Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gifted Child Series:So You Think Your Child is Gifted?

This post is a contribution by guest blogger Chrystal Smith.
Check out her book store Barefoot Books for great children's books!

So you think your child is gifted?

I hear them all the time… “When did you first know something was different about your son?”, “My daughter knows her ABC’s… do you think she’s gifted?”, “Everybody’s gifted in their own way,” “My kid does that too, but she’s not gifted,” and “They all even out by 3rd grade, anyway.”

Like any other parenting topic in the universe, there are a lot of people who will give you unsolicited (and sometimes horrible) advice, and there are some people who genuinely care about your family or are genuinely concerned about their own children. So, how DO you know if your child is gifted?

The short answer is to have the child tested. *crickets chirping*

Um… yeah. That’s the SHORT answer. Seriously, the real answer is much longer and much more complicated. What kind of test? How much does it cost? Doesn’t the school system provide gifted testing to everyone in the district? What if my child doesn’t like tests? What if my child has a learning disability or medical disability? How do I know if I even WANT to have my child tested? I mean… what if I test him, he does poorly, and then feels like an idiot? I don’t want to ruin his self esteem!

Ok, so here’s the long answer:

First, you should familiarize yourself with the characteristics of a gifted child. There are lists all over the internet, but most of them have recurring items in their checklists. Gifted children, unless they’re the off-the-scale genius type, will never have all of the characteristics, so don’t panic if your child doesn’t make the cut on a few. However, they will generally have about 90-95% of them unless there is a hidden disability or something like that (which I’ll talk more about in a bit). A wonderful book to give you an idea about your child’s giftedness is (the old version) Losing Our Minds or (the new version) 5 Levels of Giftedness, both by Deborah Ruf. You can get a preview of that book here. If you’re the checklist type, take a look at some of these. They’re all pretty much the same:

What is Gifted?
What is Giftedness?
How to Tell if Your Preschooler is Gifted
How to Tell if your Schooler is Gifted
Traits of a Gifted Child

You’ve read through the lists, and now you’re pretty sure your child is different, right? People have begun to point out the differences in public. Grandparents are whispering behind your child’s back. Ok, so yes, your child is likely gifted, or at the very least, bright. Now what?

Here’s where the testing part comes in. No, school districts are generally NOT required to offer giftedness testing to all students, especially those who don’t attend the public school. Some states don’t even have funding for gifted programs. Not only that, but the test a school gives for giftedness isn’t actually an IQ test at all. Let’s look at it from another perspective. If your child is complaining of headaches, you schedule your child’s annual check-up with the doctor and have a quick little screening test in the doctor’s office, right? Well, if you child can make out the E’s, his vision is perfectly fine. No need to worry. WRONG. Headaches could be a sign of a tracking problem, fatigue, or lazy eye. Those things should be diagnosed by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, not a simple screening. Gifted testing at the public school is the same. Some kids will test into the gifted program without being gifted at all, and some will miss the cut for a variety of reasons when they’re actually quite gifted. A real IQ test is necessary, and that test must be given by a licensed psychologist (not psychiatrist) who is trained in testing children.

“Sign me up. My 2 year old will be in the psychologist’s office tomorrow!” Hold it, hold it, hold it. No, the absolute earliest you can do comprehensive IQ testing on a child is age 4. Even then, some children aren’t ready. They simply don’t have the attention span or motor skills necessary. The most accurate age for testing is between about ages 5 and 9. Not only that, but the test is quite an investment! Just the basic test will generally cost you around $700 (depending on where you go and what resources are available in your area). It would be worth your time to check your local colleges, because sometimes a grad student can offer the test at a much cheaper rate. If your child maxes out on any of the subtests, he’ll need additional testing as well. I complete package of tests, including IQ, learning style, hidden disabilities, etc. will cost you in the neighborhood of $2-3k, and no, health insurance doesn’t cover it unless a medical condition is suspected. Still interested? I recommend scheduling a conference call with the Gifted Development Center in Denver, CO. Even if you decide not to test right now, the phone call will be money well spent. (In the neighborhood of $200 or so.)

Nope… I haven’t forgotten. What about kids who just “don’t test well”, but they always seem to know the answers? What about children who have ADHD? What about children with dyslexia? These are examples of what’s called “twice exceptional” or “2E” in the gifted community. A really good child psychologist will be familiar with all of those conditions and will be able to make recommendations of giftedness (or not) based on how the child tested, not necessarily the final score. A child could be extremely gifted but still score low on an IQ test.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. Look for more information about giftedness from me in the future. Asynchronous development, levels of giftedness, quirky behaviors, grade acceleration, hiding behind a wall… there’s a lot more to giftedness than a label, just like there’s a lot more to a child than a name on a birth certificate.


Julie said...

so my question is this-- why have them tested? So they get tested and maybe you were right and they are gifted? Then what? What good does this do you?? If you're homeschooling aren't you just going along at their speed anyway?

Chrystal Smith said...

You're right that some won't need to be tested, but some will. Gifted summer camps, scholarship programs, etc. need scores, and comprehensive testing will also help the teacher (usually a parent) better teach a child. Knowing strengths and weaknesses, finding masked disabilities, and figuring out the best learning style approach can turn frustration or boredom into a more appropriate challenge for the child.

Chrystal Smith said...

This is an excellent article from a woman who used to work for the Gifted Development Center. She's no longer there, but she still does private assessments. http://giftedhomeschoolers.org/articles/testinghomeschoolers.html

Jenny said...

Hi Anna,

Would you be interested in participating in a Blog-Tour about gifted education being organized here: