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Asynchrony in Gifted Children

Asynchrony in Gifted Children

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - June 28th, 2018

These days, there is no one definition for giftedness. The traditional way to assess giftedness has been through high scores on an IQ test such as the Stanford-Binet, WPPSI, or WISC.

For example, here are the IQ ranges (including giftedness) on the Stanford-Binet:

IQ RangeClassification
Significantly Below AverageBelow 70
Below Average70 – 84
Average85 – 100
Above Average101 – 115
High Average IQ (“Bright”)116 – 130
Moderately Gifted131 – 145
Highly Gifted146 – 159
Exceptionally Gifted160 – 179
Profoundly Gifted180+

Asynchrony in Gifted Children

There is more to calling a child gifted than an IQ score.

These days, “asynchrony” is a term commonly that is also used to describe gifted children. Every gifted child is different from the next. However, when there is a mismatch between cognitive, emotional and physical development of a gifted child, that’s when you are talking about asynchronous development. Often, the more “gifted” a child is, the more asynchronous his or her development is.

When you have a 6-year-old who reads at a 7th grade level, does math at a 5th grade level, and has emotional skills of a 4-year-old – that’s an asynchronous child.

You might have a 3-year-old who is already reading, who scores in the 99th percentile on the WPPSI, who can name and describe every type of transportation, and who isn’t willing to share his toys – that’s an asynchronous child. It is said that gifted children are many ages at once, and this is what that means.

Asynchronous doesn’t have anything to do with achievement in school or academic potential.

It has to do with the complexity and intensity of the child’s own experience and feeling uneven in their development, in maybe they think like someone much older than themselves but their hands and feet are still appropriate for their age level. They often feel out of sync with other people.

IQ tests are a very good way of measuring asynchrony, but IQ tests generate a great many false negatives.

They never generate false positive. Nobody gets a gifted score by accident because there is so much abstract reasoning required on an IQ test that you cannot test in the gifted range without truly being gifted. You can, however, test in the average range and still be gifted. A child may be profoundly gifted in verbal skills but average in non-verbal abilities and his IQ score (which averages all the subtests) will not show him to be gifted. The scores could say average and you could still be gifted because if you have any kind of a history of a lot of ear infection or if your eyes don’t track well and nobody seems to notice that, or if your handwriting is very slow or if you’re a reflective thinker or too immature to focus, all of those things can pull your IQ score down to the average range.

How to Assess an Asynchrony in a Gifted Child

The best way to assess a child’s giftedness is with a combination of IQ Testing, parent and psychologist observation, along with testing, which happens last. Dr. Linda Silverman, Director of the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development in Denver, Colorado, whose organization has assessed over 5,000 children since 1979, puts a very high value on parent input when it comes to determining giftedness in young children. (

Assessment can be a rigorous process.

The Institute sends parents the characteristics of giftedness scale and a very long, 8-page parent confidential report that requires a lot of narrative, asking questions about the child’s early development and interests and social development and personality – all kinds of things. They also ask about the parents’ background, if there is history of giftedness in the family, because they know that is a factor. They look carefully at what the parents say. For example, if the child is a Lego maniac who learned to read later than expected, but the child was building Lego models for 10-year-olds when she was 4-years- old, this may be a visual-spatial learner with extremely well-developed right hemispheric abilities, but she may not test well. Still, she might be highly gifted in the area of visual-spatial reasoning.

Parents know best!

The Institute has parents fill out an introversion-extroversion continuum, a behavioral checklist, a short sensory profile, an over-excitability inventory, because these factors correlate with giftedness. They complete a Characteristics of Giftedness Scale, the Parent Questionnaire, and then they have a conversation with the parents by phone before they will even schedule testing. They don’t test first. They test last.

According to Dr. Silverman, “Most of the time when the parents have filled out all of that paperwork, they have a pretty good idea if the child fits these characteristics. Almost always, the parents are right. We don’t think of parents as being misguided or thinking their child is gifted just to get the child into the best school. We don’t have that experience at all. We’ve been doing this for 31 years. We totally trust parents’ perceptions. If a parent sees giftedness, chances are we’re going to find that giftedness somewhere.”

Schools may use a definition of gifted based on relative ability. Students are identified by how well they perform compared to other students in the school. Students scoring in the top 5 or 10 percent (or some other number) on a test are those singled out as needing a curriculum more challenging than the regular curriculum.

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