How to Find Someone to Test Your Gifted Child

Child psychologist talking to a little girl in an office

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Some parents agonize over the decision on whether or not to have their child tested. Many eventually choose to get the testing done. If you are one of those parents who decided to get your child tested, where do you go once you've made that decision?

It's important to have testing done by someone who understands and has experience working with gifted children. How do you find such a person? Four basic ways are listed here — in order of ease and reliability.

The first method is the easiest and most likely to get you a reliable tester. The last one requires more effort and more care.

Find the Right Person

A tester who understands and has worked with gifted children before is more likely to get the most accurate results from the testing. When you understand how some testing is done, this makes sense.

The tester asks the child questions until the child misses three questions in a row. Because gifted children are advanced and also soak up information like dried sponges, they can answer many questions correctly and easily.

A tester who is unfamiliar with gifted children will start a child with questions at the recommended level for their age. For example, if the child being tested is 8, the tester starts the questions at the 8-year-old level.

The problem is that it can take a long time, then, for the child to miss those three questions in a row. And that can lead to fatigue, boredom, or both. That, in turn, leads the child to answer questions incorrectly, which then leads to an inaccurate score and an inaccurate picture of the child's abilities.

A tester who is familiar with gifted children will generally first talk with the child for a period of time to get a sense of the child's abilities.

They will then begin the test with questions recommended for older children. That means that it will take less time for the child to miss three questions in a row, reducing the possibility that the child will become tired or bored. The picture of a child's abilities is far more likely to be accurate.

4 Ways to Find a Tester

Now that you know why it makes a difference to get a tester who understands gifted children, you can focus on finding that tester.

  • Contact your state's gifted organization. The people in these organizations are quite knowledgeable and may have information about qualified testers in your state. However, they may not be aware of any in your area, so you might have to travel. They also might not have any information about testers. Nevertheless, this is a good place to start.
  • Contact the school administration office of the nearest large city. If you are lucky, you live in or very close to a large city. School systems in large cities usually have a psychologist who does the testing for their gifted program. Find out if they have one and if so, how to contact them. These psychologists have private practices and often specialize to some degree in gifted children.
  • Contact the educational psychology departments of universities. Some universities offer a gifted endorsement in their education department. These schools may also have people within their educational psychology department who are able to do testing or know someone who does. To find schools with gifted endorsements, you can contact your state's education department. The Council of Chief State School Officers website has links to every state's department of education.
  • Call local psychologists. If you are unable to find a tester using any of the other methods, you can call child psychologists in the area and talk with them. Since these psychologists may not come with recommendations from someone who knows them and their background, it is very important that you talk with the tester to learn what they know about gifted children. The Davidson Institute has an article with a great list of questions to ask a potential tester. (It's about halfway down the article.) 

Tips for Finding a Psychologist

If you find a psychologist through a school system, make sure that they have experience with gifted children. Many school systems have a staff psychologist who is responsible for all testing of all children.

They are not necessarily experienced with gifted children, but instead, are more likely to have experience with learning disabled children. A potential tester who tells you that experience with gifted children doesn't matter should be avoided.

That person clearly neither understands nor has experience working with gifted children. In fact, asking about giftedness might create the impression in that tester that you are one of "those" parents who just wants their child to be gifted. That attitude can affect the testing.

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.