because we want to help parents avoid the traps of false positives that exist. Many parents may believe their child to be gifted based only on their subjective view, and that creates many false positives.
This is especially true for parents raising their first child with little or no experience of other children. In these cases, many normal traits and actions might be misinterpreted as indications of talent or genius.
Real Signs of Genius Kids
Now we come to the part where we look at the signs that your 5-year-old might be a genius. A child does not have to exhibit all of these traits.
Indeed they couldn’t because some of them do contradict one another. Pay close attention to all the same and see if you see these signs:
1. A Child Prodigy with Talent in One Special Area
Has your child exhibited extraordinary talent in one particular area?
It might be music, memory, art or some other field that normally requires children to be taught and trained for many years before reaching a high level.
For example, did your child hear and/or see someone else playing the piano and then find themselves able to emulate the sound from memory?
Did they hear once how the notes on the piano work and then from there proceed to learn entire sonatas in a single day? Perhaps they’re even composing.
In her work “Practices for Identifying Gifted Students,” professor emeritus of the Department of Education Psychology at Baylor University, Susan K. Johnsen talks about how genius kids “will exhibit their talents not only in a domain but also within a specific area of interest.”
Her work shows that very gifted children focus not just on a subject, but even on a single topic within that subject.
2. They Struggle with Social Skills
One of the more unfortunate traits of child geniuses is their relative struggle to function normally as a social creature.
As their minds are often elevated in ways that to which other children find hard to relate, the result is that genius kids find it harder to make friends and can even be the victims of teasing and bullying because their differences can be so stark from other children in their peer group.
This view is reinforced by the work of individuals like Celi Trepanier, celebrated author and gifted child specialist.
She points out that “the social struggles of gifted children are not so much that gifted children are inept in social situations or are lacking social skills, it is more that society does not understand or accept the not-quite-average behaviors of gifted children.”
3. They Focus Their Attention on One Thing for Long Periods
Children in general are not known for their terrific attention spans, especially in the modern age.
It’s quite normal for children to be doing something quite intently and seemingly with purpose, only for them to cast it to one side within 30 minutes and express a desire to move on to something else.
James T Webb in his 1993 study “ Nurturing Social-Emotional Development of Gifted Children” lists “Intense concentration; long attention span in areas of interest; goal-directed behavior; persistence” as what he calls the ‘characteristic strengths of gifted children.’
What’s interesting to note is the distinction “in areas of interest” meaning that a genius kid might be mistaken as having a short attention span when they are merely unwilling to put attention on things that don’t interest them.
Genius kids are known for reaching key developmental milestones far earlier than ordinary children do. It’s not a 100-percent guarantee, but this is one of the stronger signs in our list today.
For example, most children start sounding words and forming their speech skills at about 15 months of age. A child with far above-average intelligence may start forming sentences at that age, or very soon after.
Webb’s list of characteristic strengths of gifted children also includes many identifiers to support this, including “large vocabulary and facile verbal proficiency” and “strong sense of humor,” indicating development of cognitive abilities far ahead of their age bracket.
Further above we touched on trouble with social skills and that while it can indicate signs of genius, it may also be down to other factors.
If you notice that your 5-year-old has some social difficulties, but doesn’t seem disturbed by those difficulties and is in fact quite happy being on their own, then that is a stronger sign of above-average intelligence and possible genius.
This seems to conflict somewhat with the social problems they face. Genius kids can be surprising and contradictory in this way.
Webb’s work further confirms this as he points out that gifted children exhibit “sensitivity, empathy for others; a desire to be accepted by others,” but at the same time are “impatient with the slowness of others” and “critical or intolerant toward others.”
According to Webb, the root of the content with being alone at times is a genius kid’s need for perfection, which they feel they can achieve by themselves.
Genius kids exhibit great cognitive skills, mental capacity, thoughtfulness and curiosity. In doing so, they formulate in their own minds a very clear picture of what they want to be doing with their time, and what their ideas are on certain things.
As a parent you sometimes have to challenge these resolutions, and you’ll often be met with fierce stubborn resistance.
This can be a tricky area, as noted by gifted child advocate Lisa Conrad, who argues that it’s very easy for parents and even professionals to mischaracterize genius kids as “stubborn, defiant, rebellious and arrogant.”
Therefore this is one sign with which one has to be cautious. If such behavior is part of a gifted child’s personality, then it has to be carefully managed and channeled.
Conrad reminds us, “traditional behavior strategies don’t work because the underlying causes for the behavior are atypical for their age.”
7. They Can Express Their Emotions Clearly
Another interesting sign of genius in a 5-year-old would be an unusually high level of articulation. Above we mentioned how genius kids can reach developmental milestones earlier, speech being one of them.
If they can use the power of speech to express their feelings and emotions, this is an indication of a genius.
Young children feel a lot of things, but very few can accurately articulate those feelings beyond emotional outbursts such as crying and laughing, and through basic words: good, bad, happy, sad, etc.
For those who exhibit signs of genius, however, they may find more ways to express themselves more accurately.
This is arguably the most convincing sign that your 5-year-old might be a genius. The questions kids ask can be quite funny sometimes, especially when they happen to be on a somewhat awkward topic for adults to address.
The curiosity of young people is always strong, but in a child genius it is beyond anything you could imagine.
Research at the University of Florida from 2000 supports this view, showing that gifted students “tend to have more active imaginations than average students.”
The research led by Thomas Oakland also states that this is especially prevalent in gifted girls.
Also Read how these gifted children changed the world with their imagination and creative solutions.
Genius kids often fall at the extreme ends of many spectrums. They’re in the top IQ percentiles, the most prodigious in mental and cognitive abilities, and they also typically fall into an extreme of personality type, either introverted or extroverted.
You might get one above-average or gifted child who is a natural speaker, performer, a “social butterfly” type who happens to love being the center of attention.
Conversely, a child genius can also be extremely introverted, unwilling to open up and share, struggling to make friends or make themselves understood to others.
The latter is more often the case according to award-winning author, parenting and life coach and school psychologist Christine Fonseca, who in an interview with the Davidson Institute remarked, “The gifted child may be either introverted or extroverted. That said, research suggests that introversion occurs at a significantly higher rate among gifted individuals.” She further warns that introversion can be a further obstacle to social development.
All of us likely know at least one of “those parents” who endlessly brags about their child’s above-average abilities: his mental maths skills are phenomenal; these language classes for kids are too slow for her; his curiosity knows no end.
The fact is that parents are prone to exaggerate their children’s talents and successes, prompted by their personal bias.
A more reliable sign of genius in a young child is when others are pointing out the traits without any prompting or suggestion from you as a parent.
Have teachers mentioned anything about their above-average intelligence? Do other parents see and hear that curiosity more clearly?
These signs are often much clearer to teachers and other parents because they can more objectively compare your child to their own and others they’ve met.
If you only ever deal with your own child, you might not see the wood for the trees.
Next Steps: The Genius Kid Identification Process
It can be hard to know exactly what to do if and when you discover your child is exhibiting some or many signs of being a genius. You might immediately think that putting your child into an IQ test is the natural next step.
An IQ test can be revealing, and certainly an IQ test can be beneficial if it means your child can qualify for certain academic opportunities through the result, but it’s not the only way.
Professor Susan K. Johnsen states that “no one test can possibly sample all of the behaviors that a gifted student might demonstrate.”
This means that an IQ is not definitive. It’s always best to go through a process involving your child’s teachers, principal and other stakeholders where more careful and considered screening can happen.
One swallow does not make a summer, and parents shouldn’t take a single sign or a single IQ test result as a definitive signpost to direct a child’s future.