“Ask Paula” is your opportunity to seek advice and find answers about parenting and education. Here, our gifted expert and CTD Director, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, offers her insights into IQ and testing in addition to overexcitability in gifted children.
Q: A first grade boy with 149 WISC/IQ, placed in regular classes gets regular bad conduct reports. He gets B’s or less on most ”in class” assignments when there are instructions to follow, and he seems to under-perform for his teacher (reads at level 1 her) but was at level grade 3.5 in Kindergarten. Does this seem typical? [what might be going on? Possible next steps?]
An IQ of 149 is at the 99+ percentile meaning less than 1% of the population has a higher IQ score. The score indicates a very exceptional level of general intelligence, suggesting that this child learns at a much more rapid rate than his peers. I would suspect that he is under-challenged in school and is under-achieving and acting out as a result. While this kind of reaction is not unusual when a child is not getting the right kind of intellectual and educational “nourishment” at school, it is worrisome and a strong indicator that a change is needed. Think of what adults do in reaction to consistent boredom or frustration. Now consider that a child in school has few acceptable options and strategies in his repertoire to manage and/or vent strong emotions. So, what to do?
The parents need to approach school officials to make sure they are aware of their child’s ability. Since they have an IQ score, I am assuming they have had some independent, private testing done. If that is the case, the results should be shared with school officials including the school psychologist, gifted coordinator, principal and teacher. They might ask for a meeting with all of them together. Another good piece of evidence parents can provide regarding their child’s advanced abilities is examples of the books or other material the boy reads at home (so the educators can see his true reading level), products he has created (e.g. books, stories, etc.) and activities that engage and absorb him. The parents need to help the school administrators and educator learn more about their child’s abilities and interest.
Given the child’s IQ, the parents and educators will need to consider some kind of acceleration–either whole grade (i.e. grade skipping) or subject area acceleration (i.e. moving up grades in math or reading) for this child. The full report of the psychologist who evaluated the child might give some information about his academic strength areas–math, reading. When the parents meet with school officials, they should explore their attitudes and experience with acceleration. (Have they accelerated students before? How successful was it? Are they open to it?). In the meantime, the parents should read up on acceleration to find out more about it. Acceleration is generally viewed negatively by teachers and educators, but the research on it suggests that it is a good, reasonable option for many gifted children if implemented well. I would suggest the parents check out the Iowa Acceleration Scale (available from Great Potential Press), which is a tool to help educators and parents decide if acceleration is a good fit for a particular child. A good resource for parents on acceleration is the book, A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, available at http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/nation_deceived/. Another resource on different types of gifted programs is the book, Reforming Gifted Education by Karen Rogers, available from Great Potential Press.
If the school is not amenable to significant accommodations for the child via some forms of acceleration, the parents might want to consider their options for a different school placement–maybe not immediately, but soon. Under-achievement is easier to turn around when caught and dealt with early before it becomes entrenched.