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Assessing for Giftedness

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 8 1/2 and since starting school has been identified as being exceptional in maths and now literacy. He mastered all of the times-tables and division facts well before his 6th birthday for example. His current teacher though is now classifying him as 'among the other bright/gifted mathematicians' in the class. Whilst in lots of ways it would be easier if he was 'just very bright' I suspect (and have had our old Head and Deputy and previous teachers confirm this,) that there is more to it than that. I note on your other response to a similar question that you suggest getting children assessed. How do I go about doing this? Getting straight forward advice seems incredibly difficult as there seems to be a culture of 'every child is gifted in their own special way' - which is of course true in one way and not very helpful in another. My daughter is 6 and comfortably above average and I am extremely aware that there is just no comparison in their respective abilities. No offence to her but it's just very different with him. Any advice gratefully received.

A: It is indeed hard to determine terminology especially when it comes to giftedness; it is true that all children have gifted but not all are gifted. All of us have multiple intelligences but each intelligence is developed in a varying degree. A child who is strong in logical-mathematical ability would usually do well in specifically that domain. Intelligence is a part of giftedness – in fact, it is viewed as a single best predictor of giftedness. And the best way to determine intelligence is by using a standardized intelligence test that is well administrated and interpreted by someone with sound knowledge in that area.

When an IQ test is administrated, necessary information is gained about the individual but this may not be sufficient. Doing various different intelligence tests would only provide varying scores because each test only yields scores that is tested within the test items. Each test provides information that is not interchangeable in terms of the scores; that is, the scores cannot be converted from one test to another. This is why it is best to use standardized tests to generate more accurate scores (e.g., the Wechslers, Stanford-Binet). These are typically comprehensive and through tests designed to assess various different abilities using various different types of tasks. They are regularly revised and updated, and must be administered by a trained professional in specific conditions.

Another reason for testing is the objectivity of the scores. For schools, evidence is required when placing children in special programs that benefit them and an IQ assessment could be helpful alongside with subjective evaluation from a gifted education specialist and previous teachers/principals (if any). This increases the objectivity. As parents, you are probably the best judge especially when a clear difference is noted between the siblings. However, without evidence the school may not do much. Therefore, you would need to advocate for your child by speaking to the school and finding out what is required to get your child special provision that would cater for his needs. That would also require gathering evidence of high ability including IQ testing if possible.

All the best!


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