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Barriers in Gifted Education: Working Together to Support Gifted Learners and Families

Gifted Resources

The mission of the Davidson Institute is to recognize, nurture and support profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference. 

Supporting profoundly gifted (PG) young people is a multifaceted endeavor. It often requires substantial advocacy to help others—parents, teachers, mentors, etc.—to understand the strengths, challenges, and needs of PG learners. 

However, even once a student’s needs and learning profile are understood, there are often still significant barriers to accessing opportunities to support the student’s intellectual, academic, talent, and social-emotional development. Consistently, these barriers to access are especially notable in the areas of initial identification and expenses tied to program costs.  

While the scope of the Davidson Institute’s work cannot address and break down every barrier to access, we are proud to work with others in the gifted and twice-exceptional communities to help establish more paths of access to both testing and programming.  

Gifted Identification as a Path to Accessing Services 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a dramatic loss of access to identification services. Talent searches that used to be an option for accessible testing—in terms of cost and location—have closed or significantly changed their offerings. Private testers and clinicians typically have lengthy waitlists and high testing costs, which can make it difficult for families to access testing. 

Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development (CTD) has been working hard to fill the gaps left in the talent search community. Through their remote testing options, more students can access testing, and with those testing results, they can then access gifted services. 

In Fall of 2022, Davidson launched multiple eligibility opportunities in partnership with CTD by offering the Official Practice SAT to students in grades 6-10. Score results from this test allowed students to apply to the Davidson Institute’s Young Scholars Program, THINK Summer Institute, and Explore, as well as Davidson Academy – Reno, and Davison Academy Online. In Fall of 2022, this partnership resulted in the testing of 83 students.  

Since its initial launch, the Davidson Instititute’s eligibility assessment opportunities have given test access to over 500 students. 

In Spring 2023, the Davidson Institute was glad to be able to offer an in-person PSAT 8/9 in Reno, Nevada at the Davidson Academy. Families traveled from New York, Texas, and California for this test, as testing opportunities are so limited and cost-prohibitive across the country. And in fall 2023, we were able to add a Davidson-specific, above-grade level Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) for students in grades 3-5. 

The Official Practice SAT is Davidson-specific due to the live-proctoring, rigorously monitored online environment CTD has created specifically for this partnership. The ITBS is Davidson-specific because it is proctored three grade levels above the student’s chronological grade. That is, 3rd graders take the 6th grade test, 4th graders take the 7th grade test, and 5th graders take the 8th grade test. This allows us to use what would ordinarily be a general standardized test to identify PG students who are working 2+ grades above level. The ITBS administration also has the live-proctoring, rigorously monitored online testing environment. 

Since the cost of remote testing through CTD (ranging from $55-150) is lower than typical IQ testing, families have been able to afford to test multiple children with less expense and thus expand their support network.  

IQ testing, on average, can cost anywhere from $800 to $2,000+, depending on the extent of the neuropsychological testing and the location of the tester. 

Because we often receive feedback that families with younger students cannot access testing, we’ve partnered with the Summit Center and a growing handful of other clinicians to locate low-cost testing opportunities for qualified students in grades K-2. The efforts of increasing testing opportunities for younger students are considerably more intensive, but so far, these collective efforts have resulted in the testing and identification of students who otherwise would not have had access to testing. Our Gifted Tester and Therapist List on our public website also helps families to find professionals in their area who may be able to administer the testing they need. 

When a child tests through the Davidson Institute’s eligibility assessment opportunities, the family receives important information about their child’s profile via the score reports and is then better positioned to support their child. They are better able to understand their child’s level of giftedness and support their growth. 

Navigating Program Cost and Access 

Families often come to the Davidson Institute looking for information about schools, programs, and organizations that can help them to support their PG child.  

While there are many programs that cater to gifted and high achieving learners, the costs of those programs are often prohibitive. Given the voracious learning style of many Young Scholars, families have a hard time affording all the programs and opportunities needed to appropriately support their child.  

Aside from interest and talent development, many PG students have other diagnoses that require the support of professionals, such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, mental health therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatric ophthalmologists, speech and language pathologists, executive functioning coaches, etc. These therapeutic interventions are costly.  

Many PG learners also need customizable school environments, which can easily become cost prohibitive. 

To ease some of the financial strain on families and to help them connect with services they need, we have partnered with a few organizations to help Davidson families more easily access the programming and resources they need. 

In addition to CTD, the Summit Center, and the aforementioned clinicians, we have established active, ongoing partnerships with the following organizations: 

  • Fusion Global Academy – A school with customizable curriculum options along with online and in-person options; they have provided Davidson families with discounted tuition options. 
  • Lumate – An organization that provides therapy for anxiety disorders, OCD, and tick disorders; they serve patients in California, Connecticut, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. They have provided us with a branded self-referral page, where families can submit consult requests, knowing that this is a safe and reliable provider who has familiarity with serving gifted students and their families.  
  • Epsilon Camp – A math summer camp that many Young Scholars attend; they have agreed to take Young Scholar membership and the testing Davidson accepts in lieu of their normal testing requirements, for any Young Scholar that wishes to apply. 

We continue to form and foster relations with other gifted and 2e organizations to support the families in our Young Scholars program. 

Ongoing Outreach Efforts  

In order to serve more families, we must meet them where they live. To do this, we’ve been cultivating ongoing, working relationships with a variety of organizations to help families recognize their child’s giftedness and then access our programs for support. 

In April 2023, we published the article “5 Signs Your Kid is ‘Highly Gifted’” with CNBC to raise awareness about the gifted profile. 

In March 2024, we had an article published in the New Jersey Association for Gifted Children (NJAGC) member newsletter Promise, sharing strategies for supporting a gifted child’s emotional regulation and motivation. 

In Spring 2024, we’ve been busy talking with parents and staff at different K-12 schools about how they can better understand and support the profiles and needs of their gifted and 2e learners. 

We’ve talked with Pioneer Academics extensively about how we can partner to support gifted students. This will include speaking at their program fair in the Fall. 

Through different conferences we’ve attended and presented at, we’ve been able to build additional relationships with organizations, helping us to broaden our reach and increase accessibility to gifted learners.  

Our newest public newsletter, Guiding Gifted, is up to over 400 subscribers after only two issues. It is being read across 44 states and 26 countries. The e-News Update newsletter has 19K subscribers.  

Since 2022, we’ve also curated and maintained themed playlists on Spotify and YouTube so parents can more easily keep up with the gifted and 2e content and research that matters most to them. Similarly, we have curated book lists featured in our storefront. Through these resources, parents, educators, and others supporting gifted and 2e learners are able to more easily keep up with the topics and resources that are most useful or interesting to them. Having regular and easy access to conversations about gifted and 2e learners and services is an important aspect of helping families connect with the programs and services that are right for them and their child. 

By continuing to put ourselves in conversation with others in the gifted community, we’re able to explore options for partnership and accessibility for our families—allowing us to stay true to our mission of recognizing, nurturing and supporting profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents to make a positive difference. 

If you or your organization are interested in partnering with the Davidson Institute to help the families of PG and 2e learners to access testing or programming, please reach out to our Director of Outreach, Megan Cannella,  


Connie MacMullin

Hi ,

I would like to speak with someone regarding accommodations at the post secondary level for gifted students with ADHD and slow processing speed.

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Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

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