This time of year, public schools are conducting testing to identify children to participate in the gifted program. The school may contact you for permission to test your child; however, parents have the right to request testing, whether the school noticed characteristics of giftedness or not. Introverted personalities, cultural differences, and poverty may “mask”, or hide, a child’s intelligence and creativity from teachers who are not adequately trained in identifying gifted characteristics.
There is not one definition of Giftedness. After 35 years in education, I prefer the concept of elementary children showing “high potential”, and secondary students demonstrating “achievement” in an area or subject. In adults, giftedness is considered as a level of eminence, like Picasso was a gifted artist or Einstein was a gifted physicist.
I understand that all children have potential and I believe all children can learn at their own rate. I also believe that some children’s brain have thicker myelin sheaths covering the nerve cell axons, or pathways, and that they can draw conclusions faster and make connections between ideas. The pathways in their brains seem somehow better wired. Of course, brain surgery or CT scans can not identify Giftedness. Instead, schools try their best to use a battery of ability, achievement, and subjective tools like observation inventories to find children who need additional enrichment.
Giftedness isn’t racially or culturally exclusive. Giftedness benefits from nurture, but nurture doesn’t create giftedness. An eminent parent thinks their kids have to be gifted, but they may be frustratingly average. On the other end of the scale, a child from a family with few material resources may have a brilliant mind that craves originality and problems to solve.
Some parents see gifted education as elitist. If it is in your district, the program is flawed. The demographics of a gifted program should be similar to the demographics of the school. Upper class white kids should not be the only ones identified as gifted.
Do you think your child is gifted, you should ask to have them tested. But first, gather your evidence.
What is your child passionate about? Does he collect anything or constantly talk about a particular topic?
Does your child prefer older friends or adults to others his/her own age?
Is your child highly empathetic or worry about world events like hunger or natural disasters? Does he/she think up ways to address the problem?
Does your child have an advanced knowledge- like reading Harry Potter in first grade or divide and multiply without being formally taught? Some children begin reading independently in kindergarten and use an advanced vocabulary.
Does your child have an advanced sense of humor (perhaps inappropriate) for his/her age?
Does your child have a near photographic memory? Does he tell you who gave him a specific birthday gift a year later? Does she remember a conversation from more than a year ago in minute detail? Or does he/she suddenly tell you facts about something they read or saw in TV that you did not ever know they knew? A real encyclopedia of trivia? They might be gifted.
How smart is gifted? Ability tests aren’t perfect and may be biased, but statistically, a score of 130 is two standard deviations above the average ability score of 100. Scores around 130 are in the gifted range. Most tests have a top score of 150, but intelligence may be much higher. The exact number doesn’t matter. It is a range.
But ability is not the only component schools are looking for. The tests are adjusted for age. Kids change fast and their brains do too. A child that is five years and three months old is scored differently from one that is five years and six months old.
Schools also test for a superior achievement compared to their grade level peers. Reading and math are standard, but some districts test in other subjects too. They are looking for scores above the 90th percentile for their grade level.
Children who have limited resources and have not been exposed to lots of enrichment may score lower on these tests, so observational inventories by a teacher or parent may provide another perspective. A strong sense of fairness, a great verbal storyteller, a persistence in learning about things they care about are all things gifted kids may display that cannot he measures in another way.
Contact your school counselor and find out about your district’s testing and program options.
You can contact me if you need more information on gifted children and how to parent them.