Monday, June 15, 2009

Should Gifted Kids Know their IQ Scores?

I was particularly struck by this headline from ABC News the other day: Should Genius Kids Know Their IQs?

The question came up due to the media attention received by some precocious children. If headlines are blaring a kid's IQ scores (problematic though some of the higher ones may be due to controversies about the test used for 160+ scores) it's pretty hard to keep that under wraps. But what about with children who are simply being tested as part of determining an optimal education approach?

The easy answer is "no," though as any parent of a highly gifted kid knows, that's easier said than done. For starters, gifted kids are incredibly observant. They know they're being screened for something. Some may even then decide to research giftedness and realize that often something called IQ is involved. Since gifted kids love to ask questions, "Mommy, what's my IQ?" is bound to come out right along with "Why is the sky blue?"

So what do you do? I'm curious how parents who read this blog handled the situation, and if you ever told your kids, and if you did, how you framed the answer or what you told the kid to do with it.


Jude said...

I have no idea what my kid's IQ scores are, but I know mine and both of my brothers' scores and those of my parents. Yes, my kids have asked. I tell them, you know, IQ doesn't mean that much any more. Knowing my IQ meant that I knew I was the stupidest one in my family, at least by that one measure. However, if I *did* know their IQ scores, I would of course tell them because I don't believe things like that should be kept from kids.

Harriet M. Welsch said...

I posted about this a couple of weeks ago here as I was trying to work out whether or not to tell my son the results of his WISC-IV. My parents never told me my IQ scores (although I took tests on a number of occasions and always knew what I was being tested for). We had my son tested because, by the school's testing measure, he did not qualify for the gifted program. But we knew those scores were not representative (although we're still not sure why), so we had him tested privately. He knows he scored well enough to be qualified for the program, which, I think, is all he needs to know at the moment. I don't think he is currently mature enough to either keep the scores to himself or to understand that they are only one part of the picture. I told him I'd tell him his scores the day he graduated from college, if he still wanted to know. I don't feel right about keeping information from him about himself -- I would hate it if someone did that to me. But at the same time, I think it is the best decision for the moment. Ask me again in a year or two and I might think differently.

Kevin said...

I've never understood the point of keeping their IQ scores secret from kids. It's like refusing to tell them their weight or their height.
Or, for that matter, refusing to give them feedback on their homework.

It may be necessary to teach them something about IQ scores and what they mean (particularly how little they really mean), but keeping the scores secret seems like a stupid idea. It is like refusing to tell a patient what their lab tests results are---they'll always assume the worst.

Cheryl said...

I think they should know, but when they're older. And kids of all ages should know if they are in the highly gifted range. I was a highly gifted child, and no one TOLD me. It wasn't until I got into education in my 40's myself and started talking to my mom that I found out my IQ and the struggles my parents went through with schools on my behalf. Now I know why I'm a bit "different," and it helps me parent my highly gifted son. I wish I'd known in HS and college--it would have made a difference in my self-perception and how I handled my education and career choices.

Jeremy said...

When our older daughter tested for the program last year, they wouldn't actually tell us the specific results. So all we know now is that both daughters are above the cutoff for the program, which is apparently 98th percentile on the Woodcock Johnson Cognitive Battery (WJIII).

Considering that we homeschool and make the decisions about the learning (materials and approach) they do, it's good to know that much so that we can set more accurate expectations. I'm not sure why we'd need to know more, or how it might benefit the girls to know the numbers. I'm glad they don't know which one scored higher.

J. said...

I tried to keep it from her and she found it. I was sifting some documents in the study which doubled as a computer room and she found it on the floor.

Good going, mom. I'd secreted it away for years. She was eight when she took it, eleven when she found it. She'd been bugging me to tell her, she knew she was being tested for something (school admissions test, actually) but I downplayed the score because a cherished teacher advised me not to saddle her with that information.

She then asked what a 145 meant relative to the norm. She was obviously smart enough to know average would be 100 but she wanted more detail. I thought she would research it but I guess she got distracted. Over bi-polar disorder. She selected that as a science assignment and became fascinated by that subject. I always encourage and nurture inquiry but in this case, I was relieved she skipped off to go read a book.

145 with several subtest ceilings so I don't know and now we'll never know. I don't have the test in front of me but as I recall, freedom from distractibility pulled it down as did slower processing speed. Welcome to the world of GT/ADD which isn't like regular ADD, but I digress. Which is what ADD people do!

The Princess Mom said...

It's so important to tell kids if and how much they are gifted, if only to explain for them why they feel so different from everyone else. When I was a kid they'd say, "You're smart, that's enough to know," but it wasn't. Giftedness is more than just being good at academics. There's asynchrony, oversensitivities, their unusual interests and hyperfocus. All of that is wrapped up in "the G-Word."

I only had one son, Xavier, whom I felt would tattoo his IQ score across his forehead. When I shared his score with him (he was about ten), I explained that we don't usually talk about IQ numbers with people we don't know well because it doesn't feel nice when you find out someone has a higher number than you. "Luckily," his older brother was hanging around trying to find out Xavier's number. Wolfie's number happened to be higher, so Xavier could immediately feel himself in the other person's place.

