New to gifted? Wondering how best to support your child? Looking for the root cause behind your child's challenges? Here are the most common questions we hear from families.
Where do I find schools for gifted kids?
There are many options for schooling for gifted students, and there is no single best option. Here are some choices you might consider:
Public school. In Washington State, every school district is required to identify and serve "highly capable" (HiCap) students in grades K-12. However, school districts vary greatly in the program models they provide. Some districts offer full-time (or "self-contained") HiCap classrooms, typically for elementary grades, where an entire classroom full of HiCap kids is formed, usually pulling from multiple schools (List of districts that offer full-time HiCap classrooms). Other districts may offer cluster grouping (grouping HiCap students into the same general education classroom), with the expectation that teachers differentiate for the cluster group of HiCap students in their classroom. A few districts provide enrichment or pull-out programs for HiCap students. For secondary grades, look for schools that offer HiCap classroom sections for academic classes in middle school. High school options can vary, with different schools offering Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge, as well as Honors or Advanced courses in various topic areas. Washington State also supports students attending community colleges for free in 11th and 12th grades through the Running Start program (and some families have been able to access community colleges before 11th grade with advocacy). We also are lucky to have the UW Robinson Center programs that provide for early college options. Typical entrance points for the UW Early Entrance programs are to apply in 7th/8th grade for Transition School, or in 10th grade for the Academy program.
Private school. There are a handful of private schools in our state that specifically serve gifted students. You can find a list on our Schools page. There are also many private schools that can be an excellent fit for a gifted student, depending on needs. Some schools that specialize in learning disabilities may also be a good fit, depending on needs.
Homeschooling. Many families of gifted students turn to homeschooling to meet their child's asynchronous needs. This is especially true for Twice Exceptional students, who have a learning disability or other challenge in addition to high IQ. There are extensive homeschooling resources available in Washington state and nationally. Take a look at our Homeschooling page for details.
How does my child qualify for a HiCap program in my public school district?
Every school district in Washington state is mandated by law to identify students for their Highly Capable program, grades K-12. However, districts have quite a bit of latitude in how they go about doing that. To learn how your school district does it, search for your school district's name and the words "highly capable." They should have a web page posted that explains their program(s) and identification process.
Most school districts use group-administered tests, rather than a formal IQ test to identify students for HiCap programs. This is because an IQ test requires a licensed psychologist to administer it one-on-one, and districts don't have the staff or funding to do this for all students. Many districts also do not accept outside IQ testing to qualify kids for programs - even if you already have results available. Usually a district uses two types of tests. First, an assessment that attempts to measure raw ability, reasoning ability, and overall potential, such as the Naglieri Nonverbal Abilities Test (NNAT) or the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT). Second, many districts also use an assessment that measures academic achievement, such as the Iowa Tests in Math and/or Reading, the Stanford Achievement Tests, or the Smarter Balanced Assessment that is administered to all Washington state students starting in 3rd grade.
What are the applicable laws that districts need to follow?
Districts do have some rules they need to follow that are laid out by OSPI (the Washington state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction). Here are some of the most important highlights. You can find the full text on the OSPI Highly Capable Website.
Districts need to file an annual plan with OSPI over the summer that needs to be approved by the school board. You should be able to access your district's annual plan filing by keeping an eye on school board meeting agendas.
Districts are required by law to identify and serve their "most highly capable" students in grades K-12.
Since 2014, districts have been required to "use multiple objective criteria to identify highly capable students." In 2018 this was clarified: “Using multiple objective criteria to identify highly capable students” means that multiple pathways for qualification are available, and that no single criteria shall eliminate a student from identification."
There is no cap to how many students a district can qualify. The law references 5% of total district enrollment as part of a funding formula, but that does NOT imply that districts should be identifying 5% of their population. Many districts identify well more than 5%.
OSPI guidance says that districts should not use hard score cutoffs for qualifying kids, but rather should use professional judgment to evaluate each student's need for highly capable services based on a portfolio of evidence. This is OSPI guidance to districts; sadly, it is not written in law.
