Parents who think their child is gifted may find it difficult to get a proper assessment--with an overabundance of definitions, criteria, assessments, and theories on what a gifted child is muddying the waters.

Luckily, there are several places across the country that specialize in just this sort of thing.  Here are six testing centers considered to be at the top of the gifted game:

The Davidson Institute – Since 1999, The Davidson Institute has offered a variety of programs for high-achieving young people across the country. They believe that like all kids, profoundly intelligent children should have the opportunity to be challenged to excel and achieve. Rather than simple IQ testing, experts at the Institute recommend a comprehensive assessment, using a multitude of tools. They refer parents to testing centers, where giftedness can be determined in order to get a comprehensive idea of each child’s abilities and needs.

The Center for Talented Youth (CTY), Johns Hopkins University – CTY began in 1972, with their first Talent Search, designed to identify, challenge, and reward academically able young people. Since then, they have continued this work. CTY identifies top academic students and provides fun and challenging educational programs (summer residential programs, distance education, and family academic programs) for students K-12. CTY’s Spatial Test Battery (STB), given via computer at hundreds of locations around the United States, can help determine a child’s gifted abilities in that particular area.

The Gifted Resource Center of New England – This center serves the needs of gifted children, adolescents, and their families. Clinical psychological and educational services are offered in assessment, psychotherapy, curriculum design, school consultation, and teacher in-service. They use several methods and tests during assessment, including the Stanford-Binet IV or WISC-III. The Stanford-Binet L-M is also sometimes offered as a supplementary test. Assessment at The Gifted Resource Center of New England usually consists of one or two intellectual instruments, a test of visual-motor abilities, a test of expressive vocabulary, and achievement testing in reading, spelling, writing, and mathematics. Testing is also available for children with more extensive issues such as possible learning problems or ADHD.

Robinson Center for Young Scholars – The Robinson Center for Young Scholars is a leading resource in gifted education for the state of Washington, but many students also come from across the country and across the world. The center investigates, identifies, and serves the needs of intellectually motivated and talented students (pre-kindergarten through college), and prepares them to be committed and engaged citizens and members of their community. The center provides a variety of testing options. There’s Limited Testing (a session of educational questions and advice on school admissions) for those who want just a basic understanding of a child’s potential giftedness, as well Comprehensive Evaluation, which requires three visits to the clinic.

Educational Options – Founded by Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D., in late 1999, this center helps the families of gifted children, particularly highly and profoundly gifted children, to know where to begin their search for answers related to gifted issues. Ruf assesses children using the Stanford-Binet 5 IQ test, and charges a flat fee, which includes materials, intake information and file analysis, an assessment session, and a detailed written report quickly – within one week of the assessment.

Gifted Development Center Denver – Since 1979, this center has assessed nearly 5,000 gifted and twice exceptional children (gifted with a learning disability) from all over the globe. They are internationally recognized for leadership in the assessment of gifted children. A team of skilled, experienced examiners determine the best instruments to use, to assure that the complex profiles of the gifted are examined from all aspects. They use a number of assessment tools, including the Stanford Binet L-M and the latest versions of the intelligence scales.

When it comes to deciding where to take your child for testing, the phone is your best friend. Make sure you work it well, before going somewhere in person. When you speak with professionals at testing centers, it’s a good idea to have questions in your back pocket, ready for the asking. Ask as many questions as necessary – don’t be embarrassed, after all, you’ll be footing the (sometime significant) bill!

Keep in mind there are no "right" answers. Many of these centers have the ability to test your child. Your conversation with the professional is kind of like a blind date and will help you determine if they’re the right fit for you. As you narrow down your search, here are some suggested questions from the Institute for Educational Advancement, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting America’s gifted:

  • Tell me about your experience working with intellectually gifted children. How long have you been working with this population? What method(s) do you use to determine if a youth is gifted?  
  • What (exactly) are the costs involved for your services?  
  • What sort of referrals and advice do you offer for services beyond your expertise?  
  • What is the process involved in getting my child tested or assessed? What does the testing involve and how long does it take?  
  • Which tests are the most accurate and effective?  
  • How will you assist us in using the results? Will you explain the results directly to my child, or is this something that parents are expected to do? Do you interface with school officials to help advocate for your clients? If so, how?  
  • In your experience, what types of psychological or emotional difficulties are common among highly gifted children and what is your approach to therapy?

If you’re not quite ready to jump the Greyhound to Rhode Island or hop the next flight to Nevada, call your local school or a nearby university and ask about gifted testing possibilities. Whether you have your child tested locally or take a road trip to one of the notable establishments on this list, experts say that it’s important that you do it sooner rather than later. Many people go their whole lives "suspecting" they are gifted. With the knowledge in hand, you can help your child move forward through life, developing his or her gifts to their fullest potential.