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Testing for the Young Gifted

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I am a mother to a 33mths old toddler, Joshua. Can you help me with my queries and doubts regarding Joshua?

My hubby and I do suspect that we have a gifted child on hand but not very sure. Joshua can read and spell (7 words) at the age of 20 months. He started independent reading at 2 years old. Now, he can read any books (even adult books where the words are so small...but, of course, he prefers bigger words).

Not only that, he can do a 104 pieces of Disney puzzle at the age of 2. Prior to this, he tried 4, 6, 16, 24, 68, 80 pieces puzzle too. We showed him less than 5 times and he can do it on his own. Needless to say, he is now trying his hands on a 200 pieces puzzle. He loves puzzle and he can sit there patiently to do it.

Joshua's motor skill is good. At 2 years old, he can take the escalator without help and he climbs stairs without support (no need to hold on to railings). His fine motor skills is not as good though ... though now he is feeding himself, buttoning and dressing himself.

A little background about me. I used to be a school teacher and I read up a lot on how to stimulate him and I did that with him ever since birth because I resigned and be a stay at home mum exclusively for him. I did Glenn Doman program ( How to Teach Your Baby to Read ) with him when he was 1 year old and he started reading at 20 months - amazing. Not only read but he can spell his own name and 7 other words. My hubby spent a lot of time playing, teaching and stimulating him also.

His pediatrician said he is very advanced for his age and he thinks he is subjectively gifted. He commented that Joshua is about 1-2 yrs ahead of his peers.

I would like to know when is a good age to get him tested for IQ? Is testing at 3 years old too early for the result to be accurate? Also, from what I have said, do you think Joshua is gifted? I find he is very strong in language, fast to grasp concepts. Please advice, thanks.

A: From your description, Joshua is definitely ahead of his peers based on his developmental milestones. As parents, you have both indeed done a very good job in nurturing his abilities and are right on track.

He is indeed rather young to be tested; you may want to wait a little longer when he turns four. It is recommended that if the need be, children can be tested between the ages of four and eight. This is because IQ scores in younger children tend to be unstable due to a variety of external influences that may have a negative impact on the testing session. Different tests may cater for different age groups, depending on the skills that are expected based on age. The youngest age for testing for preschoolers is at four. At a younger age, IQ scores can become depressed as children grow older due to the ceiling effects of many assessment instruments.

Generally, IQ testing for young children helps parents with a platform to provide appropriate educational opportunities for their children. Having said that, whether a child is tested or not, parents are the best judges of their child's abilities and they are recognized rather early usually by observing their developmental milestones. Formal assessment at a later stage (at ages 4 and above) serves as a validation for parents. The very fact is that, even before a child is formally assessed (at two or three years of age), parents who are aware of their child's above average abilities would usually provide enrichment in areas of their child's strength - these enrichment activities are fun-based and very much more educational in terms of value than confirmation of a high IQ score. This is what you have been doing and have indeed done well. There is no doubt that early intervention promotes optimal development.

Do not be too concerned about his fine motor skills - after all he is cognitively advanced but physically he is still a very young child. That would come with age and practice. Carry on what you have been doing to stimulate and challenge him without pushing too hard and he will do fine. You may want to have his IQ tested after he turns four to help you cater for his needs. Keep up the good work and good luck!


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