I also explained that different tests and different days give different score results for the same brain. For example, I took both the ACT and SAT tests the same month, when I was in high school (back when they were aptitude rather than achievement tests). I didn't qualify for Mensa on the SAT test, but on the ACT I did, by a wide margin. IQ tests are trying to quantify the unquantifiable. Xavier hasn't found the test that really shows what he can do yet, but I know he has it in him.

Liane said...

We had my son tested over several days and didn't think twice about telling him the results. In fact, I went over every subtest score with him. He looked at the numbers, shrugged his shoulders and asked if it was good enough to get him into the GT class. After being told yes, he went back to his latest project and and never spoke of it--ever.

mamaschnuck said...

I agree with Kevin and Cheryl, why is it something to be hidden or ashamed of? Our smart kids need to step out of the shadows and learn that they have been given talents to which they ought to be proud and they ought to nourish. They need to know that we all have certain talents and gifts which should be fostered. If I have one more person tell me I am "lucky" to have smart kids becasue they will be fine in school, I will scream becasue they are not fine, they are not being taughts, just floating along and passing the day. I want my kids to be proud of their gifts, respectful to all, and bear the weight that of responsibility that higher intelligence should bring. It means that status quo is not good enough, they must do better, something which, sadly, cannot happen in our current public schools.

LaRita said...

My son was with us when we got the results of a placement test he had taken. We were told that the test score was roughly equivalent to an IQ score. Since the top score was 140 and he got a perfect score, he decided his IQ must be 140. It apparently never occurred to him at that time that a perfect score means he wasn't really tested, and we don't KNOW how much higher he could have gotten.

I'm glad he doesn't know his score is perhaps higher than that... he has never really been tested that I know of. Even thinking it is 140 has made him cocky at times about it. I stress to him that an IQ means nothing if you don't USE it... a college will often choose a hard-working student with average potential above a lazy unmotivated student with huge potential.

Anonymous said...

Don't tell your child their IQ, put their picture in the newspaper along with their score instead! That is all I got from that article. :(
When my child asks her score I will tell her. She is only six now and could care less. But one day she might realize that she is different and may need to understand why.

Anonymous said...

I think gifted kids know that they are different and it's OK to tell they why they feel that way. You don't have to give it a number, just verify for them that they do think differently than other kids. In my opinion, with giftedness comes great responsibility for people to use their brains for the common good. My kids are pretty clear that their brains aren't going to do anything alone, it's up to them to develop their skills to their highest potential. If anything, I think they should work harder because they can.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that we should all embrace our children's abilities and share with them the fact that the are indeed gifted. My husband and I do not feel that it is appropriate for our 8 year old son to know his IQ score. Every child is different. However, for us...we feel that an IQ score is a private piece of information. Frankly, in many ways, it bothers me that I know the score and he doesn't, but I do not feel that he is mature enough to understand all the implications of knowing that one score in our society. We had him tested because we were having issues at school. Having the results has made it easier for us to gain access to G/T classes and enrichment, but apart from that, it hasn't changed the way we talk about being 'gifted'.

I'd prefer we discuss how his giftedness is affecting him rather than to get caught up in the number. Isn't it more important to impart a strong sense of self than to focus on one test on one day (regardless of the score)? Wouldn't it be better to talk about why he or she feels different? Perhaps when he is older, we will feel more comfortable sharing his score with him. However, for now, we have decided to focus on helping him to deal with the fact that he is 'different' than other kids and that it is okay.

Anonymous said...

My daughter was tested in 3rd grade after the school requested it. She asked what the test was for and how she did - and of course I told her her score. Along with the reminder that this was a very private information and that you don't go around bragging.
She is in the gifted program at school, so the fact THAT she is gifted is common knowledge. For her, it was important to understand why she felt different at times (she had thought it was because we are a family of immigrants! That feeling got so strong that she started to refuse speaking her native language for a while).
I do not see how you can possibly keep the information from the kids- short of saying "I know it but I am not going to tell you". Sounds stupid to me.

Anonymous said...

when I read this post I was angry that anyone should think it not right to tell a child their IQ score. I lived my life thinking there was something wrong with me I didn't fit with the world and it was somehow me that was broken. it has only been in the last few years that I began to put the pieces together myself; I was tested at school and no we weren't supposed to know our scores. Streamed in the top set in all subjects I genuinely thought one day some one would find out they made a mistake. I did OK at school but never stood out. my score? that we found sat next to our names in the register I tied for top place with one other boy 155 . even if you decide not to tell your child their number they do have a right to have their score recognised within the school or at home believe me it would have saved a lot of heartache, confusion and frustration only now do I have the tools to get to grips with what that score and its implications not for how smart I may be but why I don't seem to get the general concensus. I have no idea how representative that score is of anything just that if someone had asked what implications it may have for me as a person ever mind any expectations for education I would have felt very differently about life and my place in it.

Kevin said...

e I agree with anonymous that kids do have a right to know their scores, I don't think it is appropriate for their scores to be "recognized within the school" other than by proper placement. Achievement should be recognized, but not potential.

