“Is My Child Gifted?”

Has that question hovered in your mind? You may have noticed that your child seems to learn without even being taught. Or maybe he or she is extremely articulate with a surprisingly developed vocabulary. Your child’s teachers may have pulled you aside at some point and used pretty strong language about how well your child has done academically. Is my child gifted?

The first step to answering this question in Douglas County School District (DCSD) is to have your child take the Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT). The CogAT measures children’s reasoning abilities and is used as a screening test in DCSD for gifted identification. The CogAT is available to every child in DCSD and it’s free!

There is a catch: the CogAT is automatically given to third graders and to children in the last grade of elementary school (5th or 6th grade, depending on the school). If your child is not in one of those grade levels, you will need to request that your child be given the CogAT. In order to request the CogAT, begin by speaking with your child’s teacher. They will be able to put you in contact with the gifted education facilitator (aka GT Resource Teacher or GT Liaison) in your school. This person is also listed here on the DCSD website. (Click on the “Neighborhood Programming” tab and then “DCSD Gifted Education Facilitators” in the Resources box.) Gifted education facilitators are great resources and advocates for gifted learners and their families. They observe students throughout the year and actively seek out possible candidates to take the CogAT based on teacher and/or parent recommendations.

The gifted education facilitator is the person who will make sure your child receives the CogAT in the fall. Since the CogAT is given in the fall, you’ll want to make sure you speak with your teacher and gifted education facilitator now or as soon as possible at the beginning of the school year. Generally speaking, the scores from the CogAT, feedback from teachers, and information gathered from parents are used to identify children as gifted in DCSD.

Timing Tip: The Discovery program (DCSD’s self-contained, magnet program for highly gifted learners) begins in second grade. If you’d like to apply to the Discovery Program so your child can enter in second grade, you’ll need to have your student take the CogAT in first grade.

Self-Doubt Tip: Some parents think that their child has to be nearly perfect in nearly all areas in order to be identified as gifted. While most gifted children perform above average in all areas, research shows that there are plenty of children who are gifted learners in one area and average in others (e.g. math-minded or especially verbal). Gifted children learn quickly, but are not perfect. If you’ve asked yourself, “Is my child gifted?” it is best to have them take the CogAT to begin gathering standardized data to answer the question.

“I’m At My Wits End” Tip: Some children have incredible mental abilities, and also struggle in some form, such as an attention-deficit or learning disorder. There is a lot of information on-line about these children, termed, “twice exceptional” or 2e. Don’t let these struggles stop you from answering the question, “Is my child gifted?”

And one final “What if it doesn’t seem right” Tip: At times, group tests like the CogAT can underestimate children’s cognitive abilities. If you have a sense that your child’s CogAT scores don’t seem quite right, especially if other sources of information agree with you, get a second opinion. Some parents seek private testing as a means of getting a second opinion. Intelligence tests, such as the WISC-V or Stanford-Binet 5, are given individually by a psychologist and can get a much more detailed view of your child’s strengths and weaknesses.