Dear Dr. Sylvia

Gifted Child Doesn't Qualify For Programming

September, 2016


What do you do when you know one of your children is gifted and not being served? She is not challenged in school, gets straight A’s every quarter, was reading chapter books in kindergarten, and is doing three-digit multiplication and division now. She didn’t do well enough on the gifted testing to qualify for placement, and we were very surprised at that. Her teachers were surprised too because they assumed she was gifted. Both of her older siblings are in gifted education. I am wondering if it is anxiety, and I am not certain of what I can do to help our daughter.



Your dilemma sounds very strange indeed. The description of your daughter seems to include many of the characteristics of a gifted child, and her teachers have observed her giftedness. Something is clearly wrong with the testing. You should arrange to have your daughter tested privately by a psychologist. It is always possible that she will not pass again, but at least the psychologist could explain what went wrong.

There are several possibilities. It’s possible your daughter gets anxious, which can cause her either to forget information she typically knows or to fear giving answers unless absolutely certain she’s right. Perhaps her feelings of anxiety stem from worries about not being as smart as her two older sisters.

It’s also possible that she has a processing speed problem. If your daughter is slow or hesitant about answering questions, and if a test is timed, she may score lower than her ability because of time pressure.

If your daughter is not learning new material in class and you believe she should be in a gifted program, it’s important to advocate for her needs. Advocating for your child in school should be done carefully and respectfully, but please don’t give up until the school can justify the denial of services that you feel your daughter really should have.

If there is no improvement in new scores, or if the school district will not accept outside scores, and your daughter can’t be placed in the gifted program, her teacher may be willing to give her enrichment work to keep her challenged and excited about school this year. Most schools also have yearly opportunities for admission into programs and she could qualify next year.

Dr Sylvia RimmDr. Sylvia Rimm is a child psychologist and clinical professor at Case University School of Medicine, author, newspaper and magazine columnist, and radio/TV personality. For free newsletters entitled So Your Child is Gifted, Sibling Rivalry, and/or Fears and Fearful Children, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each newsletter and a note with your topic request to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094. Read Dr. Rimm’s Articles for Parents and Teachers and submit family questions online at All questions are answered.

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