If you are a parent, you may have noticed signs that your child is gifted or has gifted characteristics. Perhaps you are looking for resources on gifted testing to confirm something you see in your child or to access special programming and services in your area. In our article “Is My Child Gifted?” we cover some initial questions for parents looking into gifted identification. However, we know that every gifted child is unique and therein lays the challenge of gifted identification. In this article, we cover several areas that require special consideration when seeking gifted identification. Also, see information about the Davidson Young Scholars program, which is free to profoundly gifted students and their families and gives them the opportunity to connect and engage in a community that understands their needs.
Children who are twice-exceptional (2E) have both exceptional abilities and may also have learning differences or disabilities, which come together to create a complex learning profile. This mix of strengths and challenges can result in masking part of the child’s learning profile. Masking occurs when:
- A child’s gifts compensate for their challenges,
- A child’s challenges overshadow their talents, or
- A child’s gifts are compensating for challenges and those challenges simultaneously obscure their true talents and create the illusion of an average student.
Testing and assessing children who are 2E can be challenging because there won’t be one test that definitively identifies twice-exceptionality. An IQ test may measure some aspects of their learning profile, a vision test may complicate this picture further, and qualitative teacher and parent assessments may provide another layer of insight into the whole child. To gain a complete understanding of a 2E child’s profile, parents may need to seek out several types of specialists.
It is important to know why you are seeking assessment in the first place and to look for qualified professionals who have familiarity working with this population. The Davidson Institute Guidebook, Twice-Exceptional: A Resource Guide for Parents, has detailed information on 2E assessment and more.
Minority Background Considerations
Gifted and 2E children come from every cultural and linguistic background and from every socio-economic status. And yet, child from minority backgrounds are largely underrepresented in gifted identification and programs. While there is a larger context for this achievement and opportunity gap, certain aspects of the gifted identification process should be considered when approaching assessment for these students.
Educators are taught little about gifted identification in their training. This lack of knowledge may result in fewer teachers looking for gifted characteristics in children from minority or low-income backgrounds and fewer teachers nominating these children for gifted identification testing.
With fewer educators seeking gifted children from these backgrounds, the burden often falls on parents to advocate for their child. However, parents may not be aware of Talent Search programs near them or other avenues for gifted identification. Even when parents are conscious of options like Talent Searches, such programs may have insufficient funds to help these families afford assessment.
If the previous hurdles have been cleared, children may yet face challenges when participating in gifted assessment. Many feel that the design of gifted assessments may cause disparities for minority and low-income children. For example, a 1st generation child may be raised in one language at home but also participate in English at school. Even when the child is bright, they may not have the full cultural or linguistic background needed to decode how a test question is written or express themselves fully in writing. Similar issues have been noted for achievement tests that emphasize expensive test-prep and “learning to take the test” rather than a student’s performance and drive in a subject domain.
These challenges have a cumulative effect which contribute to issues in gifted identification for minority and low-income children. Some solutions for parents and school districts may are outlined in the article “Gifted Students” from the Annual Review of Psychology, which include:
- Make challenging curriculum accessible to young learners
- Provide universal screening for all students
- Include diverse options in gifted identification such as non-verbal tests and performance-based assessments
Missed- or Mis-diagnosis Considerations
Sometimes, after thinking deeply about the assessment, parents feel the results really don’t match their child or that the professional missed or misunderstood something. Misdiagnoses do occur. Unfortunately, many medical and psychological professionals receive little or no training on the characteristics of gifted people. The gifted and 2E cognitive, social, and emotional profile is unique and so there is the possibility that testers may miss a diagnosis, as may happen when a child’s strengths and difficulties mask one another, or assessment may produce a misdiagnosis, such as when a behavioral characteristic of the gifted student is mistaken for another diagnosis. In other words, a certain behavior may be worth looking into, but the occurrence of the behavior itself does not mean an automatic diagnosis. For example, a child that is consistently distracted in a classroom may have several underlying reasons if they are:
- Chronically under-challenged,
- Having problems with another student in class,
- Struggling with a vision or hearing issues,
- Suffering from anxiety,
- Dealing with something at home, or
- Living with an attention disorder.
When it comes to gifted and 2E children, the larger context needs to be considered.
A professional can also fail to identify giftedness because of masking. For example, a child who has gifted verbal abilities and mild dyslexia may have been listening with rapt attention to books aloud at age two, telling elaborate stories at age three, learning to play the ukulele and composing her own songs at age four, yet learning to read at age six. Six is not an unusual age for a neurotypical child to read. A professional who has experience with twice-exceptionality may have investigated the discrepancy between her advanced verbal abilities and her average reading skills. An assessment could lead to recognizing and supporting her gifts and challenges.
You know your child best. If the findings of an assessment do not match what you have observed with your child, you may wish to seek a second opinion. For a closer look at these factors, consider reviewing the book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, and Other Disorders (2nd edition).
Even minor elements may impact a child’s assessment situation and outcomes. After all, most assessment situations take place in an unfamiliar environment and are run by an unfamiliar person to the student. Follow your family’s normal test day routines leading up to the assessment. Some basics to consider include might be to:
- Get enough sleep the night before and stay hydrated and nourished
- Try to schedule a test during the child’s peak performance hours rather than at the end of a long school day or other activity
- Take a transition break to stretch and walk after the car ride and before the going into the assessment center
- Frame the test as an engaging activity rather than as a pass-or-fail exam. Some ideas might be to avoid using the actual name of the assessment, like WISC-V, and instead say you’ll be participating in brain games or interviews
- Keep the basics on hand like water, snacks, tissues, a fidget toy and so on to help limit any physical discomfort
- Practice anxiety-reducing techniques at home, such as breathing exercises, so that your child can self-soothe during the test if they get stressed
- If your child has allergies, an injury, or feels under the weather and you still feel attending the assessment is a priority, be sure to disclose these factors to the individual administering the test so that they are accounted for and included in the written evaluation and results of the assessment
Every gifted and 2E child is unique and, as such, there will be unique considerations to think through ahead of any test. When possible, it is best to do some research to find a professional who has experience with gifted and 2E students as well as familiarity with any specific considerations you have regarding your child. Be sure to communicate any concerns you may have ahead of time and, when appropriate, request that these be addressed in the evaluation and results. Multi-faceted assessments that include quantitative and qualitative measurements may help better capture your child’s full learning profile.