Is Your Child a Gifted Learner?

Extending beyond high achievement, your gifted learner is simply on a different intellectual level than kids of the same age. Maybe it’s time to seek out a specialized school for your gifted child.

A parent’s intuition is a valuable tool for determining the right learning environment for their child’s strengths and abilities. This is especially true when your child is gifted. In some families, parents suspect very early on that their child is a gifted learner. In other situations, parents discover this fact after a few unsatisfying years in a traditional educational setting.

“There are a lot of different characteristics in the gifted learner and every child is different,” says Jill Dreyer, Marketing and Admissions Manager at Quest Academy, an independent PK-8 school in Palatine for gifted learners. At Quest Academy, teachers are dedicated to meeting the specific needs for specialized education of gifted students.

“Gifted learners are unique, complex and wonderful,” Dreyer says. “If they are put in the right environment, they will thrive.”

You may suspect that your child is gifted, or you may see behavior challenges in your child’s current learning environment that you suspect may be related to their need for a different educational approach. Here, Dreyer shares some common traits parents recognize in their children that can indicate they are gifted — and some tips for finding the right school for your child’s unique needs.

High achiever or gifted learner?

Parents and teachers of gifted students often struggle to determine whether a child is a high achiever or a true gifted learner. On the surface, these two types of students share some common traits. While a high achieving student is technically capable, can absorb information, is attentive and knows the answers to material covered in class, by contrast, the gifted student innovates, perceives information in unique ways, is intellectually engaged and asks deeper questions.

And, while it seems both children could thrive in the same classroom, one is a top student while the other is intellectually far beyond their same-age peers.

“Gifted students tend to gravitate toward older students and adults for higher-level conversation,” Dreyer says. “They can feel a disconnect from students their own age in the classroom. They also need less repetition because they pick things up very quickly and are often highly verbal, though that’s not always the case.”

When a child can verbalize that they need more challenging work or that they are bored in class, that’s a common indicator of giftedness, Dreyer says. “In those cases, parents can be proactive and learn more about giftedness and reach out to gifted schools and that’s when the lightbulb goes on. When we describe some common experiences of gifted students, parents will often see this description align with who their child is.”

The right learning environment for the gifted learner

Because traditional classroom environments are not optimized for gifted students and teachers are not often equipped to recognize and meet the needs of gifted children, some students simply don’t thrive in a one-size-fits-all classroom. In fact, gifted children often need specialized education that simply can’t be provided in a traditional school setting.

Quest Academy’s project-based learning environment encourages students to rise to the level of engagement where they feel most challenged and can do their most satisfying work. “We introduce a concept on Monday and students have five days to work on their project. It’s a very collaborative environment,” Dreyer explains.

Even Quest Academy classrooms are optimized for engagement between students and teachers.

“The whole environment is designed to maximize critical thinking. Students can engage in trial and error and take risks. It’s very important for the gifted student to be in an environment that is safe to take risks,” she says.

Photo credit: Quest Academy

Small class sizes allow for high levels of engagement with seasoned teachers who understand the gifted student’s needs. By helping students tame perfectionism and learn executive functioning and effective organization skills, teachers at Quest Academy tap into their social-emotional expertise to connect with students and help them succeed.

And, because giftedness isn’t always uniform across all disciplines, students at Quest Academy receive the support they need — with no ceiling on learning in any particular subject. Unlike traditional classroom environments where students don’t have access to deeper subject exploration — or can only experience academic challenges when pulled out of the classroom for short periods of time each week — Quest Academy’s curriculum provides an enriching and challenging approach for gifted students all day, every day.

With every subject designed for the gifted student, kids are engaged in academic disciplines including science, language arts, math and social science as well as art, music, drama, Spanish and computer science/AI each week.

Perhaps most importantly, gifted students need to be surrounded by like-minded peers. Quest Academy, says Dreyer, is a place where gifted students can make friends and enjoy learning with peers who can understand and appreciate their uniqueness — because they’re gifted too.

“Your child always has a peer at Quest Academy. There is always someone else who can engage at your child’s level,” she says.

Learn more about Quest Academy at

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Chicago Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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