Giftedness and gifted/talented program admission
Many parents have their child tested to assess for giftedness or for admission into gifted/talented programs. It is usually a child's parents who first notice qualities of giftedness, and they often want to have these qualities further explored (skills such as advanced problem solving, the ability to learn rapidly, extensive vocabulary for age, long attention span and sensitivity).
It is very helpful to identify giftedness in children as early as possible, to enable the child's learning environment to be adapted successfully to best fit the abilities of the child. Depending on the skill level of the child, along with program availability, this might mean admission into mentoring programs, acceleration and advancement programs or simply offering the child more challenging options in the classroom.
Early entry to kindergarten & school readiness
Some parents may think that their child is displaying characteristics of giftedness and that they may be ready to commence school earlier than usual. The NSW Department of Education & Training policy (revised 2004) regarding early entry to school states: “School communities have a responsibility to develop effective and equitable identification procedures and developmentally appropriate programs for gifted and talented students.
Acceleration, which includes early entry to school, is an administrative procedure that accommodates the intellectual and emotional characteristics that allow gifted and talented students to learn more quickly than their peers. Early entry is at the discretion of the school principal. It is restricted to gifted children aged four years or older at January 31 of the year of enrolment. An extensive psychological evaluation of intellectual, academic and socio-emotional ability is required." (www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au).
Private education institutions may have slightly different policies. If a parent thinks that their child may be a candidate for early entry to school, they should contact the individual school and discuss the options available. In almost all cases, a professional assessment of the child's current cognitive and academic ability will be required.
Why should I have my child assessed?
Problematic behaviour in the school environment
Problematic behaviour and boredom in the classroom, along with underachievement, are common concerns that parents often feel requires further investigation. Parents may notice that their child is having problems with academic aspects of the school environment, or their child may be displaying emotional or behavioural problems at school or at home.
It can be the case that a gifted child, who is finding the classroom environment to be boring (due to under-stimulation) may show their frustration by being disruptive in school, refusing to do homework, or displaying anxiety or sadness.
Learning difficulties or delays
Parents can have their child assessed if they suspect there may be a learning difficulty present. A professional assessment will provide parents with critical information about their child's current cognitive and academic ability. Parents may notice that their child is struggling in a certain academic area, such as writing, mathematics or reading, or may be performing at a level that is significantly below their peers. Learning difficulties can often manifest as disruptive behaviour, aggression and conflict, withdrawal from activities and lowered self-esteem.
Enhanced understanding of a child's learning style
Parents may want to understand more about their child's abilities including their strengths, weaknesses and preferred learning styles. Some parents are interested in knowing where their child is performing academically in relation to their peers. Knowledge in these areas can greatly assist parents to make more informed choices about their child's education and about other areas of their child's life.
How will an assessment help?
This will vary from child to child and from family to family. On its own the assessment cannot make a difference. It needs to be accompanied by information specific to that child's personality, along with their intellectual, social and emotional needs and interests. In many cases, the assessment affirms what is already known, but it gives parents more confidence to approach educational authorities for discussions about provisions for their child. It may also lead to a greater understanding of certain behaviours and will assist with appropriate management strategies. In many cases it may help the child to accept their own abilities and foster self-esteem.