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Questions About Gifted Counseling

Here are some commonly-asked questions about the Diagnostic and Counseling Center:

Why would I seek an independent assessment if my child receives free testing at school?

Although it is perfectly reasonable to avail yourself of free testing through your child’s school, there are some reasons why an independent assessment may be a better choice for you.

  • An objective and comprehensive report. The recommendations that follow testing by the school may not be completely objective or comprehensive. Because the school may be required to respond to the results of an assessment, the recommendations may be influenced by the services available in the school.
  • Credentials of examiner. When your child is tested by the school system, you will not have control over who tests your child. The examiner may have excellent credentials and be very experienced, or neither may be true. When selecting someone independently for such services, you will be able to select someone that you feel is qualified to do the testing and who can give you good recommendations.
  • Optimal Testing Conditions. When a child is tested in school, you are not guaranteed that the testing conditions will be optimal. For example, the examiner may be hurried because she has many other students to test that day.
  • Ownership of results. When the school tests your child, you may have difficulty getting access to all the test results. Instead, you may be given only a summary of the results.

To protect your child and receive the best testing results possible, discuss the above issues with your school officials. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; your child’s well-being is at stake. A bad testing situation and report can be worse than none at all. Be sure you are comfortable with whatever choice you make; choosing someone to test your child’s cognitive abilities and academic levels is as important as choosing a pediatrician.

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I’ve heard that students can be both gifted and learning disabled. What does that mean?

Contrary to many people’s view of what it means to be gifted or learning disabled, the two “conditions” can occur together -- and with greater frequency than one might expect. When a child is unhappy or underachieving in school, it may be the result of an undiagnosed learning disability. A learning disability in a child who is also intellectually gifted can be very frustrating and confusing to the child, the parents, and educators. Here are some “signs” to look for as a screening for students who may need to be professionally tested:

  • widely different test scores from one administration of a test to the next
  • very different test scores on one test versus another (e.g., ability versus achievement)
  • unexplained differences between standardized test scores and actual classroom performance
  • exceptional verbal reasoning ability, but great difficulty organizing thoughts in written form
  • exceptional mathematical reasoning ability, but difficulty doing computations or memorizing number facts
  • clear signs of being academically gifted, but easily distracted, poor listening skills, very disorganized, and often impulsive

There are many different types of learning disabilities with all degrees of severity. Some problems are so mild that they go undetected for years until the student begins experiencing serious difficulty in school. Gifted children, in particular, are often able to compensate for weaknesses for a period of time by relying on their strengths.

In general, if a child is performing inconsistently, there is conflicting information about his/her learning potential, or there is a discrepancy between suspected ability and actual achievement, it is generally best to seek help from someone professionally trained to diagnose both exceptional abilities and/or a learning disability.

It is important to identify a learning disability as soon as possible so that the appropriate remediation and programming can be started. The earlier the problem is diagnosed, the easier it is to deal with and the greater the possibility of academic success for the child. Left unattended, a learning disability will only get worse. It will not go away and children do not outgrow it. And, if a child struggles with a learning problem throughout grade school, his/her self-esteem and motivation may all begin to deteriorate. By the time a child with a learning disability is identified in late adolescence, the problem is usually much more complex and difficult to work with because it is no longer just an academic problem. It is also a social, emotional, and family problem.

More information is available at:

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Can the DCC diagnose learning disabilities?

Yes. In particular, we have a great deal of expertise with gifted children who have a wide variety of learning difficulties. We do not, however, provide services for students who have severe developmental disabilities or serious psychiatric disorders.

My child is very bright but is underachieving in school. Could you give me some ideas for what to do?

There are many reasons for unhappiness or underachievement in school. For example, gifted children are often inappropriately placed in educational programs where they are under-challenged and frustrated. Certain temperament and/or family interaction patterns can set the stage for negative academic attitudes and behavior. A mismatch between a child’s learning style (especially if it is a strong preference that is inflexible) and the classroom situation can also result in academic underachievement. Finally, sometimes underachievement is the result of an undiagnosed learning disability. To sort out the reason for your child’s underachievement, you may want to consider an evaluation through the DCC.

