One of the things some parents of gifted children tell me is that their child “doesn’t miss a thing,” even at a very young age. Parents say their children who are gifted pick up on verbal information, cues, opinions, and statements - and will often remind the speaker of what they said at a later date. Some of the time this reminder is appropriate, and other times it can be quite uncomfortable for the speaker, depending upon the setting. Many children who are gifted also take in vast amounts of information visually. They pay close attention to their environment and analyze what is in the environment, what happens in the environment, who is there, including interactions between people, things, animals, and many other observations. If a child is gifted and also has vision loss, he may utilize his residual sight, and augment it with hearing, assistive technology, and orientation and mobility skills, such as using a cane.
Regardless of how children who are gifted interact with their environment and others, they often pay close attention to details in their world and are thorough in their exploration of it. This can be a positive or a negative, depending upon how it is used by the child and perceived by adults. In school, teachers may not recognize that a child who is gifted and is doing several things at once (multi-tasking) might be using this strategy to help pay attention. Teachers should not judge or misinterpret what the child is doing when multi-tasking, but rather, ask them to summarize what was just said, or to review the lesson that was just taught. Many teachers are very surprised when these children can explain in detail what the lesson was about while they were seemingly busy doing something else.
At home, parents can help their children develop creative ways to use their attention to detail skills wisely - to further learn new things, to help people, and to positively channel their skill. For example, children may need to learn not to confront a speaker, but to engage in higher order thinking discussions about a topic.
Additionally, there is a difference between attention to detail and perfectionism. Attention to detail may be said to be a practice of being thorough, accurate, and knowing what is being said, done, and completed, whereas perfectionism is often about avoiding mistakes, fearing imperfection, constant seeking of acceptance/approval by others, and living up to an artificial standard of accomplishment.
Paying attention to detail is an important lifelong skill. It is needed in school and college to learn, read, understand, and complete assignments thoroughly, correctly, and on time. It is needed on the job to get the job done efficiently and figure out ways to do it better. In life in general, attention to detail helps one to problem solve, create new things and procedures, and more. Attention to detail is essential in some fields. We certainly want a physician who pays attention to details in our body. We certainly want engineers and scientists who pay attention to details when building things, solving problems, and creating new things in our world. By encouraging our children who are gifted to channel their attention to detail for useful purposes in life, school, and employment, they learn to use these skills for the benefit of our world.
Attention to Detail
Indeed: Attention to Detail
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
Ask the Doctor