Test scores help distinguish gifted children

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Identifying a gifted child can be a contentious issue. Most districts use a combination of assessments.

In general, most districts require a student score in the 95th percentile on a group achievement test, such as the TerraNova, a score of at least a 125 on an IQ test, and parent and teacher referrals. Some districts, like Nell Holcomb, use a series of creativity tests as well.

"No one test can measure any child's ability. It's always been questioned," said Staci Beussink, a teacher for the gifted in Jackson.

A distinction must be made between a gifted student and a high achiever. A high achiever gets good grades, understands ideas and absorbs information. A gifted child constructs abstracts, manipulates information and draws inferences, Beussink said.

Gifted children tend toward sensitivity, intensity and perfectionism, though many can turn into underachievers if unmotivated. Other characteristics include a curious nature, more intense interests, an expanded vocabulary, a nonconforming streak and perceptiveness, according to teachers for the gifted. Gifted children typically come from gifted parents.

Polish psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski identified "overexcitabilities" common in gifted children, said gifted expert Stephanie Tolan.

There are five areas where gifted children can be "superstimulated," explained on the Web site www.hoagiesgifted.org. They are:

* Psychomotor: inability to sit still; requires less sleep; talks fast. These traits can lead to a diagnosis of ADHD in some gifted children.

* Sensual: more perceptive to smells, tastes, sounds or aesthetic experiences.

* Imaginational: can be seen as daydreamers; tend to magical thinking; use metaphors.

* Intellectual: good at brain teasers, puzzles, complex reasoning.

* Emotional: intense and broad range of emotions, natural empathy, susceptibility to depression.

Gifted students vary in their level and areas of giftedness. Some may be advanced in only one area. Others' social skills don't match their intellectual ability, said Leslie Wright-Essner, a teacher for the gifted in Cape Girardeau.

"You may have a kid who is 12 when he or she plays chess, 3 when asked to share a cookie, and 35 when discussing nuclear warfare," Tolan said.

-- Lindy Bavolek

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