Identifying Gifted Children

by Becton Loveless

Part of the problem with indentifying gifted children is that there is not just one definition of what it means to be "gifted". While significantly advance learning seems to be at the core of what most people identify as gifted, giftedness may also take on other forms such as a higher level creativity, leadership and athleticism. For the purpose of indentifying giftedness in children this article will focus on intellectual function, cognition and learning ability.

While their is no universally accepted test or methodology for indentifying gifted children, there are several psychomestrist assessments that are useful in indentifying children and students whose intellectual capabilities surpass those of other children of the same age group, gender, and country. This form of assessment if often referred to as "Gifted Assessment" and involves a series of psychometric tests administered by a psychologist or qualified education specialist. However, whether or not a child is considered "gifted" is typically determined by district school boards. When testing performance indicates a student is among the top 2 percent of his or her appropriate reference group the child or student is typically labeled as gifted. In addition to psychometric testing, most schools also require a student to demontrate extraordinary academic performance and achievement before they're indentified as gifted.

Some experts and specialists hold to the belief that IQ testing is the optimal way to identify whether or not a child is gifted. However, others argue that IQ testing alone, is not a good primary indicator of giftedness among children or students. There is a general concensus among examiners that using psychometric, skills and achievement testing is the best primary indicator of giftedness and IQ should only be used for further differentiation.

The two most widely administered tests for indentifying gifted children at the elementary and secondary education levels are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales (SB5). Another popular test, the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT III) is the most popular test for determine a child's actual knowledge level. In addition to indentifying giftedness, the WISC is particulary useful because it also assesses and predicts the future developmental and psychological needs of the children.

Like the WISC, the SB5 also focuses on determining a child's cognitive abilities. This test is unique in that it can be effectively administered to individuals of just about any age group. The SB5 employs both verbal and nonverbal testing and is designed to assess five specific intelligence indicators: (1) general knowledge, (2) fluid reasoning, (3) spatial processing, (4) quantitative reasoning and (5) working memory.

The WIAT III is not as adept as the WISC or SB5 at assessing cognitive abilities or learned knowledge, but it is effective for helping to understand a child's innate ability to acquire knowledge and develop new skills through formal education. The WIAT III is so popular because it is designed to identify, measure and test aspects of a child's learning ability as it relates directly to the traditional educational process that takes place in a formal school setting in core subjects such as mathematics, reading, writing and language. Unlike the SB5 that can be used to test virtually any age group, the WIAT III is most effective for assessing children before they reach adolescence.

The WISC, SB5 and WIAT III are all available in different versions for various age groups. However, most research suggests that 8 years of age is the optimal time for testing and giftedness assessment. Notwithstanding, the earlier in life assessment begins, the better. The sooner a gifted child is identified, the sooner an education plan can be put in place to address their specific needs, interests and abilities.

Identifying gifted children, while difficult, is very important. As with any special needs child, gifted child can become bored, underachieving and disruptive in class if they're unique educational and learning needs are not propertly addressed.

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