Uniquely Gifted

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It is best to test for giftedness ONLY when the child is fresh, not stressed, and most able to compensate for areas of learning disability.

Conversely, when testing for learning disabilities, test ONLY when the child is at the point where the compensation tactics dissolve, and LD's are most evident (though you usually want the child to be taking any medications that he or she normally takes).

Be aware that test scores provide a floor, not a ceiling.  That is, a child's score can be artificially lowered by being tired or not feeling well, hearing/vision problems (including processing problems), fine motor problems (especially on the WISC, where speed bonuses are important on certain subtests), or not having a good rapport with the tester are some of the reasons a child might get a lower score than their "true" IQ.  However, a child cannot get a falsely high IQ score, because a child cannot perform above his or her ability. 

According to Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D. "... discrepancies among subtest scores are much greater among the gifted than among any other group.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), which establishes the criteria used by mental health professionals for various diagnoses, provides clear admonition against averaging subtest scores when they are highly discrepant.

When there is significant scatter in the subtest scores, the profile of strengths and weaknesses, rather than the mathematically derived full-scale IQ, will more accurately reflect the person’s learning abilities. When there is a marked discrepancy across verbal and performance scores, averaging to obtain a full-scale IQ score can be misleading. (p. 40)

This advice appears in the DSM-IV under the section on mental retardation. We recommend that the same caveat be used with the gifted. When discrepancies among subtest scores exceed 9 points, or when Verbal IQ and Performance IQ scores vary 15 or more points, the child’s strengths and weaknesses should be discussed separately rather than averaged. The strengths should be used as the best indication of the child’s giftedness." (Using Test Reports to Support Clinical Judgment)



Please note: Being listed here is not per se an endorsement of any particular site or email list. I have included annotations for those sites or lists that I am familiar with and strongly recommend.


Testing includes assessment for intelligence (IQ) and achievement.  Commonly used IQ tests include the WISC III, the SB-IV.  For highly gifted children, the SB-LM is often useful, but is heavily weighted towards verbal domains and may provide underestimates for kids with language-based LDs. It's can also be hard to find testers familiar with using it.  It is important to find a tester who understands that high "scatter" among subtest scores can be indicative of potential problems, even if all scores are above average.

The Wrightslaw site has an excellent article on “Understanding Tests and Measurements for the Parent and Advocate” by Peter W. D. Wright, Esq. and Pamela Darr Wright, M.A., M.S.W., Licensed Clinical Social Workerat

This article, "Assessing Children for the Presence of a Disability" by Betsy Waterman, Ph.D., is an overview of the process for anyone whose child is about to be assessed by their school.

The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation provides information concerning educational assessment, evaluation and research methodology.

Psychological testing for child and adolescent psychiatrists: a review of the past 10 years by Jeffrey M. Halperin, provides a review of frequently used psychological tests, with a focus on tests of intelligence, academic achievement, personality, and neuropsychological functioning.

Another article is Unraveling the Neuropsychological Assessment by Katherine D. Tsatsanis & Fred R. Volkmar

Professor Ron Dumont Farleigh Dickenson University and his associate John Willis have a nice set of resources at: http://alpha.fdu.edu/psychology/
In particular, there is a review and commentary on various tests at
a good discussion of issues in the identification of learning disabilities at
as well as information on interpreting Woodcock-Johnson tests at
for those of us who need something to cheer us through all this testing, the manual for the Dumont-Willis Extra Easy Evaluation Battery (DWEEEB) had me laughing aloud

Psychologist Margaret Kay, Ed.D., sets out appropriate assessment methods for a variety of different special needs at her website.  Click on the specific special need, and the end of the description will discuss assessment.

The WISC-IV has just been released.  You can read a technical paper from the publisher at

Functional Behavioral Assessments

“Functional Behavior Assessment” at the IDEApractices website:
To quote from the article, "FBA is a systematic process for describing problem behavior, and identifying the environmental factors and surrounding events associated with problem behavior. This information is used to identify and teach more appropriate replacement behaviors and to develop an effective plan for reducing the frequency or severity of the problem behavior."

Leslie Packer, Ph.D., has a particularly excellent discussion of behavior management, FBAs, etc. Start at http://www.tourettesyndrome.net/behavior.htm, and make sure that you read the section Acid Test (questions to determine whether there's a behavior problem to begin with), flowchart, and discussion of interventions.

“Addressing Problem Behaviors in Schools: Use of Functional Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans” by Robert A. Gable, Mary Magee Quinn, Robert B. Rutherford Jr., and Kenneth Howell

The Comprehensive Behavioral Support for Persons with Severe Behavior site has a detailed section on FBA and Positive Behavioral Support at

Current Issues in Education has the article "Functional Behavioral Assessment: The Link Between Problem Behavior and Effective Intervention in Schools" by Jeffrey A. Miller

Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice has a page on Functional Behavioral Assessments

OSEP (Office for Special Education Programs) has a Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions

Last updated Friday October 06, 2006

"Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction."
       ~ Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller's Teacher)

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