Sharing Test Results with Your Child

Betty Maxwell, M.A.

 

Many parents ask for advice as to what to tell their child following testing or a post-test conference. Each child is different and so each situation has its own gestalt, but there are some generalizations we would like to pass on for your consideration. We feel it is important to stick to the truth but speak in child-friendly ways.

 

Do acknowledge their giftedness. Gifted children already know that they are different. Even very young children quickly see that they learn faster, use different words, think at a different level, and often feel more deeply than their classmates. They are more likely to be hugely upset by unfairness even when it does not involve them. They are different in their sensitivities. Some take that difference to heart as meaning that something is wrong, perhaps with them. It is reassuring to learn that yes, they are different. Their perceptions are correct. Furthermore, this is a good difference; they are blessed with minds that are curious, understand information quickly, and want to learn as much as they can as quickly as they can. This difference certainly does not mean that they are better than others, just that they learn very fast, have active minds, and have fun learning.

 

It may also be helpful for them to know that they have minds more like older children’s. That may help reassure them about why they often feel more comfortable with older companions. They need to realize that there are a lot of differences among people and that people have different kinds of minds that work at different rates. Differences are good.

 

Acknowledge that they learn more and learn faster than most children. They may learn so fast that it is hard for the teacher, who has many other children to teach, to keep up with them. That is just the way things are. Brainstorm with your child about what she would like to be different in school and then work with her school to find ways to meet her needs. Possibilities include having more challenging work to do where she is, going to another grade level for a class, or setting up projects she can do quietly when she has mastered what the class is learning. You want her continued input about how things are going. Let her know that you are there for her, to work toward the best possible situation. If creative solutions cannot be found in her school, consider moving her to another school.

 

We feel it is better to speak in terms of “a great mind” than to say “You are so smart.” This keeps things in terms of ownership by the child: it is his good mind, like his bike, his talent for drawing, his love of Pokemon or Minecraft, his quick sense of humor. To be so smart can be a burden; to have parts that work well is fortunate. He will be better able to handle being different if he has a sense of being able to use his giftedness rather than have it use him.

 

We do not feel it is wise to share numerical scores with your child, especially when there are siblings who may compete over those numbers. It is accurate and helpful to use ranges of ability, such as “gifted,” “highly gifted,” “exceptionally gifted,” or “profoundly gifted” and to explain in terms that are meaningful for the child that her particular range is a certain distance from average. It is good to talk with her about differences she has observed between herself and others her age. Does she think they are brain differences, age differences, temperament differences, likes and dislikes? Let her know she is likely to find friends who are many different ages. Each will have something unique to share with her.

 

Often gifted children have weaknesses as well as strengths. Many times these weaknesses have a physiological basis. The most common is being very intelligent but having average (or below average) motor skills. Your child might have a mind that soars like an eagle but be slow as a sloth when it comes to writing. Processing difficulties may get in the way of reading comfortably (visual processing) or following verbal instructions (auditory processing). Distractibility may lead to creative listening; your child fills in the gaps of what he thinks he heard and may be right part of the time. Children who are gifted and have disabilities are twice exceptional and need accommodation for both strengths and weaknesses. This may be a difficult concept to get across to teachers and administrators, but also to the child himself.

 

One way that we have found to explain it is to say, “You have a wonderful mind that races ahead of (your eyes, your ears, your fingers, etc.). We are going to find you some help to train your (eyes, etc.) to catch up with your body so that things will go better. They will probably give you some exercises to do or have other ideas that will get all your parts to work more in sync. Of course, your mind is so fast it will probably always be out ahead, but we can do things to close the gap.”

 

If a special learning plan is being set up at school, your child should participate, whatever her age, in sharing what she would like to have happen. She should also take part in any review process. Coping with giftedness is an ongoing process that is best met with openness, good feedback, and creative ingenuity. Parents’ support makes that coping possible.