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Testing a Shy Child for Giftedness

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Rita Culross, Ph.D.

Q: I believe my six-year old daughter is gifted. She excels in all areas at school and displays most of the behavior traits of gifted children.

I spoke to her teacher about having her tested for the school's gifted program, and her teacher feels that while she is probably gifted, she would not test well because she is so extremely shy and the person testing her would be someone she doesn't know. The teacher said that if she doesn't score high enough the first time she's tested, they won't be able to test her again for another year, so maybe we should wait a little longer.

My daughter doesn't seem to be getting any less shy, so what difference would a couple of months make? What should I do: Have her tested now and see what happens, or wait and hope it makes a difference?

A: Testing young children is a challenge for examiners. Unlike those of us who have taken tests for many years, younger children are new to testing experiences and can be less attuned to the demands of the testing situation. Nonetheless, a careful examination process can yield good results from young children.

Frequently, when a child is shy, it is helpful for the person doing the testing to meet with the child in advance. Informal interactions with the child in her regular classroom or one-on-one in a conversation or in a play setting can help the child become familiar with the tester. It is important that the person who tests your daughter is aware of her personality and can maintain her cooperation and attention. (Obviously, too, better results will be obtained for shy children in individual testing than in a group testing situation.) In working with shy children, one of the goals of the tester is to establish a rapport by being warm and friendly toward the child. An additional plus would be having a psychologist or diagnostician who has experience working with young children.

If you decide to pursue testing at this time (or even later), I would recommend that you make an appointment with the person doing the testing to share your concerns about your daughter's shyness as it might impact on her test scores. A little advance warning may be all that is necessary to ensure that your daughter's performance reflects her true abilities.

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Rita Culross is Associate Dean, College of Education, and Adjunct Professor of Psychology and Curriculum and Instruction at Louisiana State University. Culross has served as the consulting school psychologist for a public school elementary gifted program, and has written a book and several journal articles on gifted education.


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