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What should I look for in a psychological evaluation?

by Meredith Warshaw, parent

1. When you had your child tested, what did you look for in a psychologist?
I am fortunate that one of the psychologists who is frequently mentioned on gifted lists works 1/2 hour from here. I contacted her by email and ended up having her test my son.
2. What tests, evaluations, assessments were performed?
My son had previously been tested using the WISC. In his evaluation with the psychologist who was expert in evaluating gifted kids, he was tested using the Stanford Binet - LM and the Woodcock-Johnson.
3. What feedback, recommendations, etc. did you receive?
She explained to us something about his WISC scores that the original tester hadn't mentioned (and, I think, probably wasn't even aware of) - that the large discrepancy between his block design and digit span scores indicate that he's a strongly visual-spatial learner. This knowledge has proven extremely important in understanding his learning style.

On the SB-LM, she was able to give us mental ages in a variety of areas - mathematical concepts, conceptual reasoning, verbal ability, etc. The most striking thing about my son was how scattered he is - he has adult level math and conceptual reasoning, 10 to 13 years old on most other areas, and age-level social reasoning (he was not yet 7 during this testing). In some ways, this made the SB-LM score less informative, since it gives one score (equivalent to mental age) for a child whose abilities are clearly multi-modal. It was therefore very important that the psychologist's final report included the mental age equivalents for the various components. However, the adult level math and conceptual reasoning was certainly helpful discussing why he needs to be in a class with older kids, and not just get some harder math problems in a class with kids his age and younger.

The Woodcock-Johnson scores were helpful because they are achievement tests. For math and science, he tested in the 10 year old range, while his lowest score was in the high 7 year old range (he was not yet 7). This gave ammunition to show the school that he should be able to cope with an 8-10 year old class next year, since his lowest scores were in the same range as other kids who would be entering the class. His lowest scores were in reading and writing, where I might have expected him to be just at age level, especially since he's learning to read and write Hebrew and English concurrently.

4. What it worth the effort in terms of getting more appropriate education for your child?
It got him the grade skip for next year. I'm certain he would not have gotten it without the testing. Incidentally, his teacher commented on the improvement in his cooperation on tasks he doesn't like once he knew he'd be accelerated next year and needed to work on those areas to make the acceleration work!
5. How did your child perceive the testing?
He enjoyed it, for the most part. He liked the WISC better than the SB-LM, but that's largely because the WISC has more visual-spatial tasks than the SB-LM, which is mainly verbal.
6. How much difference did it make having a tester who specializes in gifted kids?
There's no doubt in my mind that it made a big difference, despite the first tester having been very good and having a good rapport with my son (the original testing was for ADD, not gifted). The second tester broke the SB-LM testing into two sessions when she found my son tiring after the first 1 1/2 hours. She encouraged him when he was giving "I don't know" answers to questions because he was tired by saying things like "I think you really do know, don't you?"

She also wrote a report that was very compelling as to why he needed acceleration. She included information I gave her, such as the 8-10 year old class having a science specialist while the 6-8 year old class doesn't. When I asked her to make a few minor revisions to the report that I thought would elicit a better response from the school, she cheerfully complied.

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn...and change. - Carl Rogers
Editor's Note:
For more information on testing and evaluation of gifted children, read Dr. Julia Osborn's article "Assessing Gifted Children" and Dr. Miraca Gross' article "Issues in Assessing the Highly Gifted" in Understanding Our Gifted, Winter 1998, Volume 10, Issue 2. 

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