|This depends in part on the age of the child and your reasons for requesting the evaluation. Your goal is to have your child fully invested in the assessment process, so that he or she feels comfortable in the test setting, attempts all the tasks requested by the examiner, and does his or her very best.
For a very young child of two or three, it is usually enough to explain that the examiner has some special toys and games to play with them, and some questions to ask. Occasionally, a parent may be able to remain with a very young child during testing, if the parent agrees not to say anything during the test administration or coach the child in any way.
For a child just ready to enter kindergarten, you can tell the child that the testing will help you, the school, and the teacher to be ready to help him at school.
With children in the early elementary grades, you may need to be more specific, especially if the assessment was precipitated by a very difficult school experience. The simplest explanation is to tell the child that the assessment will help you and the school to understand how he or she learns bests, and how he or she thinks and solves problems. If achievement testing is part of the assessment, you can also explain that the tests will help determine what level the child is working at in reading and math, and if he or she needs different work. Since most gifted children do test into the upper levels of many tests before a ceiling is reached, it's also important to point out that some of the questions the examiner asks will be really easy and some will be very difficult because they are designed for older students. Emphasize that you want them to try all the questions to see how many of them they can do.
Children in the upper elementary grades and middle school sometimes need a more extensive explanation. Depending on their maturity and the reason for the assessment, parents can determine how much, and what, they should be told about the assessment. Consultation with the examiner who will test your child is recommended if you have any questions.
If your child has heard you refer to the assessment as "testing," you may need to explain further. Children in the intermediate grades often hear the word "test" and think that they can "pass" or "fail" the assessment. It is important to point out that these tests are not like tests you take in school that you pass or fail and which determine the grades on your report card. Instead, they are tests to help the school and family discover how the child learns best, and what changes might need to be made to make sure that appropriate schoolwork is available to them.
Do not, under any circumstances, "coach" your child prior to the assessment by presenting him or her with any of the actual test items. Examiners can spot a "coached" child almost immediately, even a very young one. If an examiner determines that a child has been coached, and the test results were to be used for an admissions application to a school or gifted program, a note will be made in the report and your child usually will not be considered for the program. Coaching is not only unethical, but means that the assessment of your child will be inaccurate, thereby defeating the purpose of the assessment in the first place.
Yes. These are summarized below.
- Ceiling effects
Gifted children, especially highly and profoundly gifted children, are particularly prone to "hitting the ceiling" on certain commonly used group and individual IQ and achievement measures. Some tests, even individually administered tests, simply do not have enough difficult items to tap the child's true abilities. In some cases, a stopping point is never reached on the test, because the child continues to answer items correctly even among the most difficult tasks. In other cases, the child's overall score on the test is well above the last score available in the scoring manual for students of his or her age, or the child has several subtests in the ceiling range (on the WISC-III, three or more subtest scores in the 17, 18, or 19 range often indicate ceiling problems). In these cases, re-testing with an out-of-level test or with a test that has a higher ceiling may be in order.
- The "Energizer Bunny" syndrome
Gifted children are, by definition, cognitively and/or academically advanced. To measure this advancement, the examiner must administer both the chronological age levels and the upper levels of the tests. On many tests, the examiner cannot stop testing until the child has missed a specified number of items. Just like the Energizer Bunny in the TV commercial, extremely gifted children often are "still going" on the test -- long after most children their age would be finished. This may dramatically increase the usual testing time for a particular age child and test instrument, especially if the examiner began testing at the child's chronological age level (the usual procedure).
- Gifted girls
Around the ages of eight or nine, sometimes earlier, it is common for gifted girls to repeatedly reply "I don't know" to an examiner's question, if they are not absolutely certain of the answer. (Boys are more likely to risk an educated guess). If an examiner inexperienced in testing gifted children accepts this answer at face value, testing may end quickly and the examiner and the family may have no idea of the young girl's true ability. Examiners who have experience in testing gifted girls are aware of this phenomenon, and employ a variety of strategies to ameliorate this situation.
- The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Form L-M
The Stanford-Binet Fourth Edition replaced the Stanford-Binet L-M in 1986. Although the publisher considers the Fourth Edition a revision, in many ways the two tests are very different. Neither the Stanford-Binet Fourth Edition nor the more commonly used Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children -- Third Revision (WISC-III) can tap the full measure of an extremely gifted child's abilities. For this reason, a number of researchers and clinicians recommend that whenever a child scores in the ceiling range on two or three subtests of the WISC-III or the Stanford-Binet Fourth Edition, the child should be re-tested with the older version of the Stanford-Binet, Form L-M. In addition, Riverside Publishing, publisher of both versions of the Stanford-Binet, has stated "Form L-M is one of the few reasonable options given the dearth of intelligence tests with sufficient ceiling to assess extremely gifted children." (read letter here)
- Twice-Exceptional Children
Giftedness and disabilities are not mutually exclusive. Many gifted children and adults also have disabilities. Giftedness often masks mild or moderate disabilities, especially learning disabilities and processing difficulties. Disabilities can also mask giftedness. If you suspect you have a gifted child who also may have a disability, try to locate an examiner with experience testing twice-exceptional gifted children. Occasionally a disability is discovered in a routine evaluation for giftedness, or giftedness is discovered when a child is evaluated for special education. If either is the case, further testing may be warranted.