by Barbara Teeke
The standards itemised in the following text are a result of my demands on the realisation of a multi-dimensional and thoroughly conducted diagnosis on the one hand, and are based on my experience in working with children and adolescents on the other hand.
These standards are not universally valid, which means that not every test practitioner abides by the herein listed criteria, nor can this be expected or demanded.
It is rather up to parents to consult with a prospective practitioner, who may be intended to test their child, and inquire about his practice with regard to procedure and administration of the test as well as the general theoretical bias of the institute and the particular practitioner.
Then it is for the parents to decide whether what they have learned is in accordance with their questions, their ideas and their family background.
… in a nutshell …
If parents decide to have a diagnostics for advancement test procedure conducted, it is recommended that they talk with the prospective practitioner prior to consultations to inquire about a few points.
Among these is the question whether the preliminary consultation, the test procedure itself, the evaluation of test results and the final consultation will all be performed by the same person.
It is helpful for the acceptance of possible supportive measures, to be discussed in the final consultation, if the parents are aware of the practitioner’s attitude towards the topic giftedness and his/her experience with gifted children ahead of time.
Choosing the test institute
For choosing the right institute and practitioner parents should find out:
- is the practitioner familiar with the phenomenon of giftedness?
- does the practitioner dispose of experience with gifted children?
- what is the practitioner’s attitude towards the topic giftedness?
- will the test procedure, the evaluation and the final consultation be performed by the same person?
Do inquire perseveringly.
It is important that the practitioner be familiar with the phenomenon giftedness as well as with the gifted children themselves. Gifted children need to be addressed in a special way, that is, in a way that takes into account their advanced state of development, and they like to get straight to the point.
A positive attitude towards the phenomenon giftedness is vital for the interaction with these children and furthermore of decisive relevance for the final consultation and the choice of appropriate means of support.
The preliminary consultation, the administration of the test procedure, the evaluation and the final consultation should by all means be performed by the same person. This way relevant observations as to the child’s attitude, attention, openness, command of language, and body language can complement the reflections in the final consultation.
The initial talk with the parents
An initial talk prior to the diagnostic test procedure itself is essential. This is where parents and practitioner get to know each other and important facts about the child can be exchanged. These include the reason why a diagnosis is desired, the course of the pregnancy, the child’s development from birth until now, observations by the parents and the staff of the kindergarten/school as well as by people in the child’s vicinity, the course of kindergarten or school attendance, including the present situation, the child’s activities after kindergarten/school, the bio-rhythm of the child and other aspects.
Younger children should not attend this preliminary consultation. I think, it can be very awkward for the child to be present while being talked about. Furthermore, there may be issues being raised by the parents that might be burdensome for the child (for instance, worries and fears concerning the child or conflicts between the parents).
In the actual test situation, tact and respect for the child are to be observed!
If the subject to be tested is an adolescent, it should be decided in the initial talk whether he/she is to attend the preliminary consultation. If so, the preliminary consultation should be conducted with the subject while the parents only contribute those aspects which the subject does not know about (pregnancy, delivery, early years). Parents should not bring up problems the adolescent might have but doesn’t address him-/herself. If these issues seem relevant for the success of the diagnostic procedure, they should be addressed in another separate meeting without the subject.
Check reasons for wanting a diagnosis
The reasons and motivation behind seeking a diagnosis should always be elicited in advance. In the preliminary consultation with the parents and practitioner possible reasons should be discussed:
- Whose ideas was this?
- What is to be tested and why?
- What are the clients’ expectations with regard to the diagnosis?
- What is the result needed for?
- What impact might the result – regardless of outcome – have on the child, the family, the further social environment of the child?
What information should the subject be given prior to testing?
How to prepare the child/adolescent for the test:
It is highly recommended to bring up this point in the preliminary consultation. Oftentimes the parents themselves will address the question as to what to tell the child and how to prepare it.
What to tell the child, and in which way to do this, depends on the age of the child and on what the child has already been told by its parents.
