Early Childhood Gifted Assessment and Intervention Practices

By O'Connor, Michelle; Fleischmann, Charles et al. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, November 2017 | Go to article overview

Early Childhood Gifted Assessment and Intervention Practices


O'Connor, Michelle, Fleischmann, Charles, Kenner, Emily, Allison, McCobin, Kara, McGoey, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


Gifted education is arguably one of the more underresearched areas in education (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes, & Kemp, 2010). This is especially true in the early education realm. Early childhood educators often overlook young children displaying advanced intelligence and talents. This may be due to a number of reasons, including several prevailing myths in education about gifted students and a current lack of adequate assessments and curricula for early childhood giftedness. Nonetheless, early childhood educators and school psychologists can advocate for much needed enrichment for this overlooked student population.

LITERATURE REVIEW

In the area of early childhood gifted education and effective interventions for young children identified as intellectually gifted, there appears to be a persistent lack of research. In 2012, Walsh and colleagues reviewed all intervention research from the past 30 years and only found 11 studies referencing young children identified as gifted. Notably, the ways in which children were assessed and identified as gifted within each of the 11 studies were different. Furthermore, there have not been any studies to date that focused exclusively on early childhood interventions for gifted children (Walsh, Kemp, Hodge, & Bowes, 2012). There is also very little research on the characteristics and social–emotional development of young gifted children, particularly those of preschool age (Wilson, 2015). In their review of existing intervention research, Walsh et al. (2012) found that most studies of children in a preschool setting had a sample size of less than 30 and had no control or comparison groups. Additionally, only two of the 11 studies reported a formal definition of giftedness. In order to identify very young gifted children in the future, a more uniform definition of what constitutes giftedness in early childhood would likely be beneficial. For the purpose of this article, a young child who demonstrates skill(s) significantly (1.5 standard deviations) above same-age peers in multiple areas, such as cognitive ability, language development, social skills, physical adaptability, creativity, and leadership (Walsh et al., 2012), will be defined as exhibiting giftedness in early childhood.

The small amount of existing literature in the area of interventions for young children who are gifted suggests that a variety of interventions may be beneficial. Interventions for young gifted children often involve providing advanced curricula, especially in the child's area of interest or expertise. Specific interventions that were noted to be helpful include early school entrance, individualized programs, and self-contained programs (Wilson, 2015). Wilson (2015) conducted a study that compared play behaviors in high-ability (gifted) preschoolers and typical children. Results indicated that the high-ability children spent more time engaging in solitary play than typical children, and that the high-ability children spent more time in literacy and arts-based centers than typical children (Wilson, 2015). More research is needed on the characteristics of very young gifted children in order to conduct a more uniform identification process, as well as to aid in the development of interventions.

TROUBLE WITH CURRENT ASSESSMENT PRACTICES

In general, there are a number of potential problems associated with assessing children for gifted services, but there are even more potential problems when assessing children in general in early childhood. As noted by Brassard and Boehm (2007), some of these characteristics include: preschoolers’ unfamiliarity with testing procedures; lack of well-developed verbal skills, especially when responding to unfamiliar adults; and difficulties when separating from caregivers or preferred adults when asked to enter the testing environment. Preschoolers may also present with a limited ability to pay attention, perceptual–motor skills that do not match task demands, and low frustration tolerance, which may result in displaying distress behaviorally due to limited language skills (Brassard and Boehm, 2007). …

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