Spatial Skills = Early Sign of Creativity

Link to article in The New York Times: HERE


A gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields, according to a study published Monday in the journal Psychological Science.

The study looked at the professional success of people who, as 13-year-olds, had taken both the SAT, because they had been flagged as particularly gifted, as well as the Differential Aptitude Test. That exam measures spatial relations skills, the ability to visualize and manipulate two-and three-dimensional objects. While math and verbal scores proved to be an accurate predictor of the students’ later accomplishments, adding spatial ability scores significantly increased the accuracy.

The researchers, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said their findings make a strong case for rewriting standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to focus more on spatial ability, to help identify children who excel in this area and foster their talents.

“Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don’t capture with traditional measures used in educational selection,” said David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. “We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.”

Following up on a study from the 1970s, Dr. Lubinski and his colleagues tracked the professional progress of 563 students who had scored in the top 0.5 percent on the SAT 30 years ago, when they were 13. At the time, the students had also taken the Differential Aptitude Test.

Years later, the children who had scored exceptionally high on the SAT also tended to be high achievers — not surprisingly — measured in terms of the scholarly papers they had published and patents that they held. But there was an even higher correlation with success among those who had also scored highest on the spatial relations test, which the researchers judged to be a critical diagnostic for achievement in technology, engineering, math and science.

Cognitive psychologists have long suspected that spatial ability — sometimes referred to as the “orphan ability” for its tendency to go undetected — is key to success in technical fields. Earlier studies have shown that students with a high spatial aptitude are not only overrepresented in those fields, but may receive little guidance in high school and underachieve as a result. (Note to parents: Legos and chemistry sets are considered good gifts for the spatial relations set.)

The correlation has “been suspected, but not as well researched” as the predictive power of math skills, said David Geary, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, who was not involved in the study, which was funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The new research is significant, he said, for showing that “high levels of performance in STEM fields” — science, technology, engineering and math — “are not simply related to math abilities.”

Testing spatial aptitude is not particularly difficult, Dr. Geary added, but is simply not part of standardized testing because it is considered a cognitive function — the realm of I.Q. and intelligence tests — and is not typically a skill taught in school.

“It’s not like math or English, it’s not part of an academic curriculum,” he said. “It’s more of a basic competence. For that reason it just wasn’t on people’s minds when developing these tests.”

It is also a competence more associated with men than women. In the current study, boys greatly outnumbered girls, 393 to 170, reflecting the original scores of the students in the ’70s. But the study found no difference in the levels of adult achievement, said Dr. Lubinski, though the women were more likely than the men to work in medicine and the social sciences.

National Parenting Gifted Children Week

Does anyone really know what you’re going through as a parent of a gifted child? Parents need special understanding in order to raise and advocate for the social and emotional needs of their gifted children. To this end, SENG is proud to sponsor during the third week in July each year National Parenting Gifted Children (NPGC) Week, an event listed in the National Special Events Registry. NPGC Week celebrates the joys and challenges of raising, guiding, and supporting bright young minds.

This year we are excited to announce a week of free SENGinars! From Monday through Thursday during NPGC we will offer one specific SENGinar recording for free each day. Visit our 2013 NPGC Week Celebration! page for more information about how you can participate. This year, SENG kicks off NPGC Week with its annual SENG conference, Warm a Gifted Heart, in Orlando, Florida from July 19-21.

Last year, SENG coordinated a blog tour of resources related to parenting gifted children. Links to those resources are available on SENG’s website here.

And don’t forget to get your copy of SENG’s free ebook collection of articles published in honor of the 2010 National Parenting Gifted Children Week!

Free eBook!

Available for KindleNook, and from Smashwords

The Joy and the Challenge


Parenting a Gifted Teen: Social and Emotional Issues

Ephrata Area School District

Secondary Gifted Parent Night

Parenting a Gifted Teen: Social and Emotional Issues


When:             Wednesday, April 3, 6-7 p.m.

Where:            Ephrata Area Middle School Media Center

957 Hammon Ave. Ephrata PA 17522

Format:          Presenter: Angel Eshleman, Ephrata School Psychologist


 Parenting a Gifted Teen: Social and Emotional Issues

 Description:  If you are the parent of a gifted student, you already know about the joys and challenges of raising your child. This presentation will highlight the social and emotional challenges of gifted students with a focus on secondary-age issues. Gifted students are a diverse group of individuals with considerable strength and resilience but also with unique challenges.  Often these challenges are overlooked or misunderstood, and students’ needs go unmet.   We’ll be talking about ways that you can be supportive to your gifted teen and help them to use their strengths to reach their full potential.

Please RSVP to Lori Hatt 717-721-1150 Ext 0

or email at  by March 28, 2013


If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact:

Susan Summers-Steffy  (721-1150)

Coordinator of Student Services

Ephrata Area School District.




How to Recognize a Parent of a Gifted Child


Parents learning how to live with a gifted child have a few tell-tale signs. Just like you can usually spot parents of multiples (all those same-size car seats in the minivan are the usual giveaway) there are clues to recognizing these parents.

  • They’re on a first name basis with all the librarians in their lives. I say all librarians because these kids usually have books checked out from the school and the community library.
  • Books are scattered everywhere. Cars, bedrooms, home libraries (yes, I mean the bathroom), dining room table, homework spot, school locker, and stacked near every comfy chair they come across.
  • You know way too much about dinosaurs, Lego robotics, black holes, or whatever the topic of the week is that has captured 99% of your child’s attention.
  • There are no soccer games to attend on the weekends.
  • They know every summer camp, enrichment opportunity, and robot workshop available in a 50 mile radius.
  • When they talk about Hoagies, they don’t mean the sandwich.


Parent of a Gifted Child

Courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt


But the number one way I’ve found to tell the difference is that the parent of a highly gifted or profoundly gifted child has a unique look of tired terror when discussing their child.

The Tiredness

Having a child on the far right of the bell curve can be exhausting. It’s tiring just keeping up with all of those questions, especially when they’re young. Thank goodness when they’re old enough to Google things themselves.

The Terror

The terror sets in when you realize schools usually don’t have a good game plan for how to effectively educate your child. If you’re like me, you thought that once Kindergarten started everything would be fine. Wrong!

In most cases that’s when the real work of parent advocacy begins – and doesn’t end until you pack them off to college.

Finding ways to keep your child interested and engaged in learning can take up more time than many parents realize. We’ve had to visit libraries and used book stores more than I ever thought possible just to keep a steady supply of reading material available.

But what reading material? What does a seven-year old at a 10th grade reading level read? That’s another blog post – stay tuned.

The Tears

I’ve had the honor to meet with several parents starting on this wonderful, terror-filled journey of raising gifted kids. Almost always the higher the child’s IQ, the less bragging there is, the more questions are asked, and the more tears are shed.

What’s your experience been with parents of gifted kids?