GLD children are often hard to identify.

The most common and significant feature of a GLD child is uneven or inconsistent academic performance which is unexplained and unpredictable. They may achieve outstandingly high results in academic competitions outside of school, yet be receiving mediocre results on everyday school assessments and tests. They may excel on multiple choice tests, yet struggle when asked to compose answers on a blank page – or sometimes the other way round. They may similarly excel verbally but perform poorly on pen and paper tasks.

The greatest impediment to identifying some GLD children is that their high intelligence may compensate for their disability, and their disability may mask their intelligence. Such GLD children may present at school as having generally ‘average’ ability and performance. Some may be first noticed because of challenging behaviours, usually stemming from frustration and embarrassment about not being able to perform simple school tasks which others seem to find ‘easy’.

In other cases, the child’s giftedness may have been identified but the disability not, or conversely the disability may be patently visible while the giftedness remains hidden. Unless challenging behaviour starts to become an issue, the quiet, behaviourally compliant, polite GLD child may continue to underachieve for years and years at school. No one usually notices a non-squeaky wheel.

Professional assessment:

Psychometric (IQ) testing will usually identify GLD children. They typically score very highly in some sub-tests and poorly in others. IQ testing is best conducted in concert with individualised achievement testing so that the assessment is as comprehensive as possible.

The assessment is best carried out by educational and developmental psychologists or by developmental paediatricians who have extra specialised training in identifying developmental differences such as SLD, ASD or ADHD (in particular, the predominantly inattentive, vague, dreamy presentation of ADHD without hyperactivity, impulsivity, defiance or bad behaviour). This inattentive ADHD presentation often occurs with reading disorder (dyslexia).

A comprehensive professional assessment should be considered as soon as a parent begins to notice anything which concerns them about their child’s academic or social/emotional development. A ‘wait and see’ approach is contraindicated for GLD children.

Of course the parent may be wrong, and it may turn out that there is in fact no second exceptionality to be worried about – but at least then the parent will KNOW.

Finding a professional:

As a first step, it is usually best to consult an educational and developmental psychologist (more below).

However sometimes parents already suspect that the concerning issue is something for which a medicine may be available as a treatment, and in that case choose to immediately consult a developmental paediatrician who is able to not only make a diagnosis but also prescribe and trial a medicine, as psychologists are permitted to diagnose but not to prescribe medicine.

Also, because a paediatrician is a medical doctor, part or all of the consultation fee may be covered by Medicare, while this is not always the case with psychologists.

If on the other hand a decision is made to first consult a psychologist for initial opinion and diagnosis, it is wise to ensure that the psychologist whom you select:

  • is a member of the Australian Psychological Society’s College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists and/or is endorsed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency in the area of Educational and Developmental Psychology. This means they have completed the extra specialised training and on-the-job supervision and that they continue to meet quite specific yearly professional development requirements. Experience suggests that a regular psychologist, even if they hold education qualifications or describe themselves as ‘educational’ on their website or advertising, may not always have the additional training and breadth of experience required in this complex area and this may result in missed or delayed diagnoses.

The APS has a ‘Find a Psychologist’ service at http://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/Default.aspx?mode=Issue. You can search there for a psychologist by name, and find information about their practice and areas of interest.

If you don’t know a name, you can select 3 issues to sort on, and then select a suburb and radius for the location of the psychologist. You will then be provided with a list of psychologists. At this point, you can further refine your search to identify College membership, the gender of the psychologist, the languages spoken etc.

Once you have a name, it is easy to check registration details at http://www.psychologyboard.gov.au/.  A search of the family name will bring up the psychologist’s details. Click on ‘VIEW DETAILS’ and then scroll down to ‘Endorsements’ to check whether the psychologist is endorsed in the area of Educational and Developmental Psychology; and

  • will agree to undertake a comprehensive individual assessment, and accordingly to administer and report on not only an IQ test but also an achievement test, a test of academic skills (including perhaps above-level skills), an assessment of psychosocial factors which may be relevant in academic planning decisions, and other professionally recognised and evidence-based tests and screeners as indicated, to determine whether the child meets the diagnostic criteria for a particular psychological diagnosis (eg, Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Specific Learning Disorder, anxiety, depression, etc.); and
  • does not advertise that their business assesses IQ but does not diagnose disorders or disabilities or other concerns; and
  • will agree to provide a detailed comprehensive report:
  • 1. describing the tests administered and the results in quantifiable terms; and
  • 2. including data on not only any disability diagnosed but also the level of impairment occasioned by it; and
  • 3. making specific and quantifiable recommendations for disability adjustments for classroom activities and for tests and State exams, using language which tracks disability legislation.

The more information a report contains, about both the giftedness and the weaknesses, the more useful the report will be, should you decide to submit it your child’s school; and

  • will agree to on-refer the child to medical and/or other allied health or educational professionals if the psychologist notices symptoms which may be signs of a disability or a second exceptionality of a kind which that psychologist does not have expertise or interest in addressing or remediating; and
  • does not require that the child complete the psychologist’s own expensive ‘program’ or ‘method’ or ‘cure’ or ‘remedy’ or ‘exercises’ as a condition precedent to making a diagnosis or on-referring to other professionals.