Adolescents who come to my practice to be diagnosed are usually aware of why they are going to be tested, and do have a – sometimes rather diffuse – idea about it. It is important to discuss open questions with the adolescent.
With younger children I never use the word ’testing’. I just tell them that we are going to work on some tasks together and then I talk about the tasks themselves. I tell the parents the same thing in the preliminary meeting to make sure the child gets that same information from its parents.
With younger children it is advisable to give them only the information they need or directly inquire about. Normally it is enough to tell the child that its parents had noticed how it knew a lot of things already. And now they are taking their kid to Mr/Ms XY’s house to find out just how much the kid really knows.
If the test is scheduled some time around school enrolment, the testing can be related to that, given that the child has positive feelings about the issue of school enrolment.
The choice of test procedures
The information gathered in the preliminary consultation are also instrumental to the choice of an applicable test procedure.
The selection of test materials depends on the age of the child, the reason and motivation behind the test as well as the general disposition of the child at the time.
There are cases where not only the the possible giftedness of the child is in focus. It may be that parents, kindergarten or the school have observed the child having problems with fine motor skills or concentration or being uncertain about its handedness.
Prior to the test a selection of possible test materials/procedures is made, the final decision being made while getting to know the child better.
For better understanding:
If a child on the day of the test appears at the test site with an open minded attitude and works on the assignments with motivation and good concentration, while keeping a straight posture sitting at the table, it is quite pointless to perform an extra test on concentration. It would make much more sense to raise the question why, in certain situations, the child seems unable to show the same performance.
Good health and well rested – it’s a must!
A prerequisite for the diagnostic procedure is that the child is of good health and well rested.
The appointments with the child are usually scheduled for the mornings. This is to make sure that the child is rested and there are no current negative experiences in kindergarten or at school troubling its mind. Of course, that morning should also have been stress-free at home.
What needs to be taken into account, though, is the biorhythm of the child. Some children concentrate much better in the afternoon, after they have spent the day with physical activity. At the same time it must be observed that said negative experiences are best avoided.
It naturally follows from the necessity for the child to be of good health during testing, that fixed appointments may be cancelled upon short notice. In order to preclude the parents’ inhibitions and ensure an optimal test situation the parents are advised of this in the preliminary meeting.
The testing is conducted in two separate sessions on two days
The execution of differing and complementary test procedures on two different days allows for a differentiated picture of the child / adolescent.
It is indispensible for a sound diagnostic process that all possible information and observational results are gathered. Oftentimes children will be considerably more relaxed and open, because they are familiar with the situation, the premises and the practitioner.
All this important information from observation and conversation with the child would not be available with only one session.
Occasionally, and especially for younger children, even two sessions may not suffice. Reasons for this may be that the child needs more time to settle in the situation and establish a trusting and positive contact with the practitioner.
Maybe the child cannot concentrate and the set duration of the session, even in spite of breaks inserted in the course of the testing, is too long. Possibly further issues arise in the course of the testing procedure that need attention and may call for additional tests, consultations and observations.
Maybe the child is just simply having a “bad day”. In order to give the child a sustained positive experience it can make sense to spend some time playing something with the child (this may well render multiple observations), and postpone the testing to the next (or to an additional) appointment.
The testing procedure as a positive experience
The procedure should be fun for the child and have a positively reinforcing effect.
Two aspects are important here:
For one thing, the one-on-one scenario should not be underestimated. The child, for a good 2 hours time, is disposing of a person who is focusing on the child, who is being responsive and listens and who is there only for that child.
The other thing is, that the child finds itself in a situation – sometimes rare and much wanted for – where it can finally let go and show what it has going on. It experiences what it feels like to be solving a whole lot of delightfully difficult problems. It also experiences that there are some things it does not know yet, but through positive guidance even this is turned into a positive experience and even an incentive.
Tackling the problems in the test is actually fun for many children.
At the end of each test unit the child is given a positive feedback which focuses on the tasks in which the child was successful and which the child had fun solving.
This positive experience is not to be underestimated and will occasionally be of therapeutic effect in itself. This is how, not rarely, parents give a feedback after a test unit or upon completion of the entire diagnostic procedure, that throughout the testing they had been experiencing their child as being much more cheerful, balanced and “grounded”.