Does the DCC test preschoolers?

Testing of four- and five-year olds is available and is often helpful in making educational decisions. The DCC does not test children younger than four, although we may offer consultations to parents of children younger than four.

Do students need to be academically gifted to access the services of the DCC?

No. Our expertise is in working with talented and gifted students, but our services are open to all students.

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Do students need to be CTY participants?

No. The DCC serves a wide population of students.

Do students have to come to Baltimore?

Some of the DCC’s services are available without traveling to Baltimore:

  • The Academic and Career Guidance assessments are conducted online and the results are provided through the mail.
  • Educational consultations may be conducted by phone.

Psycho-educational testing is the only service for which students must come to the DCC's Baltimore office.

Are the DCC’s services covered by insurance?

A portion of psycho-educational testing may be covered by insurance. Check with your insurance company to see if they cover psychological testing. The DCC’s other services are not covered by insurance.

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What battery of tests do you use in the psycho-educational evaluation?

We do not use a fixed battery in our assessments; the tests we select are based on the reason for referral and the questions that need to be answered. An assessment battery, however, will typically include the following:

  • an intelligence (IQ) test
  • measures of cognitive processing, including memory, visual processing, auditory processing, grapho-motor functioning, and executive functioning
  • tests of achievement in reading, math, and written language
  • social-emotional and behavior screening measures
  • interviews with the parents and the child

Some of the tests that we use in the DCC include:

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scales: the WISC-IV, WPPSI-III, and WAIS-III
  • Children’s Memory Scale and Wechsler Memory Scale
  • Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Ability – III
  • Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration
  • Detroit Tests of Learning Aptitude – 4
  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing
  • Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement – III
  • Gray Oral Reading Test – 4
  • Gray Silent Reading Test
  • Nelson-Denny Reading Test
  • KeyMath – Revised
  • Test of Written Language – 3
  • Writing Process Test
  • Conners’ Parent and Teacher Rating Scales – Revised
  • Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function
  • Children’s Depression Inventory
  • Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale
  • Millon Adolescent Clinical Inventory

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What is the purpose of the Intake Form and fee?

We request that all parents interested in ability or achievement testing, educational consultations, and/or psycho-educational evaluations complete our four-page intake form. Our staff psychologists carefully review and discuss the information on the form to determine, first of all, if the Diagnostic and Counseling Center is able to answer the questions that a parent has.  In cases where it is determined that the DCC is not the right place to meet the needs of a particular child, one of our staff members will contact the parents to explain why. When our staff psychologists determine that the DCC’s services are appropriate for a child, the intake information is used to make a plan for the assessment or consultation.

The Intake Fee is a nonrefundable processing fee that covers the time that our psychologists devote to reviewing the intake information.

How long does it typically take to schedule an appointment with the DCC?

After receipt of the intake form, DCC staff carefully review the information and make a determination as to the type of service or testing that is appropriate, given the questions that you have. This process takes approximately two weeks. Once the review is completed, someone will contact you either to schedule an appointment or to discuss the intake information further.

Appointments for psycho-educational evaluations are typically scheduled within two to four months after receipt of the intake information. Consultation appointments are usually scheduled within one to two months. We do maintain a wait list in the event of cancelled or rescheduled appointments.

Can the DCC help me make a school choice for my child?

We are not able to offer advice or guidance on specific schools. Typically, our educational consultations focus on helping parents make decisions about general educational placement, enrichment programs, classroom accommodations, etc. We typically do not have knowledge about the quality or environment of specific schools.

If you are looking for help choosing a school for your child, we recommend that you seek the services of an educational consultant who specializes in this area. The Independent Educational Consultants Association ( has a searchable database that lists educational consultants across the country.

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