by Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.
How does testing help or not to determine what to do next.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the wisdom of testing gifted children outside the public school system. When children develop at a slower rate, early recognition and early intervention are indispensable; when children develop at an accelerated rate, early recognition and intervention are also vital. Developmental differences can be observed at 18 months, and these differences continue throughout one’s lifetime—whether the child is delayed or advanced. We have compassion for an 18 year old with the mind of a 10 year old. Can you imagine the frustration of being a 10 year old with the mind of an 18 year old?
Many extremely bright children have difficulty fitting into a curriculum designed for average children and relating to age peers who do not share their interests. Some also have difficulty writing, reading, focusing, mastering a two-wheeler, dealing with new situations, or coping with teaching strategies that do not support their learning style. Little guidance is available to the families of these children. The Gifted Development Center (GDC)—a nonprofit, Denver-based organization—fills this void. We are child advocates. We have provided assessment and counseling to families of the gifted, worldwide, for nearly 25 years.
The majority of the 4,500 families who have sought the services of the Center did so because their children were suffering, not because they were invested in their children’s scores. Many of these children were expected to sit quietly and relearn information they had mastered years earlier. For children to be motivated learners, instruction must be matched to their level, learning style, and rate of learning. Those most at risk for social-emotional problems and underachievement are exceptionally gifted children, gifted children with learning disabilities, and visual-spatial learners (who think in images).
Testing is not about getting an IQ score. Most parents come to us to help them solve the mystery of who their children are and what they need. The heart of our service is ferreting out strengths and hidden disabilities, and directing families to specialists who can help their children further. The IQ test is simply a diagnostic tool. We also assess self-concept, learning style, personality type, achievement, motor skills, and emotional functioning, to help us understand the whole child.
When a child achieves the highest possible subtest scores (>99th %) on an IQ test, we administer the Stanford-Binet L-M (SBL-M) as a supplemental test. Just as the SAT and ACT are given as above-level tests to advanced middle school students, the SBL-M is the above-level measure for younger children. Riverside Publishing states in its 2002 catalog:
Form L-M, with its lower floor and higher ceiling, is diagnostically appropriate for children at the extremes of mental ability. It can be used to evaluate levels of mental retardation and intellectual giftedness.
The SBL-M is the only test that can discriminate among children above 160 and below 40. Both groups have much greater needs than children closer to the norm. Without the use of above-level tests, we are measuring 6-foot students with 5-foot rulers. As few school psychologists administer the SBL-M, there is a misperception that scores on this instrument are “inflated.” This is like saying that a child who is actually 6 feet tall has an “inflated” height, because he or she exceeds the 5-foot ruler sufficient to measure the majority of children.
GDC’s highly qualified examiners are well respected within the testing industry. Riverside Publishing hosted a three-day meeting in Denver, July, 2000, so that their test constructors could learn from the experience of the Center’s staff. We have influenced the development of the next edition of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale. We were asked to create questions, participate in item trials, and conduct several validation studies. Our staff—four of whom are school psychologists who also work in local school districts—work in teams, with a supervisor reviewing all testing, interpretation, reports, and participating in follow-up counseling sessions. Our track record speaks for itself. We have helped thousands of children develop their strengths, overcome their weaknesses, and become joyful learners. Parents tell us that our recommendations changed their children’s lives.
Public Law 94-142 requires that outside testing be considered in the school placement of exceptional children. Why is there any question as to whether it should be accepted for gifted children? Whether school testing, independent testing, or both, children benefit when more is known about their abilities and learning styles. They deserve our best.
For more information, please see our website: www.gifteddevelopment.com.
Linda Kreger Silverman, PhD, is a licensed psychologist. She directs the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center, in Denver, Colorado. Her textbook, Counseling the Gifted and Talented, is the most popular text in this area. Dr. Silverman is also the author of the Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, a book which is rapidly becoming a classic in the field of gifted education.