To IQ Test or Not IQ Test - Why Would a Parent Even Go There?

Not only can an IQ test let you know where your child "lives" intellectually, but it assesses several important aspects of cognitive functioning.

In my line of work, we use IQ testing often to help us diagnose the "gifted" child who perhaps has been unjustly labeled as a "troubled" child.

An IQ Test is a process that involves the child sitting in a quiet room with an examiner for about 1 1/2 hours. The child is asked a variety of verbal questions, is asked to look at pictures and puzzles, asked to repeat certain things, and do a few paper and pencil activities. For the most part, it does not feel like a school test and the vast majority of gifted kids want to keep the testing going because they feel challenged and engaged.

But why is IQ testing important and what does it help us ascertain overall?

First, it is good to know where your child "lives" intellectually, as the higher a child's IQ is, the more different they are from their "peers" and thus, the more accommodations they may need at school, programs, and at home. There is a lot of variability even within the gifted spectrum, meaning that gifted kids at the higher end need more accommodations and individuation than gifted kids whose intelligence is closer to advanced learners - smart kids who generally do well in school.

Another important reason for IQ testing is that it assesses several important aspects of cognitive functioning. IQ tests look at verbal reasoning abilities, visual-spatial reasoning, working memory, and processing speed. Many children, and gifted children in particular, often have "asynchronous development" meaning that their abilities are very uneven. Understanding whether someone is high in verbal processing, yet low on visual can have significant impacts on informing their teacher, yourself, and the child on how they learn best. Further, gifted children are often high on reasoning abilities and relatively or substantially lower on working memory and processing speed, causing academic underachievement and frustration. It is important to know if this is the case so accommodations can be put in place to help a smart child show what they know.

Test results tell parents and teachers how advanced a child's thinking may be and therefore how much differentiation they need from the regular curriculum which is set up for the "average" child. Test results also tells us a child's learning and processing strengths and weaknesses so parents and teachers can tailor their communication and teaching to the child's strengths and set up accommodations and interventions for identified weak areas.

This testing benefits the gifted child in that it helps the primary people in the child's life - parents and teachers - better understand their thinking, learning, achievement, social, and emotional needs. As mentioned earlier, the farther the child is from "normal" the less "normal" they usually act and feel, and the more they need differentiation in the aforementioned areas.

What age should your child be tested at? This question does not have an absolute answer. Ideally, the older a child is, the more information we can get both because the child is more developmentally mature and the tests themselves can tell us more. The WISC-IV, the most commonly used IQ test starts at age 6 - which is a good time to get a child tested. That being said, many children benefit from earlier testing to identify their strength and weakness profile. In this case, we can give a full pre-school intelligence at age 4, and a partial version at age 2 1/2.

Dr. Dan Peters, Ph.D., is co-founder of the Summit Center (http://summitcenter.us/), which provides psychological and educational assessments and counseling for children and adolescents, specializing in the gifted, creative, and twice-exceptional.

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Belle (Orchid Lady) October 05, 2012 at 08:49 PM
How can I get my child an IQ test? My child has been diagnosed with a 'visual processing disorder, ADHD, mood disorder, social and developmental delays, as well as a neurological problem complicating 'visual spatial relation' (.e. fine motor skills). My child has an IEP in place and has had one since preschool (different in preschool, but same idea). I am often saying "you are so smart" and when I think about it, how many 14 year old males have very high reasoning/critical thinking skills at that age. I have noticed this last year or so, my son has almost 'dumbed himself down' because he says 'he would rather be viewed as lazy, than different'. I also wonder if having this sort of test would be encouraging to him, and help the teachers as well, because we are all scratching our heads.
Belle (Orchid Lady) October 05, 2012 at 09:35 PM
oops, should say gross, and fine motor skills.
Dr. Dan Peters October 08, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Your child should have gotten an IQ test as part of his IEP. I suggest looking back at his reports and/or requesting the testing from his school. He should be tested every 3 years for his IEP so perhaps he will be tested soon. If not, you can always find a private psychologist (such as those at Summit Center) who can conduct an IQ test. Most 2e kids - gifted with learning and processing issues -- do not feel "smart" and therefore do benefit from seeing some objective data that they actually do have strong thinking abilities. I find giving 2e kids this type of information about themselves can help improve their self-concept and help them see some positive aspects of themselves.
Sheila Bonfield Molles November 21, 2012 at 07:10 PM
If our child is in a private school and IQ testing isn't available, where can we go to get one? We have Kaiser medical coverage - can Kaiser adminster this test at our request?
Dr. Dan Peters November 28, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Generally a public school or medical provider will not administer an IQ test unless it is part of an evaluation to better understand a child's learning, processing, emotional, or behavioral challenges. When a parent is curious about their child's intellectual and academic abilities, a private evaluation is sought through a psychologist.


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