Gifted & 2E Assessments – Thoughts for Parents

September 4, 2021 auroraremember

Having your child formally assessed for giftedness and/or twice-exceptionality can offer great information and insights into your child’s needs, but can also be a big investment and it’s important to consider the evaluator(s) experience with giftedness and twice exceptionality. State TAG associations can be a great resource for this as well as organizations like SENG. I am working on gathering knowledgeable providers on my new online directory for and by 2E folks, 2EConnection.com. If you are a provider knowledgable in that area (or know someone who is) I encourage you to post a listing so folks can find you!

Here are some things to consider as you pursue an evaluation:

What is your purpose in getting an assessment?

Keep in mind many public schools don’t accept private assessment as a part of their gifted identification process because it advantages those who can afford a private evaluation, so be sure to look into your local requirements if program identification is your goal.

If you suspect your child is highly or profoundly gifted, be sure that the evaluator has access to extended norms in case your child goes above the scaled score charts on individual subtests.

If you suspect your child might also have a learning disability or other neurodivergence such as ADHD or Autism, be sure that the evaluator has knowledge of the overlap between giftedness and other neurodivergence and uses multiple tools in identification, and also is skilled in creating an environment where they can feel comfortable, and accommodate needs to move, take frequent breaks etc.

What is the evaluator’s background in testing gifted and twice exceptional students?

As long as an evaluator is qualified to administer cognitive testing, experience and understanding of the gifted and twice exceptional experience is more important than specific titles or certifications.

If you suspect twice-exceptionality, in addition to asking about their experience with giftedness & 2E, it’s also a good idea to ask them about what criteria they look at for identifying learning disabilities etc. There are multiple models of identifying learning disabilities, and some only consider if an achievement skill is below average, even if there is a statistically significant gap between cluster scores. It is also helpful if the evaluator looks at processing strengths and challenges in addition to just a discrepancy between ability and achievement. They should also consider using the GAI score on the WISC-V for students who’s Full Scale IQ is brought down by lower processing speed and/or working memory scores.

If considering ADHD, Autism or other neurodivergence, it is helpful to look at the full picture and not just focus on one specific neurodivergence, such as just evaluating for ADHD. They should also be using multiple tools in making their determination, not just one measure. For example, although ADHD is often correlated with lower working memory and processing speed, some 2E kids with ADHD actually excel at those subtests because they found it an interesting and fun challenge! That does not rule out the possibility that they might have ADHD.

Having been tested myself, and blown off for being “too high” to have a problem, despite a 50 point discrepancy in scores, I understand well that scores in the “average” or even “high average” range can still be a relative weakness in 2E folks. Also, while it is common for people with ADHD to score relatively lower on working memory and processing speed, some actually find it a fun challenge and do really well in that one on one setting. This is especially true for 2E individuals who love a challenge but hate what they perceive as “work.” This is why it is crucial to present the tests as a fun challenge and not make it feel too much like “work” when possible.

How does the evaluator establish rapport and help students feel comfortable to get the most accurate results?

As Scott Barry Kauffman notes in his book Ungifted, performance on cognitive tests can vary greatly depending on a lot of factors. Some of those are not in the evaluator’s control, but creating a positive environment and helping reduce anxiety can go a long way. Students who feel anxious and unsafe will not perform at their best.

It’s also a good idea to ask what their policy is in moving etc. during testing. For students who need to move a lot, you want to make sure they have that opportunity and aren’t asked to sit still for the whole evaluation. Having fidgets etc. can also be helpful. They should also be mindful of how often a student needs breaks, and what kinds of activities they can do to reset.

Having a cognitive or comprehensive evaluation can be extremely helpful in identifying our kid’s needs, and if we consider our purpose of testing, evaluator experience with giftedness and 2E and how they create a positive testing environment, we can help get the most accurate results. Keep in mind that students can have a false low, but not a false high because they can’t achieve higher than their capability. Considering the above factors can help increase the chances of accurate results and interpretation.

When I’m evaluating students, I take time ahead to establish rapport as needed, and often play games or something the student enjoys doing. During testing, I let them move as they feel comfortable, and only ask them to stay in one place if it’s a timed written test. I also try to keep a close eye on when they may need a break, and some need them much more frequently than others. Part of the reason that I charge a flat fee for evaluation is that I want to make sure that taking the extra time to ensure the student is at ease doesn’t add any surprise costs.

How will the results be shared? 

Assessment results can be a lot of information to take in, so it’s helpful to have the opportunity for follow up with further questions once you’ve had time to process the results. Some share the results in a meeting before giving you a report, and some give the report ahead of time so you can process the information ahead, and come in with questions. Either way, being able to follow up for clarification can be really helpful.

I personally like to give the report ahead of meeting because it’s a lot of information to take in at once, and reading it ahead can allow for more opportunity for questions. I am also always open to questions that may come after evaluation.

Stay tuned for my next post on considerations for getting evaluations for giftedness & neurodivergence as an adult!

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