IQ Testing or Assessment of Gifted Children
The Queensland Association for Gifted and Talented Children Inc. aims to achieve greater understanding of the intellectual, social and emotional needs of gifted and talented children. Membership is open to anyone who feels it may be of benefit to them. There is no requirement that a child undergo any assessment procedure for them to be involved in the activities of the Association.
It has been our experience that parents often benefit from a discussion about their child, their characteristics and behaviour, school and social experience. We recommend parents browse the website and also attend a Branch meeting of the Association to be in contact with others and have the opportunity to have discussion with others. During this discussion it may be of benefit to raise the question of psychometric assessment or IQ tests, as well as alternative methods of assessment.
What is assessment?
Standardised tests of intellectual ability allow comparisons to be made with children of a similar age. They consist of a series of questions and tasks which measure understanding and problem solving skills. Children usually enjoy the experience, as the tasks are similar to puzzles.
The tests also allow for comparisons of different abilities within the individual child, by looking at the child's profile across the various tests.
Intelligence tests do not measure creativity or personality characteristics, but there are other tests available to address these aspects if relevant to the child.
Who can conduct the assessment?
Only qualified psychologists and some school counsellors and guidance officers may administer the standardised tests.
QAGTC recommends that families seek the services of a qualified professional with experience of dealing with gifted children and their families, who also has an understanding of the school system. QAGTC will provide suggestions regarding psychologists or other professionals known to have this experience.
What are the benefits?
Families may receive reassurance about the abilities of their child that they have already observed. An objective test and report is often useful to share with educators, so that the parents' opinion is not seen as biased or unrealistic. Knowing the level of giftedness can be important, as the needs of the moderately gifted can be very different from those of the highly gifted.
A psychologist should also be able to provide a supportive understanding of the social, emotional and educational issues that will arise in a child's life.
The pattern of an individual child's strengths and weaknesses may identify learning disabilities or provide evidence of other disorders that may otherwise be masked by aspects of the child's high ability.
What does the assessment mean?
Psychologists vary in their reporting. There is reluctance to reduce the overall analysis to a single score, and a fear that such a score will be misused. Parents should ask for some form of written report to keep with their child's records.
The most common intelligence test (or IQ test) is the WISC-III (Weschler Intelligence Scales for Children). The IQ is based on a score of 100 being the midpoint of an average range that extends from about 85 to 115. The top score on a WISC is 160. The WISC results are usually presented as a Verbal IQ, Performance IQ, and an overall IQ, but testers may use terms such as being in the "superior range" or in the "top 2%". Families should ask for a clear interpretation of the results and not be confused by the technical and statistical language. A "superior range of intelligence" can cover a wide range of ability. Scores in the upper range (140+) are not finely discriminated by the WISC-III and may require further forms of assessment to determine whether a child is profoundly gifted. As these children frequently need specialised provision this could be important.
How much does it cost?
A full assessment may cover one or two sessions of several hours plus consultations, so that the cost is usually several hundred dollars. Some medical benefit schemes provide refunds on the fees of registered psychologists. Should cost be a problem, do not hesitate to discuss this with the psychologist.
What difference will it make?
This will vary from child to child and from family to family. On its own the assessment cannot make a difference. It needs to be accompanied by information specific to that child's personality, and their intellectual, social and emotional needs and interests.
In many cases, the assessment affirms what is already known, but it gives parents more confidence to approach educational authorities for discussions about provisions for their child. It may also lead to a greater understanding of certain behaviours and the psychologist may assist with appropriate management strategies. In many cases it may help the child to accept their own abilities and foster self-esteem.
On the other hand, if school authorities are not prepared to accept the assessment or are not able to vary their provision appropriately, or if there is a lack of understanding of the child in their social sphere, there may be little change.
At what age can a child be assessed?
It is generally recommended that a child is four years old before formal assessment, but it is possible earlier. Parents are often aware of advanced ability in very young children, and may still benefit from professional advice, even if the assessment is delayed until later.
Is it necessary to have such an assessment?
Based on the information above, and the parents' own knowledge of their child, it may not be at all necessary to have an assessment. In many cases, the ability of the child is recognised and catered for in schools and there are no social or emotional problems that warrant intervention or assistance.
How can a family benefit from QAGTC membership?
The Association provides information and literature that enable parents to continue learning about giftedness. There are opportunities to meet other parents, to attend information nights, seminars and conferences, and to share information about community resources and educational opportunities. The Branch meetings and events allow opportunities for parents to discuss any problems or issues as they arise. Children who attend activities and workshops have the chance to meet children with similar interests and levels of ability, as well as to build up social contacts.
Compiled May 2001 by Marion Mackenzie for QAGTC inc.