School wisdom and psychometric research differ on the answer to this question. In a study in
There are three major problems in waiting until around age 9 to test a gifted child. First, this is the age when girls go underground and are likely to hide what they know in order to fit in. Many girls say, “I don’t know” to test questions they can readily answer because they do not want to be separated from their friends. They also become perfectionist at this age and are unwilling to guess unless they are absolutely certain of the answer, which depresses IQ scores (Silverman, 1995). Second, at this age, exceptionally gifted children easily hit the ceiling on the IQ tests. Since
the content is of insufficient difficulty, the children may be considerably brighter than their test scores. Third, a critical period for the development of talent is lost.
Giftedness is exceptionality; therefore, as with all forms of exceptionality, early intervention promotes optimal development (Bloom, 1985; Guralnick & Bennett, 1987). Because of the importance of early intervention, it would not be appropriate to wait until age 9 to identify a child with developmental delays. For the same reason, it is best to identify gifted children as early as possible.
Since parents are able to recognize their child’s giftedness in early childhood, it is wise for them to obtain formal identification before the child enters school. This may sound bizarre to those who have bought the myths that early IQ scores are just the result of a stimulating home environment and that “by third grade, all kids catch up.” It is true that intelligence tests measure a mixture of environmental exposure and innate intelligence. But which child has had the most environmental exposure: the 4-year-old or the 9-year-old? The effects of environment increase with age, not decrease. As for “catching up,” the gifted mind has access to higher levels of abstraction, learns more information, retains it better, accesses it more efficiently, organizes it, and associates it with previous information more effectively. How, then, would it be possible for a child of average intelligence to “catch up” to a child of extremely high intelligence? It can only appear that way if the information being taught is at such a low level that children of vastly different abilities can perform at the same level.
A fundamental principle in developmental psychology is that “Development usually proceeds at the rate at which it started” (LeFrancois, 1981, p. 89). This principle has been found repeatedly to apply to the gifted: “The differences between gifted and non-gifted children were significant at 1.5 years and every age thereafter” (Gottfried et al., 1994, p. 56). From her review of the research, Robinson (1993) wrote: “Advanced ability tends to maintain its rapid pace of development. This evidence substantiates the notion that early giftedness, or rapid development, also predicts the subsequent rate of development” (p. 511).
The optimal time to identify a gifted child is between the ages of 4 and 9. Children younger than 4 may lack the ability to attend and respond to the examiner. Four-year old gifted children are intellectually more like 6-year-olds, and they usually respond to assessment like school-age children. Based on a half-century of research in testing, Elizabeth Hagen, coauthor of the Cognitive Abilities Test and the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Revision IV, confirmed that accurate information can be obtained with 4-year-olds.
Source : Clinical Practice with Gifted Families. Handbook of Giftedness In Children. Linda Kreger Silverman and Alexandra Shires Golon. 2008