As of 2017, districts are required to “prioritize equitable identification of low-income students.”
As of 2018: "Highly capable selection decisions are based on consideration of criteria benchmarked on local norms, where local norms shall not be used as a more restrictive criteria than national norms at the same percentile."
As of 2018: "Subjective measures such as teacher recommendations or report card grades shall not be used to screen out a student from assessment. These data points may be used alongside other objective criteria during selection to support identification, but may never be used to disqualify a student from being identified"
As of 2018: "To the extent practicable, screening and assessments shall be given in the native language of the student, or non-verbal assessments are used.
Should I get my child's IQ tested?
If everything is going well for your child - they are doing well in school, are being challenged enough in their academics to develop persistence, have friends, and are generally happy, then there's really no need to test their IQ.
Here are the reasons why you might need an IQ test:
You want to apply to a private school that requires an IQ score.
You have concerns about your child's development - socially, emotionally, or academically. Perhaps there is a hidden learning disability or other challenge.
Your child isn't qualifying for the HiCap program at your public school, and you want to know if it's worth continuing to try.
You suspect your child may be Profoundly Gifted. If they have an IQ score above 145, they will qualify for some free, national resources offered through the Davidson Institute for Talent Development in Reno, NV.
How do I get an IQ test done?
You need to find a neuropsychologist or psychologist who is licensed to administer an IQ test. Take a look at our list of professionals. Note that you will likely not be able to get your public school to do an IQ test unless you have some very significant academic concern (most schools require a student to be performing two grade levels below standard before they are willing to assess them).
It is pretty important to find someone who has experience working with gifted kids. Because IQ tests are administered one-on-one and are primarily oral, it is vital that your student has a good rapport with the professional administering the test. It is also important that the professional knows what to do when your child gives an unusual (but correct) answer to a question that may not be exactly what is written in the answer book. Also, some testers (especially in public schools) will stop asking higher level questions even if the student has not reached the official "discontinue" criteria (getting a few items wrong in a row), figuring that the child is already scoring "high enough" - and so the final results may be an under-estimate of the child's IQ.
I think my child may be Twice Exceptional (2e). How do I get that diagnosed?
It is extraordinarily common for gifted students to also have a learning disability or other challenge alongside high IQ. This can result in a puzzling difference between home and school, asynchronous achievement in different subject areas, and often difficult behavior problems. There are many, many possibilities that may be affecting your child, and diagnosis can be tricky.
First, it is important to use a professional who is skilled at diagnosing gifted kids. There are many common gifted traits that also are used as diagnostic criteria for common disabilities, such as ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders. This problem is so important that a national organization, SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted), has been running a Misdiagnosis Initiative to help bring more research and information about these diagnostic challenges to practitioners.
The following types of practitioners may be helpful in chasing down a diagnosis:
Neuropsychologist - for a complete neuropsychological assessment, which typically includes IQ testing, achievement testing, and could also include specific testing for dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Anxiety, Depression, etc. depending on the concerns expressed by parents. Some neuropsychologists specialize, and may offer more comprehensive evaluation in some disability areas than others.
Psychologist - some psychologists are licensed to administer IQ testing and sometimes other testing as well. See above.
Occupational Therapist - for sensory issues, balance, feeding, handwriting issues (dysgraphia), muscle strength, grip strength, etc.
Speech & Language Therapist - for speech or articulation concerns. Can also sometimes shed light on possible dyslexia/dysgraphia but usually can't give a formal diagnosis.
Dyslexia/Dysgraphia Tutor - can't provide a formal diagnosis, but usually can give an excellent idea of whether there are concerns that warrant intervention. Note that you do not need a diagnosis to start working with a tutor.
Audiologist, especially a CAPD specialist - for central auditory processing concerns, as well as general hearing.
Developmental Optometrist - for vision processing concerns (teaming, tracking, convergence, etc.), as well as general vision.
Medical Doctors - many medical conditions can affect achievement, or mimic symptoms of ADHD, Autism Spectrum, or other disabilities. It's important to rule out medical causes.