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Testing for Giftedness: Is it necessary?

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I am writing because my oldest son is 3.5 years old I am believe he may be gifted. He has been able to speak in sentences and carry on a conversation since about 1.5 years of age. He has a comprehension that is unbelievable. He remembers things such as minute details of an event that may have happened a year ago with astonishing detail.

He has always been aware of other people's feelings, is compassionate beyond his years and understands many of the complexities of an adult relationship (e.g. He is going to marry his girlfriend at school and he will have to pay the guy for the food and they will have a big party and drink wine. Then they will have children but he must first give her a ring etc.)

He has the speech patterns of an adult and prefers to be with older children but is very caring when with younger ones. He easily picks up other languages, and knows how to spell his name, his sister's name and a few other things. He knows his address. He knows what street signs say. He even understands what the colors on a stoplight mean. He can count as well. He also role plays. He pretends to be his Dad and does it in such a way you'd think you were watching an actor. His imagination is remarkable. He loves music. He has been able to keep a beat as long as we can remember. He knows things that I don't even know! Everyone always says that he reminds them of a little old man. It is difficult to explain but he is wise beyond his years.

Now the reason I am pondering getting him tested is that me and my mother were both evaluated as children and both of us were gifted. We both had a hard time in school even though there was more opportunity for me, it still wasn't enough and at one point they wanted to put me in a class for slow learners with disciplinary problems. I was basically bored. My mother was even left back because she used to "read" whole essays to the class from a blank piece of paper.

I don't want my son to feel like we did. If he is gifted then I want to be aware of it so he can be challenged and the proper steps are taken early in his educational career. Do you think that he is possibly gifted or just an average 3.5 year old? Also, where would I have him tested and what should I expect from the tester? Thanks.

A: Your son does appear very bright from your description and it does not matter whether he is tested as gifted or not; every parent should be aware of their child's learning needs and take appropriate steps to cater to their needs. As mentioned before, it is generally recommended that IQ testing for gifted children be done between age 5 and 12. The important question you need to ask yourself is the reason for testing and the difference it would make. Most parents test their children as they feel that the results can make a difference. The difference may vary: e.g., admission to a specific school, admission to a school's gifted pull-out program or gifted class; perhaps its just a matter of proving to the teachers and administration that the child is different, and needs something different in their education or even perhaps test results are required for participation in some extra-curricular experience for gifted kids.

Having said that, if the results of the test are only to satisfy parental curiosity, there may be no reason to test the child. The reason we have our gifted children tested is so that we will fully understand their capabilities and so that the school will hopefully provide an appropriate educational plan for them. For gifted children, the best age to test is when knowing the test results can make a difference and only the parents may be able to understand this. If you have gone through some of the checklists on gifted characteristics, and you believe your son demonstrates the distinct characteristics, and that it would help you plan his educational needs, then have him tested.

What your mother and you have gone through educationally may not be the same today. There is a lot more awareness and provision for gifted children today; hence you should not have to worry about your son having a hard time. Especially since you have gone through it, you would be able to understand his needs better than anyone else and to provide him with what you were not given then.

It is best to see a qualified and experienced educational psychologist, preferably with experience testing gifted children. S/he will be the best person to advise you on what your son's needs may be and what kind of educational challenges would be appropriate for him at this point. Good luck!


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