Deciding to seek professional help and get your child tested can be unnerving. On one hand, you’re certain that everything is in your head and you’re being paranoid, but on the other, you’re taking the first step to admitting that something isn’t working. It’s a big step to take.
There is a big debate on when to test for giftedness. The advice I see most often is to test at 7, if only because you can then use the WISC (which goes to adulthood) instead of the WPPSI (for preschoolers). The Weschler tests (WISC and WPPSI) are the most widely accepted IQ tests, but some gifted advocates say that the Stamford Binet is better at showing levels of giftedness, especially if you are looking at profound giftedness. Also, young children are more likely to be uncomfortable with a tester that they don’t “click” with, and have less experience with test taking in general. From what I understand, it’s just plain trickier to test youngsters. And some school boards may not even accept WPPSI results.
For what it’s worth, we had decided we would wait until at least 7 to test our son. But mostly we just thought we would test when we needed it. Sure, we were curious, but to put our kid through two days of testing and pay thousands of dollars out of curiosity? Not for us. At least, not for us as parents of a preschooler. However, looking back, I almost wish that we had gone through testing before we started school. But hindsight is 20/20, am I right? We did as much research as we could on the issue and made the best, most informed, decision that we could. And really, that’s all you can do as a parent!
So what changed?
Well, where we live Junior Kindergarten starts the year children turn 4. For Kaleb, it meant he would be 3 for the first 2.5 months of school. We thought that him being the youngest would be a good thing. We also made sure that we picked a school that was play based with lots of free time as this meant he wouldn’t get bored doing phonics lessons or learning numbers in structured ways. This is a common thought process among parents of gifted children, and I think it’s still a great thought process to follow. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t a fit for Kaleb. He announced he wasn’t going to read anymore because kids don’t read. At the same time, he begged for a classroom with desks and math. He was anxious, crying, and making himself sick. I have never felt like such an awful parent as I did dragging him down the street to school, with him in tow wailing, telling myself it was just normal kindergarten stuff. The fact that he had been happy to go the first week and it slowly progressed to that made me feel sick inside. But I was just trying to do what I believed was best. And if we didn’t get the IQ test results that we did, I would have stood by those actions.
Because he was having such an adverse reaction to something he had been looking forward to since 18 months old, I met with his teachers and the school. Honestly, I expected them to say things like “he’s not that advanced,” “we have lots of kids just like him,” and “you’re crazy.” While there were some comments that I disagreed with (because no one agrees 100% of the time), for the most part I left realizing that they had a pretty good picture of my son and his abilities. But it wasn’t going to change the way that they were already teaching him. Inclusive learning meant that they were working with each child at their own pace, but at the same time, play based curriculum meant my son would have to initiate his own learning. He told me many, many times that he wasn’t allowed to do things differently from the other kids; and I wonder if it was his way of saying he didn’t want to do things differently from the other kids, but he didn’t exactly want to compromise and do what they were doing either. He wanted to do what he wanted to do, but he didn’t want to be different while doing it. This resulted in him doing “nothing” (his words) at school and then coming home and trying to cram a ridiculous amount of learning into a small amount of time after school. And honestly, Kaleb was at a point where he was learning advanced concepts that need to be guided in some sense. While things like addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, even negative numbers had come almost intuitively; things like order of operations need to be taught.
We had learned a long time ago that learning in an academic sense was on par with eating and drinking for survival with this kid. We needed help.
I started researching psychologists that offered psychoeducational testing. I wanted someone who had specifically tested children for giftedness. I reached out on my local gifted organization’s forum, as well as another online forum, for advice. I called around and tried to feel out a few places. Most places flat out told me no. Testing a 4 year old for giftedness, with no other suspected issues, is really, really, really not recommended. I had a recommendation for a centre in particular, and got a really good feeling from my reconnaissance mission and decided it was the best place for us. They were extremely hesitant. I mean, I understand why. Our district doesn’t even offer gifted programming until grade 5, so why would we want that label other than a perceived prestigiousness?
Somehow, I convinced them that we were struggling. That we weren’t doing it just for a label, but because we had no idea what to do with our child. We needed a professional’s advice of how to help him. Something wasn’t working, and we needed to know if it was us or because something was wrong. They made sure to schedule us with a tester who worked with younger children, but even still, testing a 4 year old was highly unusual. We booked the appointment for a few days following his 4th birthday. Then, all we could do was wait and freak out.
What if we really were crazy?
Read part 2 here: Testing, testing, 1, (part) 2, 3…