“I’m sure you know by now…your son is complicated.”
A few weeks ago, we took our four year old son for gifted testing. The psychologist we were referred to specialized in working with gifted children, as well as testing children under five. We arrived on time to a home-like counseling center and after a few brief introductions, the psychologist whisked our son away for a little over an hour to administer the Weschler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (4th edition), or generally known as the WPPSI-IV.
Afterwards, our son was left with Legos, while the psychologist discussed the results with us. This is when the notion of our son being complicated was first proposed. We were given a five minute explanation of our son’s scores (though a more detailed session could be scheduled for an additional cost). We were told that our son was indeed gifted and we were given some suggestions on how to proceed. More on that later.
Reasons to Test a Preschooler for Giftedness
First, let’s consider the reasons why you may have to consider gifted/intelligence testing for your preschooler. It is not a typical occurrence, and it may be difficult for others to understand why a preschooler would need to go through this process.
Our reasons for pursuing gifted testing for our not-yet five year old were a combination of reasons. Some parents of gifted children say that they had no idea that their child was different until it was mentioned to them (usually in a school meeting); whereas other parents notice their child’s exceptional IQ early on. For us, we always had an inkling that our child was bright; learning the periodic table and studying the countries of the world for fun are not typical four year old interests.
But since we knew he was bright, why would it matter if he was identified as gifted?
In all honesty, we had no need to know his IQ until the troubles at school began. And they began early. He had to be pulled from his three-year-old preschool class after being frequently put into time out and for losing (much needed) gross motor privileges at school. His four-year-old class has definitely been an improvement, but this notion of our son as a troublemaker persists. How could such a smart boy be having such a difficult time with school?
The reasons you may consider gifted testing for your preschooler include:
- Placement in a specialized/gifted school
- Educational accommodations in current school
- Behavioral accommodations in current school
- Acceleration/grade advancement
- It is recommended by an educational professional
- Testing is part of a larger evaluation
Trouble in Preschool
We obtained the gifted testing to give our child the opportunity to possibly attend a local gifted-only school, as well as to give his current and future teachers (and us!) some perspective on his behavior issues at school.
It isn’t uncommon for gifted children to be labeled as the class clown or troublemaker as early as preschool-age. “Gifted pre-school children are at particular risk. Few gifted programs exist for children in this age-group; consequently pre-school teachers are likely to have had neither training on how to recognize these children, nor the opportunity of seeing the level they can work at when they are presented with appropriate learning experiences.” (Check out: Small Poppies:Highly Gifted Children in the Early Years).
Further, young children at this age struggle with regulating their emotions. An incredibly bored four-year-old will act out physically, simply because they have yet to learn how to control their impulses and how to handle their excitabilities in the classroom. And to top it off, gifted preschoolers may also be 2e, or twice exceptional, meaning that their giftedness is also paired with a disability. For us, it was suggested to us that our son is gifted and has ADHD.
Looking at WPPSI-IV Results
I thought it might be helpful for UG readers if I attached a copy of my son’s scores:
The psychologist approached our meeting by pointing out our son’s complicated nature. Hence the: “I’m sure you know by now, but your son is complicated” verbage.
But complicated how?
Yes, our son is extremely bright. When he put his mind to it- and the doctor pointed out that our son often gave up for fear of not knowing the answer, a common gifted trait- he was exceptional. His fluid reasoning (decision making and problem solving skills) and working memory (memorization ability) scores particularly stood out.
“But” (the psychologist continued) “does he often get in trouble at school?” Why yes, yes he does. “Well, this will continue. In fact, it is unlikely that he will ever be successful in a typical, public school.”
Well, I have to admit, this is not what we had hoped to hear and the disappointment had to be written on both mine and my husband’s faces.
We didn’t understand the doctor’s use of the term “complicated” until we dug a little deeper into gifted testing after this session. We have since learned that the discrepancy in his processing speed compared to his other scores (there is a 48 point gap between his highest and lowest score) is likely the reason the psychologist classified our son as ADHD. I was informally told through a gifted forum that any discrepancy of 25 points would lead to a 2e diagnosis. This spread, combined with the fact that our son was in constant motion during the assessment, not sitting for more than a few seconds at a time and even opening cabinets and cupboards in the doctor’s office, led our psychologist to this label and to his belief that our son would not “fit in” in a typical school environment.
The score for his processing speed (though average in general, is low in comparison to his overall IQ) helps us to understand some of his struggles with timed activities and social processing cues. We are hoping that these scores, the subscores as well as the overall score, will help us to advocate for our son in the classroom this year in preschool, as well as in kindergarten placement next year. Though we know it may be difficult, we are still trying to maintain a level of positivity in regard to our son’s school future. And we will advocate for his best interests in school.
Twice exceptionality is tricky, in that schools may fight accommodations for students who are performing above average academically. We have been flat out told by the public school that there is no way our child will ever qualify for an IEP, however, we know that his schooling will improve with the right support. And gifted testing has been our first step in getting that support for our preschooler.
To learn more about children who are 2e, check out Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page: What Does it Mean to be 2e?