We’ve had a lot of experience with testing over the years. We have gone through the gauntlet of testing many times. Each time, we were sure this was the ‘definitive’ test. After all that experience, and the benefit of hindsight, I know think there is no such thing as a definitive test. There is only the best you can get at the time.
Specialists and doctors are neither omnipotent, nor mistake free. But there are a number of things you can do to make testing for giftedness and disabilities a more useful experience.
So here are my best tips.
Find the Right Specialist
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to test. Are you testing for just giftedness? Do you suspect a disability? Is your child likely to be highly, exceptionally or profoundly gifted? Are you testing in a second language?
The answer to those questions will guide you towards what may be the best testing options.
Gifted Kids Get Bored Fast
The first thing that is worth knowing is that gifted kids can get bored easily. If you decide you need to test for giftedness, you need to pick a psychologist who has experience testing gifted kids. Bored kids often either accidentally or deliberately get questions wrong.
When he was first tested, my son said he couldn’t solve the puzzles because I told him he’d get chocolate cake afterwards. Getting it wrong = get chocolate cake now. Not my most brilliant negotiating strategy, to be honest.
You Need Experts in Gifted + Disability (2e)
This is a tricky one. Because the presentation of disabilities can look different for gifted kids. And the giftedness might not be obvious if the disabilities aren’t accommodated properly.
This is why, if you suspect your child has a disability, you really need to find a specialist (or group of specialists) who have experience with both. This is one of the best ways to ensure that nothing is missed.
In Australia, it’s probably best to find a Clinical or Educational & Developmental Psychologist. A good place to start looking for psychologists is AHPRA, which is searchable database of specialists.
And even if you do all that, there is still the possibility that a diagnosis will be missed. 2e kids have very wide scores, and the key flags may be different for the standard clinical definitions, particularly for ADHD and Autism.
Highly, Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted (HG+)
Kids who are likely to be HG+ have another problem: hitting the ceiling of the test. For most children, there is a recommended age range for accurate testing. Unfortunately, if you wait for that age, these kids can hit the ceiling of the IQ tests. Because modern tests have relatively low ceilings, this means that the child’s actual abilities may be quite underestimated.
If gifted kids get bored with slow tests, HG+ kids get really bored. If the kid and the tester do not have a good rapport, the whole thing can be a massive waste of time and money. This can be particularly acute if the tester talks down to them. They can see condescension a mile away. Ask me how I know!
Disabilities are also often ‘flagged’ using a spread of scores on IQ tests. If HG+ kids hit the test ceiling, the discrepancy between their best and worst scores will be not as wide as it should be, and disabilities can be missed.
Testing in a Second Language
If you speak a different language at home to what your child will be tested with, you are also likely to run into problems. One of the most obvious is that the written or verbal components of the test will vastly underestimate your child’s abilities. Disabilities could be missed because the ‘gap’ between abilities is less than normal, and the level of giftedness could be depressed.
If this is a problem for you, look for a bi-lingual specialist. (In Australia, this too is listed on AHPRA) This resource from GHF is also an excellent introduction to some of the problems you may encounter.
An IQ Test is Not A Magic Bullet
When I started, I felt that testing was a magic bullet that would ‘fix’ all our problems. Alas, no. But nor was it a waste of time. Getting a handle on the way my kids think, and what they need to support their own quirky brain was a massive plus.
Ours has been a long journey of discovery, with many hiccups along the way. The multiple times we put our kids through testing was often long, arduous and frustrating, but in the end, worth it.
For us, testing was not an answer, but a signpost on the way. It pointed us in the right direction for needed answers, but it didn’t solve all our problems.
After all we have been through, I now think finding the correct test is often most of the battle. And hopefully, some of the suggestions above will help others skip steps we had to stumble through.
This post is part of the GHF Blog Hop, “Tips, Advice, and Help When Having Your Gifted Child Tested“.