Children who are unusually advanced benefit from comprehensive assessment and intervention in order to ensure that they have the opportunity to develop all of their abilities. Formal, individual IQ testing by a licensed, qualified professional offers the benefit of formal identification of an individual’s gifted abilities. This testing may qualify your child for enrichment programs specific to gifted children and can be used to develop a unique educational plan (often called an advanced learning plan or ALP) to address his or her special needs. While many children will thrive and do well in the traditional classroom, others have abilities and needs that will be best served by a specialized educational setting. The process of comprehensive gifted assessment will help parents know how best to meet their child’s unique needs.
The short answer to the above question is, usually, “No.” The majority of schools use group screening instruments (such as the CogAT) to test students for inclusion in gifted enrichment programs. While these group measures are economical and can do a good job of identifying advanced ability in many gifted students, it is important to note that they are *screening* tools and there can be disadvantages for some children of being tested in a group setting. For example, the multiple choice format of these screening tests can be difficult for gifted children, who often overthink such questions, and the end result is that the group screener may end up not identifying a gifted child as such. Group administration of tests also eliminates the crucial observations by the examiner of how a child approaches various tasks. As a result, distractible children will obtain lower scores on these tests. Additionally, at the current time, only children who are recommended by parents and teachers are included in the screening process. There are a number of factors that can mask a child’s gifted potential, leaving them at risk for not being identified through the current gifted identification process in schools.
Even when a group screening such as the CogAT has identified a child as qualifying for gifted services, the measures do not provide individualized information about a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Similar to hearing and vision screenings, these group testing measures are best viewed as a means for identifying students who need additional services in order to best serve their needs. Obtaining a clearer and more comprehensive picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses will help you create an educational plan that will directly address his or her true needs.
Many physicians’ offices offer diagnosis and treatment for ADD/ADHD (these terms are often used interchangeably) symptoms and many individuals who have ADD/ADHD often benefit from medication. However, it is important to understand that there are a number of situations in which symptoms can be confused with ADD/ADHD and thus go unaddressed, causing further struggles for your child. For example, many children who are intellectually gifted exhibit some of the same behaviors and symptoms that are seen in attention deficit disorders. In addition, children who have hearing difficulties or auditory processing disorders can have symptoms that appear to be those of ADD/ADHD. It is also important to understand that up to 60% of individuals who have ADHD also have a co-existing learning disability. If you only treat ADHD with medication through your physician’s office, you could be missing out on some key information that will help your child be successful in both school and other future endeavors.
Some people believe that if a child responds positively to treatment with stimulant medications, this offers “confirmation” of an ADD/ADHD diagnosis. This is simply not the case. Medications treat symptoms, they do not confirm diagnoses. In addition, ADD/ADHD is not a “one size fits all” diagnosis. There are a number of different subtypes of this disorder and each one requires a different approach to treatment. Our comprehensive assessments are designed to offer both clear diagnostic impressions and specific recommendations for treatment and educational accommodations. We are happy to collaborate with your child’s doctor and school to ensure that everyone is on the “same page” with treatment.