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Back by Popular Demand: Why and how you might have your child assessed for giftedness or exceptional talent

Given this is the time of year that parents are considering having their children assessed for giftedness, we wanted to release one of our most popular blogs that has gone viral.  

As a behavioral scientist and counselor who regularly works with gifted and talented youth, one of the most common questions parents ask me is: “Is my child gifted?”. And if the parent has their child in public school, their follow-up question is “Should my child assessed to see if they qualify for the school’s “gifted” program?”

I will address each of these questions, as well as hopefully broadening the reader’s understanding of the various ways your child may be gifted or exceptionally talented. And don’t forget to read my other blog which clarifies the most important kind of giftedness your child should have: https://www.doctorbrunner.com/why-your-childs-iq-is-less-important-than-you-think-what-really-predicts-whose-kids-will-excel-in-life/

First, a little teaser that is also a little known fact: Sometimes a child might not qualify as falling in the gifted range based on their scores on one measure, but then qualify using another measure. That’s the tease, and now some background before we come back to that point.

But before I get into details, a little warning about timing: this is the time of year when many public schools around the United States (and worldwide) are assessing children to determine if they qualify for gifted services. This is also a time when many parents choose to have their child assesses by an independent child trained professional who is highly trained in gifted assessment. Why now? Often, schools require that for a child to enter a gifted program, they must be assessed by the end of the preceding academic year. So, for you parents wondering “Could my child qualify for gifted services?”, you may have about one month to have your child assessed by a qualified professional.

Let’s start with the process: students are assessed by schools either after being nominated by a teacher or via a parent’s request. School’s may have further criteria, but that is how basically how the “starting line” works.

What does it mean to be “gifted”? Let’s start with a very general definition offered by the US Department of Education (DOE): “Gifted and talented children…require differentiated educational programs and services beyond those normally provided by the regular program in order to realize their contribution to self and society”. The term gifted is used to describe children with exceptionally high IQs, those who have creative talents, and those who are high on both dimensions. While someone’s IQ may not fall in the gifted range, they may also be quite talented in a way you should help accelerate. We will discuss this more below.

More specifically, and historically speaking, children who obtain IQ scaled scores of 130 or above have been perceived as falling in the gifted range. Behavioral science assessment expert Dr. Jerome Sattler reports that examinations of IQ of shown that about 2 in every 100 individuals have IQs of 130 or above, whereas only 3 in 100,000 individuals have IQs of 160 or higher. These are estimates only, but give us some useful context.

Back to the little known fact I promised I would reveal more about: Different gifted assessment tools reveal different gifted or talented skill sets, and rarely is a gifted child “gifted all around”. Gifted children, like other children, are often unevenly developed (kind of like adults). A practical example: a common practice I follow is to administer a “broad spectrum” and advanced assessment tool to capture all of the many ways the child may be gifted.

Example: Let’s say a particular 10-year-old girl named Jane does not obtain a score of 130 or above in terms of her overall IQ score, however, I noticed that she is very talented in one specific area that the broad spectrum tool I used glossed over, such as Visual Spatial IQ (ability to analyze complex patterns). My practice would be to review the scores on the broad spectrum measure with the parent, and offer the option of using a second and narrower tool to more directly and thoroughly assess that visually-related area of talent. Not uncommonly the student will then obtain a score of 130 or above using that second measure. This is where the experience of the assessor really matters!!!

My research background includes having published an assessment tool that has been adapted into 7 languages around the world, and given this kind of experience I have learned just how nuanced and challenging the assessment process can be. I would liken it to the surgeon’s task in terms of how important precision and experience are for one being treated. Too often gifted assessors do not take the time to closely inspect the cognitive profile to identify possibly more nuanced talent or giftedness.

What you need to understand is assessing for giftedness can be very challenging, because the choice of a tool can often be critical to the results. My bias: If you are going to consult an independent expert, choose an assessor who has a broad and deep toolbox, and who has a high level of scientific training.

How many types of giftedness are there? My own experience assessing and counseling gifted and talented children matches what the scientific literature recognizes: there are a large variety of ways giftedness can manifest including in these way: general intellectual ability (IQ), specific academic aptitude (reading, writing, math), creative or productive thinking (analytical reasoning, debating), memory (photographic memory), leadership ability (social and/or character giftedness), visual and performing arts (music, art), and psychomotor ability (athletics). I would add that there are children who are “morally” gifted, meaning they have an exceptionally deep sense of the importance of character.

Every child enters the world with strengths and liabilities. Be the parent who is truly always working to understand in what areas your child excels and has natural strengths. The best parents I know accelerate their children’s strengths, and secondly, teach their children to use their native strengths to minimize the impact of their skill gaps or weaknesses. To help your child go from “good to Great”, you MUST help your child have insight into their strengths and their “growth challenge areas”. My focus is moving people from goodness to Greatness, and that is why I call my blog “Good to Great”.

Fact: Whether I am working with a 10-year-old on their anxiety, or with the CEO of a nationwide Corporation, my challenge as a behavioral scientist is surprisingly consistent: help that person accelerate their strengths and fill in their skill gaps so they have optimal insight and growth potential.

Facts and Resources:

-Great worldwide resource, National Association For Gifted Children: http://www.nagc.org/resourcedirectory.aspx

– Arizona Department of Education “Gifted Education” website: http://www.azed.gov/gifted-education/

-Often times, each state (and even each school) will have its own list of what measures it considers valid for assessing giftedness, at least from a more academic points of view. The State of Arizona’s list of measures it accepts is at the following link: http://www.azed.gov/gifted-education/files/2012/01/state-board-approved-test-list-for-the-identification-of-gifted-students-in-arizona.pdf

-If you think your child may be gifted in a non-academic area, have them assessed by an expert or teacher in that area (e.g., music).

Always remember that you can augment what your child’s school does, by hiring a tutor who can provide them with an advanced curriculum. You can also do this by simply feeding their passions by designing family activities that engage their strengths.

-You can sign your child up for summer camps that are designed to tap into their deepest skill reservoirs. For example, a favorite where we live is the summer robotics camp offered by several schools including Catalina Foothills School District. If your child is gifted in the fine arts, you might consider having them be a participant in the St. Gregory’s fine arts summer program.

Meet Doctor Brunner

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Brunner is a Tucson based psychologist and published expert who has a 20 year track record of clinical excellence, scientific research, teaching, publications, awards and podcast interviews.  He is the senior author of a psychological measure adapted into 14 languages worldwide, and has written over 250 blogs, many of them have gone viral.  He is revolutionizing the field of career guidance with his fresh and trademarked approach that is spreading like wildfire. Sign up here to be notified of soon to be published book, Find Your Real Me: Career Guidance Making You Truly Free.