Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Atlas Psychiatry.
Everything You Need to Know About Preschool Intelligence Testing
As a psychologist in New Orleans, one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is helping parents navigate the sometimes choppy waters of school entry. From choosing the right school where your child will thrive, to understanding the requirements for admission – the application process can feel overwhelming in New Orleans! Parents are often surprised to learn that many independent schools require preschool intelligence testing to supplement their child’s application (most commonly the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, or WPPSI-IV).
As a parent, you may wonder why your child has to take a test like this, what types of information will be gathered, and what the results may mean for your child’s future. You may feel concerned about what the experience will be like for your child, how to best prepare your child for testing, and how you can support your child throughout the process. The goal of this article is to address some of these questions and concerns by providing you with accurate and helpful information about intelligence testing for young children, as well as tips for choosing the right psychologist to administer the test to your child.
Preschool Intelligence Testing :: Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I have my child tested? What will testing tell me about my child?
Many parents view the test as just another hurdle to jump and another fee to pay for school entry. You may be surprised to find out that the test actually gives useful information that can help guide educational planning. For example, the test does not provide just a single IQ score, but several scores that can tell you about your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. You will learn about your child’s ability to navigate the world and solve problems both verbally and nonverbally.
Abilities measured include verbal skills (such as acquired knowledge and understanding of words), and nonverbal skills (such as visual-spatial skills and reasoning using pictures). The test can also provide information about your child’s memory and how quickly he or she can process information. The test does not measure academic skills like reading, writing, or math. It can reveal some important information about learning, like giftedness or red flags for learning problems.
The test can also provide some insight as to school readiness and a sense of the kind of learning environment in which your child will likely succeed. In my reports, I always make sure to provide individually tailored recommendations to help parents and teachers build on children’s areas of weakness and enrich their areas of strength.
Where can I get the test done? How do a choose the right professional to test my child?
The test is typically performed at a psychologist’s office. Only licensed psychologists are qualified to perform the test (look for a professional who has earned a Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.). In choosing a psychologist to perform the test, look for a professional who has experience with young children. Psychologists who routinely work with young children are best equipped to help your child feel comfortable in the testing environment, help your child stay motivated and on-task during testing, and adapt the situation in appropriate ways to address any anxiety or behavioral concerns that can arise.
In my office, I always spend some time with the child to allow him or her to adjust to the office and become comfortable with me, and I always explain the activities we will do before we begin testing. I always use reward systems like sticker charts, prizes, and encouragement to help motivate the child to do his or her best!
How much does it cost? Does insurance cover this cost?
Psychologists set their own rates for the test. You can typically expect to pay between $200-$500 for the test. Insurance does not usually cover the cost for educational evaluations. Make sure to ask your psychologist whether the fee includes a detailed written report and a feedback meeting to discuss the test results.
How do I best prepare my child for testing?
Relax! Children whose parents expose them to a variety of experiences, read to them, play games with them, and provide them with hands-on activities tend to perform better on tests like this. However, there is no studying or practicing for this test. Help your child to get a good night’s sleep the night before the test, eat a good breakfast, and bring your child’s favorite snacks with you to the psychologist’s office. It is typically best to test in the morning or early afternoon when your child is most alert, but be mindful of nap and meal times.
Help prepare your child for testing by explaining what he or she can expect: Many children feel anxious about “going to see the doctor,” so explain to your child that he or she will only be playing some games and activities to help you learn about how they think and solve problems. Help prepare your little one for the testing environment by encouraging your child to try his or her hardest on all of the activities and to be on best behavior.
What is the test like? What should I expect from the evaluation?
The test typically lasts from 30 minutes to an hour, but testing time varies based on the child’s age and rate of test taking. Be prepared to stay at the psychologist’s office while your child is completing the test. The test itself is actually pretty fun for most children. It was specifically designed to make the tests feel like “games,” and the tasks are colorful and engaging. Typically, you will be asked to return to the office in a week or two for a follow-up visit to discuss the test results and receive your report. Tight deadlines can often be accommodated, but make sure to discuss any urgent deadlines with your psychologist before scheduling the test.
When is the right time to test? Will my child’s age affect the results?
The test can be given to children as young as 2 years, 6 months. There is a shorter version of the test that is given to children under age 4, and a longer version given to children aged 4 and up. Neither version is better, though the longer version provides more information. Many parents are concerned that their child is “too young” to test. This usually arises from two concerns: one, that their child’s performance will be compared to that of older children taking the same test, putting their child at a disadvantage; and two, that their child is not yet mature enough for standardized testing.
Because change is very rapid in young children, the test was deliberately designed to avoid comparing children who are in different stages of development. A child’s score is compared to a normative sample of children within a very small window (three months) of his or her age. It is true that young children vary greatly in their “test preparedness,” which can impact how they perform, but comparing children within small age windows reduces the impact of these differences.
Having your child tested may seem like an intimidating process, and it is my hope that knowing exactly what your child will experience and how you can get the most out of your investment will provide you with some comfort and direction. I love working with young children and parents, and I am available for school entry evaluations for children as young as 2 years, 6 months, as well as evaluations for academic problems and giftedness. I will work with you and your child to ensure that the experience is fun and rewarding, and that results are helpful in educational planning. Appointments are usually available within a week, and I am happy to speak with you to answer any questions you may have before scheduling an appointment.
For more information, please call Atlas Psychiatry at (504) 899-1682 or visit www.atlaspsychiatry.com.
Dr. Laura Niditch
Laura Niditch, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in psychological assessment for children, adolescents, and adults. Dr. Niditch completed her Ph.D. in school psychology at Tulane University, where she received multiple awards and commendations for her achievements and was recognized by the faculty for “the high quality of her academic work, professional accomplishments, research record, and contributions to the field.” Dr. Niditch completed a predoctoral internship in school and clinical psychology at FSU’s Multidisciplinary Evaluation and Consulting Center, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center of New Orleans. She currently works as a psychologist in private practice at Atlas Psychiatry. She also completes psychoeducational evaluations for students at two local charter schools, and she teaches courses at Tulane University.
Thank you SO much for posting about this. I’ve been very nervous about getting our daughter tested and this put me much more at ease. If we aren’t looking to enter her into pre school until pre-k4, should we give the test a try now (almost 3) then again closer to when she’ll be attending school (almost 4)?
This is a great question, Jordan! Thank you for asking. In general, these test results are considered to be “valid” for a year, and it’s best to wait at least a year before taking it again. (You shouldn’t expect to see much difference upon re-testing unless your little one was sick or having an ‘off’ day the first time around, and if that were to happen, a different test could be given sooner). I would recommend looking into the admissions deadlines for the schools you’re interested in and waiting until a little closer to those deadlines before testing.
I read the article and found it very informative. I didn’t see though why I should have it done. Are there advantages that I’m not aware of? Is this a requirement among certain schools?
Thank you for asking, Julie! The test is a requirement for some independent schools who use it for admissions and educational planning. There is really no other reason to have it done unless there is a concern about the child’s development or a suspicion of giftedness. In those cases, the results can help to determine whether extra intervention or enrichment is needed.
Are the parents allowed to stay with the child during testing?
Good question, Anna! Generally, parents are asked to wait in another room during testing (because it’s very important that the test is administered in a standard way). Exceptions can be made if the child is having trouble separating or feels uncomfortable after having some time to adjust. In those cases, you would be asked to stay in the room but to avoid interacting with your little one as much as possible.