Gifted Testing: Why, How, and Where. A Guide to Gifted Child Testing and Therapists
Our Davidson Gifted Tester and Therapist map is an interactive tool that can help families find professionals for their gifted children. It is a wide collection of individuals who can either provide twice-exceptional screenings, counseling, or gifted identification across the country. The following article is a guide and companion piece to help families select the right professional for their gifted child’s needs.
Reasons to Seek Gifted Testing
If you are just starting your gifted or twice-exceptional (2e) journey, your first step might be to have your child tested. Many families find themselves exploring testing for a number of reasons:
- Better understand how their child learns and experiences the world
- Qualify for various educational or enrichment opportunities
- Learn more about other behaviors or experiences their child is having.
Regardless of the reason, we will explore how to help you start your testing journey in this article.
Types of Gifted Child Testing
The two main categories for gifted identification are achievement tests and abilities tests.
- Achievement Tests
- Abilities Tests
Achievement tests look for a child’s knowledge in a subject area. They may be group-administered, like the SAT and ACT, or they might be administered individually by a trained professional, like the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement. Group-administered achievement tests are often standardized and the results provide a numerical score. Individually administered achievement tests done by a professional are often part of a larger gifted assessment whose results cover the child’s learning profile in more depth. Achievement tests can be used as gifted testing to screen students for particular areas of academic strength.
Abilities tests evaluate a child’s cognitive abilities or intelligence quotient (IQ). These are delivered individually by a trained professional, often someone with an advanced degree in education, psychology, or social work. The results are numerical and descriptive since it often includes the professional’s observations of the child, interpretation of the results, and recommendations. Abilities tests can be used for gifted assessment, which provides a more in-depth learning profile of the child. Commonly used abilities tests include:
Ability tests can be broken down even further into three main categories:
- Individual Tests
- Non-Verbal Tests
- Group Tests
To learn more about the different types of gifted tests, read our article “Gifted Testing and Assessment”
How to Evaluate a Gifted Tester
As you learn more about the different aspects and types of testing and assessment, you’ll see that it’s important to find a professional who meets your needs. Below are a few resources to help you evaluate potential testers, so you can better determine which professionals may be a good fit for your child and your goals.
- There can be a lot of moving pieces to pursuing and then understanding testing and assessment reports. As you move through this process, you may find our Guides to Gifted Identification, Testing, and Therapy to be helpful.
- Twice-Exceptionality: A Resource Guide for Parents by the Davidson Institute. This is a guidebook compiled by the Davidson Institute to help support parents as they raise their twice-exceptional children. This guidebook discusses identification and assessment, school supports, and many other topics you may encounter on your twice-exceptional parenting journey.
- Twice-Exceptional Children’s Advocacy (TECA) is an organization that aims to support parents as they support their twice-exceptional children. TECA’s website has a provider directory that can be helpful when looking for a tester or therapist familiar with twice-exceptionality. TECA also has resources on school advocacy, online parent support groups, and many other resources.
- Hoagies’ Gifted’s “Psychologists Familiar with Testing the Gifted and Exceptionally Gifted” provides a list of professionals who have experience working with gifted children.
- SENG Mental Health Provider Directory is a list of mental health professionals who have experience working with gifted, talented, and twice-exceptional individuals.
- SENG Library also has useful resources about how to navigate testing and diagnosis.
- “Where Does a Pediatric Doctor Fit in the Care of a Gifted Child?” by Marianne Kazujanakis, MD, MPH
- “Diagnosis Question” by Betty Maxwell
- “Health Care Providers Know Little About Gifted Children” by Jean Goerss, MD, Rick Clouse, MD, and James Webb, PhD
Reason to Seek Gifted Therapy
Gifted children present a unique challenge to parents because of their asynchronous development and their intensity around different topics. A professional like a counselor, therapist, or other mental health worker may be able to provide assistance for families seeking guidance in the following areas:
- General support through the various challenges of adolescences, especially for gifted children who may hit developmental milestones earlier than their age-peers
- Help through a rough patch or specific traumatic incident
- Working through ongoing psychological issues or patterns of behavior that negatively affects quality of life
Of course, parents may choose to seek counseling for their gifted child for reasons other than those listed above.
Types of Gifted Therapy
Finding the right therapist for a gifted child can take time, patience, and persistence. Keep in mind that not every therapist or type of therapy is a good fit for everyone. Even the “best” therapist in your area may not have the skills or approach that best fit your child, their diagnoses, or their support needs. Remember, the right type of therapy is the type that supports your child and their unique profile.
For example, while some families have found value in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), these two common types of therapies may not be a good fit for all neurodivergent children. Both of these programs are very structured. To a child who may have intense curiosity or sensitivity, highly structured programs may not offer the flexibility or customizability necessary for the child to make therapeutic progress.
Profoundly gifted and twice-exceptional children like to know the “why” behind things—especially if they’re being asked to participate. So, as you consider what type of therapy or therapist may be a good fit, consider who your child is and how they experience the world. This is why it can be helpful to interview or vet potential therapists. While they may be regarded as the “best,” are they best for your child?
How to Evaluate a Gifted Therapeutic Approach
Many families interview or try out a few therapists before they make the decision on who their child will work with over a longer period of time. Thus, as you begin the process, it may be helpful to have a few questions prepared to ask the professional you are considering that delve into the complexities of supporting a profoundly gifted/twice-exception individual. For example, rather than ask if the therapist understands gifted children, one question that may give you more insight could be: “What do you believe are some of the more significant problems gifted children encounter?” or “How do you approach supporting gifted children differently from neurotypical children?” Professionals may have different understandings of giftedness. Understanding how a prospective therapist understands giftedness and neurodivergence can be a helpful step in understanding if this therapist is a good fit for your child.
As you interview prospective therapists, keep your child’s personality, strengths, and challenges in mind. Don’t be afraid to ask how a therapist may react or respond to certain behaviors or comments that are specific to your child. By using specific examples of what types of communication, environments, etc. your child responds well to and what they struggle with, you can help you and the therapist better assess if this is a good fit. If you’re unsure about what exactly your child responds well to, that’s ok too. Let the therapist know what you’re seeing and see how you feel about how the therapist responds to what you’ve shared. You know your child best. Trust your parent gut.
Finally, it is also important to remember to take care of yourself. While not always the case, studies show that neurodivergence can be hereditary. Caring for your neurodivergent child may raise triggers, frustrations, or uncertainties for you. It is not uncommon for parents to explore their own mental health neurodivergence as they learn more about their child’s. Taking care of yourself is an essential step to taking care of your child.
The following resources may also be useful as you explore different therapy options:
- “Tips for Selecting the Right Counselor or Therapist For Your Gifted Child” by James T. Webb
- “Finding a Gifted Therapist: Guidance & Counseling for Gifted Children” from the Davidson Institute
- “Preparing Your Child” from the Child Care Institute discusses some general tips for helping your child feel more comfortable when going for a neuropsychological or educational evaluation. These tips may also be useful when your child is preparing to see a therapist for the first time.
How to find a Gifted Tester or Therapist
Our Davidson Gifted Tester and Therapist map is an interactive tool that can help families find professionals for their gifted children. It is a wide collection of individuals who can either provide twice-exceptional screenings, counseling, or gifted identification across the country.