Gifted Testing for Preschoolers

“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?


  1. I have been thinking about this post and meaning to stop back to comment. I can relate to your son’s story – with my husband’s story. I thought I would share as it may be helpful to you to know how his journey went. My husband was complicated as a child. Never crawled, had an exceptional memory – my MIL swears that at the age of 2 my husband could recite the entire Phillies roster. And he was a behavior problem. So much so that he was tested – he was tested because they thought he needed to be placed into a special needs room for his education. Turns out they were wrong. When his results came back, he was gifted. So they were at a loss of what to do. Anyway, behavioral problems continued in the classroom. He was (and still is) impulsive, tons of sensory issues, extreme emotionality. It was not until high school that my MIL finally takes a different route and has him see a Psychiatrist where he was diagnosed with ADD. Once medicated, my husband says he felt completely different. He felt in control. He could sit, he could concentrate. He likes to tell of the barber he would go see for his haircuts. Once he was medicated the barber was thrown off that my husband just sat in the chair for his haircut and asked him, “why aren’t you being an a**hole today?” My husband knew why but just smiled. He did try to go to college, but did not succeed. He only lasted a semester. He went for specialized instruction with computer and data and is now a senior director at Comcast. He is in charge of business analytics. Numbers are his thing. He is still medicated for ADD. I do believe if he were diagnosed under todays standards as a child, he would also carry an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Your son’s story reminded me of my husband’s, so just wanted to share!


  2. Hello there,
    This is an interesting post and it throws up quite a few questions to me…I hope you don’t mind!
    I’m in the U.K. as you know, and a teacher of 4 and 5 year olds. We would NEVER take away gross motor activities as a punishment! I’m so shocked by this. Do you mean he is missing his playtime (recess)? This is terrible as that is EXACTLY what he does need! Every child development study shows that children need time to run, jump, swing and play using their bodies in order to learn to control them. The other thing that came out of your post is his scores are good but again, in the U.K. I have taught many children in mainstream schools with these scores. I would not choose a specialist school or put him up a year as he socially needs to mix with a diverse community. This may just be the differences in our schooling systems so apologies if that is the case. His processing score is lower than his others (although well in the normal range) and this will cause him frustration but he can be taught strategies on how to approach tasks as he matures. Your comment about him not sitting still at the assessment was the most telling for me -do they test for sensory needs in this assessment? This would be done by an Occupational Therapist here in the U.K. You could try a wobble cushion in the classroom during carpet quiet time or a weighted blanket. This may soothe his impulses a little.
    Your son sounds like a delightful little boy and very like my son at the same age. My son is now very into rugby (a bit like football) and is exceeding academically. I had to fight for what he needed but it’s worth it in the end. Good luck. X


  3. My son just randomly started reading at 21 months and I found your blog as I’ve been reading about hyperlexia.
    At any rate, is that photo from Akron Children’s Museum? We live in the Akron area and go often!


  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I came across your blog because I am having similar issues. I am currently awaiting the results of my son’s testing. We, too, have had issues the last 2 years of preschool and refusal of admittance into private school (Kindergarten) due to his unpredictable behavior. Every teacher hes had has asked “have you had him tested?” And I say “tested for what?” And they day “I don’t really know, but he’s different” I decided to put him in a transition class for this year, but I’m dreading public school. I’m glad you’re a year ahead of me so I can read along!


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