How to distinguish a gifted child from a child with Asperger’s syndrome.


The Minnesota Council for the gifted and talented, has published an excellent table setting out the similarities and differences between a gifted child and a child with Asperger’s syndrome. It is worth remembering that the two are sometimes intertwined and it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other.  This table goes someway towards helping identify those traits that may be particular to each group. If you feel your child falls into either of these groups, it may be worth contacting either Potential Plus, or your GP/Paediatrician to ask to be referred to a specialist.






Memory and Attention
  • Excellent memory for facts and information about a variety of topics
  • Typically accurate recall for names and faces
  • Dislikes rote memorization tasks although he/she may do it well
  • Intense focus on topics of interest
  • If distracted, is likely to return to a task quickly with or without redirection
  • Superb memory for facts and detailed information related to selected topics of special interest
  • Poor recall for names and faces
  • Enjoys thinking about and remembering details, facts, and figures
  • Intense focus on primary topic of interest
  • If distracted by internal thoughts, redirecting to task at hand may be difficult
Speech and Language Therapy
  • Extensive, advanced vocabulary
  • Communicates understandings of abstract ideas
  • Rich and interesting verbal style
  • Engages others in interests
  • Asks challenging questions
  • Expressive language/speech pattern of an older child
  • Elaborates with or without prompts
  • Understands and engages in sophisticated and/or socially reciprocal humor, irony, and sarcasm
  • Understands cause/effect or give and take of conversation Able to communicate distress verbally
  • Advanced use of words with lack of comprehension for all language used
  • Thinks and communicates in concrete and literal terms with less abstraction
  • Uninviting verbal style
  • Style or content lacks reciprocity and engagement of others in their personal interests
  • Repeats questions and information
  • Pedantic and seamless speech
  • Little or no elaboration with run-on speech
  • Misunderstands jokes involving social reciprocity
  • Has difficulty understanding give and take of conversation
  • Communicates distress with actions rather than words
Social and Emotional
  • Able to identify and name friends; enjoys high social status in some circles
  • Aware of social norms
  • Keenly aware that he/she is different from peers
  • Spontaneous sharing of enjoyment, activities, interests, or accomplishments
  • Engages others in conversation
  • Aware of another’s perspective and able to take and understand others’ viewpoint
  • Follows unwritten rules of social interactions
  • Shows keen social insight and an intuitive nature
  • Usually demonstrates appropriate emotions
  • Aware of others’ emotions and recognizes others’ feelings easily
  • Able to read social situations and respond to social cues
  • Shows empathy for others and able to comfort a friend in need
  • Demonstrates significant difficulty and lacks understanding of how to establish and keep friends
  • Indifferent to social norms of dress and behavior
  • Limited recognition of differences with peers
  • Little or no interest in spontaneous sharing of enjoyment, activities, interests, or accomplishments
  • Shows significant difficulty initiating or engaging others in conversation
  • Assume others share his/her personal views
  • Unaware of social conventions or the reasons behind them
  • Lacks social insight
  • Demonstrates inappropriate or immature emotions and flat or restricted affect
  • Limited recognition of others’ emotions
  • Misreads social situations and may not respond (or even know how to respond) to social cues
  • Does not typically show empathy or concern for someone in need
  • May passively resist but will often go along with change Questions rules and structure
  • Stereotypical behaviors (e.g., hand or finger flapping, twisting, or complex body movements) not present
  • When problems arise, he/she is typically distressed by them
  • Actively or aggressively resists change; rigid
  • Adheres strictly to rules and needs structure
  • Stereotypical behaviors (e.g., hand or finger flapping, twisting, or complex body movements) are present
  • When problems arise, parents or teachers are distressed by them while student may be unaware of distressing situation unless personally affected
Motor Skills
  • Well-coordinated
  • Interested in team sports
  • Demonstrates appropriate development of self-help skills
  •  Lacks age-appropriate coordination
  • Avoids team sports
  • Delayed acquisition of self help skills
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