Ask Dr. Z
By Laura Zipris, Psy. D., LMHC
Dear Dr. “Z”,
In August 2012, my daughter will be entering the 3rd grade and my son will be entering kindergarten in the public schools. I have always felt that both of my children were bright but in different ways. My daughter has always excelled in school and she is quite studious and independent. My son seems less interested in academics then my daughter was at the same age, but he “Wow’s” me all the time with his extensive knowledge base and advanced vocabulary. Their teachers have indicated to me, respectively, that my child may be gifted. I’m not quite sure how this is determined and if I should go through the public schools to pursue eligibility. Could you please help me to understand the process and the pros and cons of pursuing testing through the schools?
You are correct in knowing that potentially both of your children may be gifted even though they present quite differently!
When looking toward gifted eligibility within the school district, certain criteria must be met. Typically, to be considered for the Gifted Program within the Palm Beach County school district, a child must present with cognitive abilities that fall within the top 2% of the norm population. This usually corresponds to an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of 130 or above. In addition, the child must also present with advanced academic skills (at or above the 90th percentile in reading and/or math). The best way to determine this information is through an individual evaluation of the child’s cognitive and academic abilities. This is done by a licensed psychologist or school psychologist. In addition to the testing, a teacher endorsement (this is a checklist list completed by the current classroom teacher evaluating the child’s gifted characteristics) must also be obtained. The ultimate decision for placement then rests with the school based committee who reviews all the test data and anecdotal information available on the child.
If you decide to pursue an evaluation through your home school, typically the school will conduct a free screening. This is usually comprised of two subtests of an IQ screener. Based on the results they obtain, they may then choose to pursue a full evaluation (at no cost to you) or they recommend an end to the process. Understand that given the volume of requests that the school district receives, there may be a significant wait. You may request an evaluation on your daughter right now, but you may not request an evaluation of your son through the school until he has entered kindergarten there.
You can also choose to pursue a private evaluation. Typically, the cost for gifted testing through a private psychologist/school psychologist ranges from $350 to $600. The benefits of a private evaluation include the ability to choose the psychologist you want to work with, the ability to discuss any special needs your child has, such as being shy or withdrawn or inattentive, a quicker turnaround time, the ability to test your preschooler prior to entering kindergarten, the ability to know exactly when, where and with whom the testing will be conducted, etc.
If you do pursue testing and your child is eligible, know that the gifted program may not be housed at your home school. Some schools have a full day program, while other schools have half day or just a pull out program a few times a week. It is important to understand all of your options in this regard. You can call the ESE contact at your home school and he or she can explain these options to you. This is a parent choice program so you do not have to choose a specific placement once your child is made eligible for the gifted program.
I hope this helps you determine the direction you want to go. Good luck to you!
Laura Zipris holds a doctorate in Psychology and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in New York, as well as in Florida. Laura is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, a transformational approach that has been used successfully with couples around the world to help them to strengthen their partnerships, deepen their connection and reignite their passion for one another. Laura sees individuals of all ages and sexual orientations, couples, families, and groups in her office located in Delray Beach. For more information about Laura, please visit her website at www.drlaurazipris.com or to set up an appointment, contact Laura directly at (561) 558-7815.
Questions for this column should be sent to “Dr. Z” atDrlaurazip@gmail.com.