When is intelligence, gifted testing, or cognitive testing needed?

“Is my child gifted?”  “Does my child have ADHD?”  “Does my child have a learning disorder?”  “Should I get my child tested?”  If you are a parent with a school-aged child, it is possible that you have asked yourself any of these questions.  Perhaps a teacher, friend, family member, or even yourself has noticed that your child performs at a level above his peers, has a drive for curiosity, or is a quick or early learner.  On the other hand, perhaps you have been told or noticed that your child struggles with math equations or reading, is easily distracted,  or has trouble sitting still for periods of time.  Or perhaps you simply wonder about your child’s intellectual abilities.

If you are asking these questions, then your child would likely benefit from  educational testing (which is the broad term for intelligence, gifted, ADD/ADHD, and learning disability testing).  Testing can reveal the answers to these questions.  Testing results provide the information needed for your child to be placed in the most appropriate setting that is conducive to their learning.  This may include gifted classes or classroom accommodations specific to your child’s learning or behavioral needs.  Testing can also help you, as a parent, structure your child’s life at home according to their needs.

So what is testing?   Essentially, it is a process of problem solving through the administration of tests and other procedures that can help you and your child’s teachers understand their behavior, capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, and possibly personality (depending on the purpose of the assessment).  Testing is commonly used to answer questions about learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental delays, behavior problems, and/or personality issues.

Timing, however, is somewhat important.  The recommended age for testing gifted children is between the ages of 5 and 8 when IQ is considered to be relatively stable and to avoid test ceilings (when the test takers score is lowered due to the test “running out” of questions).  If you get your child tested and the score seems lower than you expected, you could definitely try again. That does not mean you keep getting your child tested indefinitely (and any ethical psychologist will not) with the hopes that eventually they will get a high “enough” score.  For learning disabilities, it is suggested that kids are not tested before age six, and they should have had exposure to basic subject areas.  ADD/ADHD is a bit different in that testing is necessitated when educational or occupational difficulties are encountered.  For any of these types of assessments, it is important to have an experienced and qualified psychologist conduct the testing, which leads me to my next point.

Psychologists are the only type of mental health providers who are purposefully trained and qualified to conduct testing.  However, not all psychologists are trained in educational assessment.  It is important that you carefully select the psychologist who will be examining your child in order to feel confident that you are getting your money’s worth for the services you paid for.  This really means that you feel confident with the results of the testing and the answers to the questions you are asking.  Testing can have a significant impact on your child’s experiences in school, the outcome of their learning process, and ultimately, their future.  In order to be considered qualified to conduct educational testing, psychologists must receive specific training and supervised clinical experience with these types of assessments.  Dr. Barbash, of Tampa Therapy, is a Licensed Psychologist with a background in clinical, counseling, and educational psychology.  She conducts Intelligence, ADHD, ADD, LD, and Gifted testing to determine an individual’s IQ score, whether an adult or child is considered to have gifted abilities, or has a learning disability or ADHD/ADD if experiencing scholastic or occupational difficulties.

As a psychologist, I commonly get asked if parents should have their children tested at school. The answer is generally “no,” which is not to undermine the quality of the evaluations or professionals within the school system, but rather because school psychologists working within the school system have limited time, which impacts what assessments they are able to offer.  Psychologists in private practice have more time to spend with your child, and therefore can administer additional tests that will help determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any problems that may be present.