Is my child gifted? A Guide to Identification

Is my child gifted?  It’s the thought on all of our minds.  They seem to pass all of the developmental milestones early.  Their vocabulary might be advanced.  Their math skills might blow you away.  They’re creative.  They ask hundreds of questions and they always want to know why.  Sometimes it seems like they can figure things out faster than we can.  So, is your child gifted? 

Unfortunately, there’s no clear definition of what it means to “be gifted.”  Thus, there’s no single way to determine if your child is gifted. Educational institutions and researchers set out varying definitions for giftedness. The National Association for Gifted Children identifies that “gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude(defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence(documented performance or achievement in the top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains.  These two definitions do not necessarily contrast each other, however, both leave a lot of ‘wiggle room’ for identification measures.  Nearly every state has its own definition of giftedness.  You can read about Gifted Education in NJ here.  

Varying researchers have proposed theoretical conceptions of giftedness.  Joseph Renzulli’s proposal, The Three Ring Conception for Giftedness, is currently the most widely accepted definition of giftedness.  Joseph Renzulli identifies three key characteristics that contribute to gifted behavior: above-average ability, task commitment and creativity.  These three key characteristics are referred to as the “three-ring conception of giftedness.”  Renzulli makes the distinction that these three key characteristics, combined, result in demonstrated gifted behavior.  Renzulli proposes “A Practical Guide to Identification” which utilizes multiple measures.  This is a model that some, but not all, schools subscribe to.  

Before you embark on a journey towards identification, identify WHY you need to classify your child.  Private testing can help you plan your child’s education.  It can help you to identify if your child might benefit from acceleration or a specialized school program.  Private testing might help you gain access to outside gifted programs, online programs, and summer camps.  

Despite these benefits, you might opt not to test your child.  Private testing can cost money; a rigorous assessment which includes both IQ and achievement testing can cost between $200 and $700.  Furthermore, it is important to identify WHY you want to test your child.  If you can’t find a reason to test your child for giftedness then you should probably wait.  There are so many different paths to identification.  Certain paths to identification might not be sufficient for your purposes.  The purpose of identification is to prove to an agency, organization or institution that your child needs more, or something different, than what is being provided. ​​


If you are looking for resources outside of your child’s school then the program will likely provide you with a list of acceptable tests, assessments, or measures.  ​​​

If you are planning to lobby the school district for resources then you will need to find out what forms of testing, assessments or other measures they will accept.  Some other tests commonly used to identify gifted students include:

  • Achievement Tests
    • Test of Mathematical Abilities for Gifted Students 
    • SAGES (Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary Students
    • NWEA MAP Test
    • Other Achievement tests with either no ceiling or a very high ceiling. 
    • Above Grade Level Testing
      • SAT
      • ACT
      • EXPLORE

As you can see, there are many different tools that are used to identify gifted students.  Determining which test is right for your child will be dependent upon your overall goals.  

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