To Test or Not To Test

I’m often asked about neuropsychological evaluation/testing: is it worth it, when is the best age, what to do with it, whom do I recommend. In the labyrinth of giftedness, a neuropsych test can provide a bit of a map.

What is a neuropsych test?

“A neuropsychological evaluation, also called neuropsychological testing, is an in-depth assessment of skills and abilities linked to brain function. The evaluation measures such areas as attention, problem solving, memory, language, I.Q., visual-spatial skills, academic skills, and social-emotional functioning.”

Basically, it’s a test that will tell you how your child best learns, strengths and weaknesses, an IQ score, and recommendations such as after school programs, therapies, in-class differentiation, IEPs, etc. A full workup can take 2 days or more of one-on-one evaluations, and can cost $5,000 or more. It is rarely covered by insurance, so the decision to spend the time and money can be difficult.

There are several options for tests other than a full neuropsych panel (which can include the WISC, Woodcock-Johnson, CogAT, Otis-Lennon, etc). Some evaluators will charge by the hour and can do just an IQ test, or you can opt for an achievement test vs an ability test (what they know vs IQ). These options are considerably cheaper but not as thorough.

When to test?

Start by asking yourself why you’re thinking about testing. Is there an issue that you’re trying to get to the bottom of? You already know you have a gifted kid on your hands and are trying to get into a special school or receive services? A neuropsych test can uncover things like ADD, dyslexia, OCD, depression, social-emotional functioning, processing speed, and of course IQ. Many gifted kids are 2E, meaning high IQ with a disability, and pediatricians and teachers can become focused only on the disability side and insist your child isn’t gifted. A neuropsych can provide proof that support is needed not just for the disability but also for the giftedness.

As far as age, the best time to test for giftedness is between 4-8. Testing too early can yield inaccurate results, and testing later can mean missed opportunities and interventions if needed. If you want to re-test, know that most evaluators will not conduct a new test until at least a year has passed from the previous one.

How do I choose an evaluator?

You’ll start by looking at psychologists and neuropsychologists who specialize in giftedness. This is important for a few reasons: the evaluator needs to be familiar with ceilings of common tests like the WISC and adaptable to the common struggles of gifted kids, such as struggling with transitions, perfectionism, delayed fine motor skills. You’ll then want to speak with them about their philosophies, fees, and time lines. Many of the well-regarded evaluators will have wait lists of months, and the report itself can take several weeks to prepare. Your child will also have to miss several days of school unless you schedule it during the summer. When it comes down to the final decision, rely on your gut. You know your child better than any one else. Trust yourself to choose an evaluator who will work well with you and your child.

Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page has a list of some testers who work with gifted kids. It’s not a complete list but a good place to start!

What do I do with the results?

What you do with the results is completely up to you. Most evaluators will include a section on recommendations for your child’s teachers and school – which may include IEP/504 information. They may also suggest therapy or tutoring as needed. However, you do not need to share the testing if you don’t want to.

Your child will obviously wonder what the results are. Some families choose to not share any of the results with their children, while others hand over the full report for them to read. Again, it’s completely up to you and your family. I have found that acknowledging a child’s giftedness and explaining it to them is very helpful; they already know they’re different and having a label and numbers to go with it can help them embrace those differences. This is especially true if the child is 2E and feels ‘dumb’. Showing them that they just struggle in a particular area or two but are capable of amazing things can be very motivating and encouraging! However, you know your child best and will do what works for your family.

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