The reasons not to give IQ tests to young children are compelling. As the Youth Education Ambassador for Mensa®, I receive inquiries every day (sometimes with accompanying videos) from parents (and grandparents) wanting to know how to get a young child tested. Mensa allows youth fourteen and over to take the t, and it done outside of Mensa by schools or psychologists, but it does not test young children. Although you might think Mensa would have a vested interest in having people test young children so they could join the organization, it actually takes no opinion. I, however, do. These opinions are mine alone. If you test a child who is three years old and the score is high (say two standard deviations above the mean or more), the odds that that score will be the same if the child were tested six years later are very, very low. It’s the equivalent of the IQ lottery.
Possible, but don’t make it part of your retirement plan. The problem with that is that parents then carry that unstable score number in their heads and it compromises their ability to make appropriate choices later. It is very hard to tease apart giftedness and precociousness in young children, and if you are an early reader with a strong vocabulary and good memory, you can end up with a much higher score than you would if you were tested when you were older. The scores are more likely to be stable if all of the subtest scores are aligned, so it is possible to get a fairly accurate score at this age, but unlikely. So unlikely, in fact, that the odds that it will detrimental instead of useful are too high to make it a good idea in most cases. We’ve all heard stories of two-year-olds joining Mensa and wondered what in the world was going on. Quite often, the parent was having the child evaluated for something else and the IQ testing was done as part of a larger evaluation. For instance, I had one of my children evaluated for speech therapy, and he got a as part of that evaluation. When a parent wants a child tested purely for an IQ, the parent needs to carefully examine his or her own motives. Testing should not be done on a whim, for pure curiosity, or to prove a point. Testing should only ever be done to serve the child, and that is rarely necessary at very young ages. It is occasionally, but that is unusual. If you have a child who is not meeting developmental milestones or there is some other cause for concern or evaluation, that’s when it may be called for. Your pediatrician can and should be the one to help you decide if this is the case, not teachers or grandparents or others who say, Wow, he can count to ten in Spanish? You should get him tested! Mensa offers a lot for even young children, so I recommend that if you ve got a super bright young kiddo, the parents should and enjoy the resources until the child is old enough for testing. Just like tennis racquets, IQ testing has a sweet spot. In my opinion, that sweet spot is somewhere between seven and twelve years old (others may disagree, and I’m not married to this range, I am just seriously dating it). In the sweet spot, you get a lovely, accurate score that allows you make good educational decisions for the child. Ace!
Outside of the sweet spot, your results are trickier to make solid use of. Can you test adults? Of course. Can you test young children. Obviously. But if you are really looking to know intellectual ability and potential, I’d love to see your sweet spot scores. IQ tests are pictures, not CT scans. They tell you what that person looked like on that day, with that test, with that test administrator, under those specific conditions. What they don’t tell you is a longer list. They don’t tell you how the child would do on a different day, with a different test, with a different administrator, whether the child will do well in school or can share toys, and on and on. Now, we can’t control every factor, but the younger the person being tested is, the more important it is to get the child evaluated by someone really good. By that I mean someone who not only works with the gifted but also with young children. The problem is that very few people with these reputations like to test very young children simply to get an IQ score for a curious parent. Parents then sometimes turn to less reputable businesses with fiscal incentive to give a high score. Parents seeking testing for very young children are vulnerable to testing predators out to make a buck, not share good information. So many school districts do universal screening for gifted programs with abilities tests or will conduct an assessment if requested that spending literally hundreds or thousands of dollars on an IQ test for a young child is money that would much better spent shoved in a 579 plan and set aside for the child’s college. Even if you decide to test yourself later, it’s money I believe is better spent at an older age. This is especially true in light of the fact that your odds of great, stable scores are slim. You really want to know if your four-year-old is gifted for free? Show her a Monty Python movie and if she laughs, she’s gifted.
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No, really, gifted kids get that crazy humor (and the adult innuendo, unfortunately). I m kidding of course, but I could literally give a you a list of ten thousand things a three-year-old needs more than an IQ test, and I have had people ask me how to test the IQs of frozen embryos. I only wish that were hyperbole. I was an English teacher for a very long period of time. In the revision process of writing, I would teach my students to give each paragraph the “So What? ” Test. This test asks, “So what? What does this say that is vital information that furthers the purpose of the essay? ”Testing very young children rarely passes this test. So what? So what if the IQ is super high? How does that further your purpose in parenting? “Gifted” is an adjective modifying the noun “child, ” and it is that noun that guides the verbs of parenting. Young gifted children are, at essence, children, and they need the same things all young children need: time spent with parents, books read to them, unstructured play time, a modest array of quality toys (like cardboard boxes), love and time outdoors. They do not need flashcards, so-called “educational toys, ” parents who teach them cognitive cocktail party tricks to display for friends, or formal education. You don’t need a score to give them that. The Pythagoreans believed six to be the first perfect number, yet this list is far from perfect. There will be many, perhaps, who will disagree with me on this, and I’m open to that. This is simply my opinion.
I’d far rather have parents relax a little and enjoy their children without worrying that if they don’t get the child tested and on some kind of bogus mind development program at a young age, then the child will not achieve his or her potential. My first question would be, potential for what? For happiness? For kindness? For love? These are the important things of life. My friend has a son with fairly severe brain damage. Will never achieve cognitive milestones or cure cancer, but he shares loves unending, and no test is needed for that. Love your young children, read to them, crawl on the floor with them, and play a few games of Candyland® instead of testing them. Trust me. Testing can wait. So say my child did get tested at age 8 because we took her into a psychologist for behavioral issues and that was the test she was given. Say my 8 year old tested at 685 and above in some areas and now at age six I, her mother, am at a loss as what to do with/for her. She is bored at school (kindergarten) her behavior while better is still very hard for her parents/teachers to handle and there is no such thing as a gifted program her at this time. We didn t ask for the test and didn t know not to, but everything about our daughter screams gifted. She fits so many of the criteria. She was NOT just a precocious child (we have three others to know the difference). What advice would you give to us at this time? Thanks. Well, your question isn t really a testing question, it s a school question.
That s harder. I d read through other resources, not just here but in the Bright Kids Facebook Group, the Hoagies Facebook Group, and through NAGC. Boredom is a lot more complex than we often give it credit for, so it s impossible for me to give specific advice for a child I haven t met. However, all of the resources I named can give you ideas about what other parents have done. The only one I haven t mentioned is homeschooling, which is an awesome option for gifted kids. Thank you Monique! I am struggling with getting my 6 year old what she needs from the school. She is so far ahead of her kindergarten class that she does her sister s 7nd grade math homework for fun. She accomplishes perfect answers in a fraction of the time of her sister (a bright girl in her own right), and she has never been taught the subject matter. My reason for wanting her tested is to be able to go the administration at her school and say Look! I am not blowing her intelligence out of proportion, she needs more! My mother said it was my own fault, knowing so much! Bought up with a sister 65 years older than me, I really could have used that social interaction in Kinder. Instead, I was seated in a stiff row seat, requiring to walk up to a teacher in fear, showing her my work and getting red marks for my writing. I cannot remember speaking to anyone at all in 6st grade! We both felt we had missed something very needed in our lives. Do not test your child! Also, I am a grandparent, retired executive assistant and nanny. I advise you to send your child to pre-school for the social interaction and prep for elementary school. Well, I would say that your experience isn t necessarily indicative of all people, and I m a huge fan of acceleration.