Many parents come to me with their young children who have shown a pattern of precocious development. These young people have reached milestones at a younger age than expected. Many have huge vocabularies and seem to understand concepts that are far above their age level.
Parents want to know if they should schedule some testing for their children, to determine if they are truly superior in intelligence. There are some things that you may want to consider before moving ahead with testing.
We do have intelligence tests that start at about 2 ½ years of age. We usually use the Stanford Binet Intelligence Battery (SBIB) or the Weschler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence (WPPSI). For school age children, we use the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). (In a separate blog, I will discuss more details about each of these). The result of this kind of testing will be a number that is labeled “IQ.” These numbers are often misused. Some parents look at the results and think that this number represents a firm intelligence level, one that will persist as the child gets older. That is not true. Some of the early tests tend to overestimate IQ and there can be a great change in these scores over time. A child who scores in the superior range at 4 years of age is likely to score in the average range at 9. The opposite can also be true. Be careful in interpreting IQ scores in young children.
Children show great variability in their developmental patterns. Some children show a pattern of growing very quickly at first, and then leveling off. Other children show the opposite pattern, starting slowly but then showing spurts of development as they grow up. So, if you test your child at one point, can you count on that information to make predictions about the future? No, you can’t. You don’t have any information about your child’s future development pattern.
The other consideration relates to brain development. There are many skills that we cannot measure until the brain itself matures. For example, if you want to get an estimate of your son or daughter’s reasoning, you will need to wait until adolescence to have that type of skill tested.
So, are there times that testing can be helpful? Yes. Here are some general rules of thumb about when to get testing.
- One time that testing is warranted is when you are trying to design a behavior program for your child. The test results will tell you what is happening NOW, and that is what you need to know so you can tailor the program to your child.
- I like to test the younger children if they come to me for treatment of anxiety. Children who seem to be bright often can perceive things intellectually that they can’t deal with emotionally. The test results can help determine if this is what is happening and this helps me in my treatment of their anxiety.
- Sometimes, testing is required to access particular academic-type programs.
What should parents do? I would suggest not pursuing testing unless it has some current application, especially if your child is young. Many parents are hopeful that their child will be found to be gifted. It is far more important that parents focus on providing for their children’s emotional, social and also intellectual needs as they are now. In that way, you can be sure you are meeting all your child’s needs.