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What Is The Formal Process to Identify Gifted Children In the Public Educational System?

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Gifted children have intellectual abilities that extend beyond the normal developmental range for their age group. It is beneficial for professionals to identify gifted children so that they can receive the appropriate support and enrichment opportunities from the public education system.

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    Special education professionals are not only responsible for identifying children with developmental delays, but are also instrumental in the process used to identfiy gifted children. Students with an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) that falls in the gifted range often need supports in school that extend beyond those typically found in a mainstream classroom. For this reason, gifted children should be formally recognized as such, ideally as they are about to enter elementary school.

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    The Characteristics and Development of Gifted Children

    Some parents begin to recognize the characteristics of gifted children during the early stages of their child's development. Toddlers who have already learned to read or preschoolers who can solve math problems at the second-grade level are very likely to be classified as gifted children by the public education system. Children who are academically gifted will achieve high scores on IQ tests, anywhere from a mildly gifted score of 115 to an exceptionally gifted score of 180 or above. These tests provide a strong basis for determining how and where a child will be placed within a school setting and how much support they will receive from enrichment programs and classes.

    Gifted children often reach developmental milestones such as walking and talking at a faster rate than that of their neurotypical peers. They are inquisitive and motivated self-learners who tend to gravitate toward adults for intellectual conversation. Other characteristics of gifted children can include hypersensitivity, boredom when faced with curriculum that is below their intellectual capabilities, and strong artistic or musical abilities. Parents or teachers who observe a potentially gifted child can arrange for formal testing through the public school district or by private examiners.

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    Testing Gifted Children

    There are certain guidelines that should be followed when using standardized tests as a means of identifying gifted children. Most professionals recommend that children undergo testing between the ages of four and eight in order to ensure that the results are as accurate as possible. When determining a gifted child's IQ, evaluators can administer intelligence tests such as the Otis-Lennon or WISC-IV. Achievement tests, which measure a child's ability to grasp concepts that have been covered in the classroom, may also be utilized in the formal process of identifying gifted children.

    Tests that are designed to identify gifted children are beneficial in several ways. The results of these tests can pinpoint the specific academic strengths or weaknesses of a particular child. After a child has been officially identified as being gifted, educators will be able to offer support such as enrichment activities, modified curriculum, or placement in a gifted and talented program. While giftedness in areas such as athletics or the arts cannot be measured by standardized tests, children who excel in these areas can often enroll in specialized programs that are tailored to their profound abilities.

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