Early Enrichment for Gifted and Talented Children in Maryland

In Maryland, state regulations for gifted and talented education  (COMAR 13A.04.07) support the use of early talent development interventions such as the MSDE Primary Talent Development Early Learning Program (PTD), which can help school systems document evidence of advanced learning capabilities and expand the services for all learners by recognizing that children develop at different rates and that giftedness sometimes is apparent at an early age.

By implementing the PTD lessons with all students, teachers can observe and encourage various thinking skills, including problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. These lessons can allow diverse groups of young gifted and talented learners to shine in ways that may not be evident in second grade or later on group paper-and-pencil assessments. This can benefit English Language Learners, economically disadvantaged students and ethnically diverse learners who may stand out at an early age with these types of performance-based activities.

The Primary Talent Development model fosters experiences in which young students can display any of the following seven behaviors indicative of high intellectual functioning:

  • Perceptive
  • Communicative
  • Inquisitive
  • Persistent
  • Creative
  • Resourceful
  • Leadership

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC), an organization of parents, educators, other professionals, and community leaders who unite to address the unique needs of children and youth with demonstrated or potential gifts and talents supports collaboration between parents, caregivers and educators in order to develop the potential of precocious learners ages 3-8. Their position statement for creating contexts for individualized early learning can be found here: http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=1696.

Common characteristics found among young gifted children include the use of advanced vocabulary, early reading (without drill, coaching, or flash cards), keen observation skills, insatiable curiosity, an incredible memory, the ability to concentrate on tasks for long periods of time compared to age peers, and a unique ability to recognize patterns and relationships and think abstractly. Characteristics and behaviors indicative of giftedness can be evident as early as pre-school (or earlier) and recognized by parents or caregivers.

It is well accepted in the field of exceptional education that early intervention is critical to support students’ cognitive and affective growth. One can look at the success of programs such as Head Start, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Infant-Toddler programs, and Early Childhood Intervention services and recognize that providing nurturing, enriched and engaging environments during early childhood years can lead to enhanced educational success. This is the same need that young gifted children have. In addition, early enrichment as a form of intervention is even more critical for bright learners who come from poverty or traditionally underrepresented populations.

According to the NAGC, “early educational experiences of many young gifted children provide limited challenge and hinder their cognitive growth rather than exposing learners to an expansive, engaging learning environment. This problem may be intensified among traditionally underserved populations of young gifted students including culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse learners, as well as children from poverty because in many cases additional resources for providing enriched learning experiences in homes and communities are also limited (Robinson et al.; Scott & Delgado, 2005).”

Numerous studies show that when gifted children are provided early enrollment in kindergarten or first grade on the basis of intellectual, academic and social readiness, they perform as well as or better than their older classmates. It is imperative that young gifted children’s needs are not ignored and that responsive learning environments are provided as soon as they formally enter school. There is no research to support waiting for a gifted child to enter third grade or later before she should have access to developmentally appropriate educational services. Early recognition and intervention is especially critical for enabling young children from economically impoverished environments to develop and demonstrate high potential.

Some recommendations for providing an appropriately stimulating environment for young gifted learners include the following:

  • Recognition of students as individuals who enter school with a unique set of experiences, interests, strengths, and weaknesses that will influence their readiness to learn
  • Informal and formal observations about student strengths and readiness that inform the planning of learning opportunities
  • Flexibility in the pace at which learning opportunities are provided
  • Opportunities to build on their advanced literacy skills
  • Interaction and collaboration with diverse peer groups of children having like and different interests and abilities
  • Experiences that range from concrete to abstract
  • Opportunities for social interaction with same-age peers as well as individuals with similar cognitive abilities and interests

Implementing early enrichment as intervention for young gifted learners often does not require formal identification procedures such as IQ testing; however, all learners, including those who show early signs of precocity should be allowed to blossom and grow in a nurturing and supportive environment.

On-going assessments and progress monitoring from multiple data sources from Pre-K through grade 12 can increase the pool of candidates and ensure a more diverse population of gifted and talented students in our state.

For more information about the Primary Talent Development Model (PTD), please visit: