To Test or Not to Test?

Why test? testing

This is a common and reasonable question to ask given the time and financial investment testing requires. When making this important decision, I recommend asking this guiding question, “What is the reason for testing?” There are several potential answers to why testing may be needed:

  • To gain access to a gifted class or program.
  • To understand your child’s cognitive and academic abilities in order to guide educational planning including choosing curriculum, and deciding about public, private, and/or homeschooling placement.
  • To understand your child’s complex profile in order to determine strengths, weaknesses, diagnoses, and helpful interventions and accommodations.
  • To better understand your child’s unique cognitive and learning profile in order to guide your parenting, schooling, and expectations for your child.

What is the best age?

testing Another commonly asked question, this again depends on the reason for testing. For example, if you have a young child who is showing significantly advanced cognitive and academic development, you may need to know their levels of ability in order to guide their pre-school or homeschool experience as well as plan for kindergarten and beyond, as your child’s advanced profile will guide the type of school placement as well as the need for differentiation. I often recommend waiting as long as possible to test, yet also test when needed. At age four, a complete IQ test can be given (WPPSI-IV); however, a partial test can be given at two-and-a-half. Age six is often a good age to test because a child is older, exposed to curriculum, and more neuropsychological tests are available at that age for testing beyond IQ and achievement levels. In sum, the “best” age is combination of the reason and the child’s actual age.

What are the types of testing?

There are different “levels” of testing, or types of testing “batteries,” based on the number of tests given, which is driven by the reason and goal of testing. Different evaluators may use slightly different names for testing batteries, so it is helpful to ask what they include in the battery.

  • Educational testing often consists of an IQ test for cognitive potential and achievement testing for academic ability. One can also just get an IQ test or an achievement test, as each tells us something different about a child. I often recommend getting both an IQ test and an achievement test to understand a child’s cognitive ability and level of performance in reading, writing, and math to guide educational planning and placement.
  • Neuroeducational testing consists of IQ and achievement testing plus testing for specific areas of challenge like attention and executive functioning (ADHD), auditory processing, memory, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and/or exploring a child’s overall profile.
  • Neuropsychological evaluations consist of the aforementioned testing, plus they look at a child’s emotions, behavior, personality, and additional complexities such as social processing and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Many gifted and 2e children have highly complex profiles that involve sensory processing issues, anxiety, executive-functioning challenges, social processing weaknesses, and learning issues. Thus, comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations are often needed to tease apart the areas of challenge and understand and explain the interactions of the challenges as well as the strength profile which can be harnessed for growth, engagement, and confidence. This complex understanding is often needed for a comprehensive and effective plan.

Does it matter if the evaluator has experience with gifted and 2e children?testing

It usually does. The majority of evaluators, like myself, did not learn about giftedness and twice-exceptionality in graduate school and training. There are several reasons understanding gifted and 2e children are important. First, gifted children can be shy, anxious, intense, questioning, “oppositional,” and/or perfectionistic. If this is not understood, accommodated, and worked with, the child may not engage in testing, may refuse, may not take risks, or try to game the tests and the evaluators for fun. Additionally, the aforementioned characteristics may only be seen through a pathological lense. This relates to another reason it is important to have a knowledgeable gifted/2e evaluator. It is critical that the evaluator not only identify deficits and diagnoses, but equally focus on the child’s strengths and overall profile. Having a gifted/2e friendly evaluator seems to be most important with the more complex the child is and the more comprehensive the evaluation. It is not always possible to find or pick the ideal evaluator so if you cannot get a specialist, try to find an evaluator who specializes in “sensitive,” intense, or “complex” children if possible.

How do you find the “right” evaluator?

There are several ways to locate a competent and experienced gifted/2e evaluator. First, GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum maintains a short list of gifted- and homeschool-friendly professionals. You can find more lists at 2e Newsletter and Hoagies Gifted. You can also contact your local state gifted organization for referrals. Additionally, you can contact your school district’s gifted program (if there is one) to inquire about community-based professionals. Also check out your local colleges and universities to inquire about psychology training programs that offer lower cost evaluations.  If so, inquire whether any of the supervising psychologists have experience with gifted and 2e individuals. Personal referrals and recommendations from friends, families, and friends of friends are among the strongest referrals because you can ask your contact questions about their experience, their child’s experience, and the if the results and report were helpful. Many have found that traveling a litter farther, and out of their community, for a specialist is well worth the time and travel.

So, should I have my child tested?testing

When considering whether to have your child tested I suggest asking yourself:

  • Why am I considering having my child tested?
  • What do I want to know?
  • How will this information help me better parent and plan my child’s education and curriculum?
  • Do I have enough information without testing to parent and plan for my child’s education?
  • Will testing provide opportunities into gifted programming I think will be positive for my child?
  • How will I use the results?
  • Who is known to have specialized training in gifted/twice-exceptional children?

In sum, testing is often a big decision for a family given the significant money and time commitment. Ideally, a thorough and well though out evaluation will provide you with a roadmap to help you better understand your child’s strengths, challenges, and needs to help him/her develop and grow to their potential.


testing gifted


testingDr. Dan Peters is a licensed psychologist who has devoted his career to the assessment, consultation and treatment of children, adolescents, and families, specializing in learning differences, anxiety, and issues related to giftedness and twice-exceptionality. He is passionate about helping parents and teachers engage children in the classroom, at home, and in life so that they can realize their full potential. Dr. Peters is co-founder and Executive Director of the Summit Center with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, and co-founder of Parent Footprint. He hosts Parent Footprint Podcast with Dr. Dan. He is the author of Make Your Worrier a Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Child’s FearsFrom Worrier to Warrior: A Guide to Conquering Your Fears,  and Raising Creative Kids (co-authored with Dr. Susan Daniels). Dr. Peters blogs regularly for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today and is a frequent media guest. He speaks regularly at state and national conferences and writes on topics related to parenting, learning differences, and education and he sits on the Board of Directors for GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. 

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