Anonymous said...

I have a child who was tested, one of the reasons was he was not doing well academically, though very bright.
He always knew he was different and didn't quite fit in. He was told the iq and has had a number of things fall in place and is now progressing upwards academically and growing in confidence.

Mama Bear said...

My son and I had a discussion about IQ scores. I told him I didn't know what his was (which was true, although I had an idea). He promptly went on the internet and found a free test to take so he could know his score.

Don't assume that if you don't tell them, they won't find out!

badmomgoodmom said...

My parents didn't have to tell me. The psychologist was so excited, she blurted it out before I was safely out of the room.

There were many difficult times in my schooling. I got an extra boost of confidence knowing that I had it in me to master anything as long as I applied myself a little bit harder. ;-)

My husband's parents told him his IQ when he was a preteen. When my daughter asks, I will tell her.

I don't think there is any controversy about IQs above 160. Only one test has a scale that goes above 160, the Stanford Binet LM. A 150 on that test means something entirely different than a 150 on the WISC-IV. They are different tests with different score ranges.

I've posted a few thoughts about testing and metrics.

Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind by Deborah L. Ruf.
She showed comparisons of how several children scored on different intelligence tests. There are so many "intelligence" tests/scales; the same child can score up to 50 points apart on different tests (and at different ages). IQ scores should be taken with a grain of salt.

The coverage of the different levels of giftedness is also helpful. Most people can identify moderately gifted kids of socially optimal intelligence. The highly and profoundly gifted kids are harder to identify. They think so far out of the box, they can't figure out which bubble to fill in on a multiple choice test. They spend so much time thinking about the possible exceptions, the test period is over before they finish the test.

Anonymous said...

My son was a "slow learner" in school, and a teacher actually told me that she couldn't understand why I was complaining about their lack of challenge, when my son was obviously "mediocre." So I had him IQ tested, and he scored 145, shortly before his birthday, and even though he is an English learner. Of course I told him. I also switched him to a different private school. He knows he has the intellectual ability to achieve, and it is up to him to do the work to actually do so. He stopped becoming easily discouraged as he did before, and chucking everything he could not do right away. Of course I myself also gained confidence not to listen to a teacher who regards him as "mediocre". He knows he has the ability; and he very well knows that this is only the basis.
BTW I have an IQ of 160 myself, I am also bipolar, and have in spite of a Ph.D. considerable trouble in my working life. I told him, mine was higher, but see the trouble I have. My husband has a Ph.D. and had a 4.0 GPA everywhere, but he does not know his IQ. It's probably lower, but he has an excellent job and enjoys solid mental health. I also told him, most Nobel prize winners score only around 130 or so, because more is truly often a problem for long-term achievement in a social setting. I also often tell him, that maybe what I think and believe is a lot of nonsense anyway, so don't take it too seriously.

Anonymous GT Adult said...

FYI in reply to "He promptly went on the internet and found a free test to take so he could know his score."

I would not believe any results from any free online 'IQ tests' other than . There are a number of other purported tests floating around online that are famously faulty, inflated, or just fluff.

PS: As someone who was tested as a child, I am still bothered as an adult by my realization later in life that my parents and teachers kept the results from me (beyond the obvious "you did well enough to get into the GT program") and did not attempt to help me understand its implications.

Anonymous GT Adult said...

Addendum: I looked into this further, and found a few additional online IQ tests that seem probable to be of decent accuracy for people in the upper range. (This also applies to the tests: only likely to be accurate for people who are in the upper range, i.e. already know they're gifted.) The bulk of the population likely won't get honest results from any of these, OR from any of the popular phony ones that are marketed to them, dominate search results, get bragged about on general-population forums, etc.

In no particular order:

Anonymous said...

Hello! Most, if not all of you are parents, so I just thought you would perhaps garner some new perspective from this post.
I'm gifted, at least as of this year, and I don't really mind not knowing my IQ score. I don't believe IQ really matters. I think that if my parents had told me my IQ, I would have delved deeper and deeper into matters until I deduced that I was smarter than other kids. I don't really care, but for many children it's the wrong kind of attitude for interaction with others, and may cause them to lag behind despite their intelligence (currently there are a few extremely smart people in my class who don't do any work at all because they think they're so much smarter and this is a waste of their time.) Of course, it's up to the parent or guardian to tell them their IQ or not, since for most it will just be a small detail. Just watch that a 'better' score doesn't become arrogance.

Evan Adams said...

Yes, they should know their IQ. I understand the fear that they'll either be insecure, or arrogant, depending on where they fall relative to others, but it would be like not telling a kid how tall they are, or their blood type, or if they had a diagnosis of some kind. You can also explain the limitations of their score (both the inherent limitations of IQ and the fact that a score of say 168 is probably inaccurate because it's really hard to test 160+ IQs accurately. What you know for sure is that it's above 160. The fact of the matter is, gifted kids will know that you're hiding something, and that will just make the information that much more important to them. You will have thoughts, feelings, an opinion on what the exact number is, and if you don't tell your kid you just leave them with an incomplete picture of what you're reacting to, which is frightening for young kids and will feel like a betrayal to older ones.