Two examples to illustrate this:
A five and a half years old boy is taken to testing.
Reason: He often seemed dissatisfied, unbalanced, grumpy, overly agile, bothersome and couldn’t play by himself.
During testing this boy was experienced as being a child who was very observant and very quick to comprehend, swiftly solved problems and worked efficiently as well as assiduously.
Two days after the first session, his mother called me and said, it was the first time she had seen her son so happy and exhausted in a satisfying way. On the way home he had fallen asleep in the back of the car (which he had otherwise never done), he then had lunch at home and afterwards went to his room where he played by himself cheerfully, and she could hear him singing. Even the next day he was still well balanced and said he was looking forward to the next meeting.
A fourteen years old girl comes to me for testing.
One reason among others was: being extremely unmotivated in school matters, especially with regard to homework, bad marks, lack of confidence and domestic conflicts.
The test result showed a performance profile predominantly above average ranging up to top levels.
In the final consultation, which – in agreement with the parents – was conducted in the presence of the girl, the profile was exemplified and her fortes were discussed. The girl was quite surprised to learn that she actually disposed of abilities and skills, and that this was now “official”.
Nine months later the girl’s mother called me to report that, upon that final consultation, her daughter’s attitude had clearly and increasingly changed. Meanwhile she had become a good student and even scored 1’s and 2’s1 in exams.
These examples are not to suggest that the execution of a diagnostic procedure is a panacea for all emotional or social peculiarities nor for academic problems.
The girl’s domestic conflicts persist to the day and will certainly need further attention.
Nonetheless these examples represent the feedbacks of a number of other parents.
The final consultation / evaluation
After the testing and evaluation the results are discussed with the parents.
As mentioned before, it is crucial that it is the same person, who conducts the preliminary talk, does the testing and discusses the results in the final consultation.
In the in-depth discussion of the results the parents learn how their child has managed particular tasks. This is complemented with observations regarding concentration, attitude, comprehension, motivation and posture and – in accord with the child – statements by the child.
In the next step possible measures of support/advancement or other kinds of assistance are to be discussed.
It must be emphasized here, that this is not a matter of presenting a set of measures that in the end may not suit the family, nor their budget or schedules.
The parents will much more likely accept and support ideas for possible measures of assistance and advancement if they are developed together with them, which in the end the child will benefit from.
It is all about the child, and therefore things which the child wants to be handled confidentially should be passed on to anybody else only with child’s explicit approval.
The final report
Part of the diagnostic process is a report which the parents receive during the final discussion. This gives you, as parents, the opportunity to review the core content of what was discussed at home.
The report contains a description of the test procedure, the profile of the achieved scores including the total IQ score and a description and interpretation of the test results.
It also includes a description of what I observed in the child/adolescent during the test administration: How was the child able to relate to the situation and environment that was new to him/her? Was it able to say goodbye to its mother/father and how did it engage with the testing? Was it curious, rather reserved, waiting, tense, happy? Did he want to start immediately or did he need time to arrive? How was his posture, his body language, his manner of expression? How approachable, how communicative did it appear? What was its pen posture like, what were its motor skills like? How did it handle answering its tasks; did it give confident answers or was it rather uncertainly hesitant? What was his mood like throughout the test, what was his motivation and concentration like? Which tasks did he like most, which less?
All these points are taken into account in the final interview and in the report.
See also: Diagnostics for Advancement – What Is That?
See also: Possible Reasons the Implementation of Diagnostics for Advancement
See also: Thoughts, Worries, Fears Experienced by Parents and Pedagogues with Regard to Testing
Barbara Teeke is a kindergarten teacher and social pedagogue with a special qualification for pedagogic-psychological test procedures.
She conducts diagnostics for advancement test procedures (in a practice in Witten, Germany) und works as a freelancer, course instructor and speaker for the IHVO Bonn.
Published in German: 5th May 2007 / Updating: 2021, October
Translated by Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Barbara Teeke, see Imprint.