At my son’s school, we have a special program called the “Challenge” program.  It is for students that are supposedly academically “gifted”.  The class is a pull-out program, so children that qualify for this service are pulled out of their academic classes for additional instruction.  Children qualify for this program based on two screening instruments (“tests”), a teacher profile and a parent profile.

My child is in this program.  Do I think my child is academically gifted?  I don’t know.  He is an extremely bright boy, and he has many gifts, but I don’t believe that we can truly measure his intelligence (or potential) yet, not even at 8 and in 2nd grade. 

When Travis first entered public school in first grade, they tested him immediately.  The problem was that it was two weeks into the new school year, and he was in major shell-shock.  Adjusting to the environment and routine had put a small strain on his structured life, and he completely freaked at the test because he couldn’t complete it – it became too difficult, too long, too tiresome.  He shut down.

Fast forward 7 months and they retested him.  And this time, he passed. 

I think, at least for my son, that it was a comfort/familiarity issue for him.  That, and he’s a perfectionist.  If he gets to a question and can’t figure out the answer, it will bug him and bug him until he can’t do anything else. 

All that being said, I’m getting the opportunity to see Special Education at work.  Because gifted programs ARE Special Education programs.  Unfortunately, many districts look at truly gifted children and put their needs on the back burner, so to speak.  Many people feel that gifted individuals are independent and self-motivated learners when in fact, gifted children often fail and are hit with many social and academic issues because of the way their brains work.  Schools are responsible for meeting their needs, just as they are responsible for every other child in that building.  Our program at our school is not ideal; my child misses out on regular classroom instruction and has to independently make up the work he misses three times a week.  However, our pull out program is indeed focused on alternative means of solving problems, stretching the thought processes, and tapping into each child’s strength.  His instructor works very closely with the classroom teacher and myself to ensure that we are meeting my son’s needs.

Before you can even get to this point, though, you have to stop and ask, what are indicators that a child might have tendencies towards academic giftedness?  There are several signs that might be apparent at different ages to signal if a child might be functioning at a higher level than his or her peers.  Let’s look at 5 – 8 year olds (children at earlier ages are developing and changing at such varied paces that labeling a two year old as “gifted” is extremely difficult)…Here are some indicators that he or she might need the extra help and attention of gifted instruction:

  • understand higher order mathematics and language
  • enjoy discussing ethical, moral or religious issues
  • can perform mathematical computations in his or her head, even before they are taught in school
  • uses a large vocabulary, tends to talk ‘above’ peers
  • leads others in games, activities, assignments
  • is confident in his or her thoughts and ideas
  • loves school and does well in school (though not always – this can be a hazy issue for gifted individuals)
  • loves to make up stories, enjoys drawing and illustrating
  • likes to make up his or her own songs
  • “gets” humor
  • enjoys spending time with adults and older individuals
  • can accomplish academic assignments two years above his or her age level
  • may be highly sensitive
  • can memorize quickly and easily and has excellent recall
  • IQ testing around 130

IQ testing in children over the age of 5 has been proven to show very little fluctuation in numbers as the child grows, as long as the testing environment is ideal and the participant participates fully.  “Normal intelligence” is usually noted in the range of an IQ score of 85 – 115.  However, please understand that IQ testing is only one tool used to measure a child’s intelligence.  Other factors should also be used, such as anecdotal records of teachers and parents, observations of the child  by the evaluator in a variety of situations, and even personality and academic records.