Gifted? More kids sent for psychology tests

Gifted? More kids sent for psychology tests
Renae, who turns five in August, with her parents, Mr Tong Peng Geat and Ms Ray Khorsuk. She was tested at three and found to have an IQ of 140. An average child's IQ is 100.

More and more parents are taking their children for psychological tests - to see if they are gifted.

Since 2011, Mensa Singapore has taken in around 70 per cent more children under 10 each year.

This is despite the fact that it stopped testing those below 14 seven years ago. It accepts reports by psychologists instead.

Seven around the age of 21/2 have joined the society in the last four years. The youngest on record here is a boy who was two years and two months old when he was accepted last November.

The society has over 1,000 members, about 5 per cent of whom are six or under and 12 per cent of whom are 13 or younger.

Mensa Singapore president Patrick Khoo, 41, explained: "It's not that society is getting smarter all of a sudden, but more parents are sending children for psychological tests."

He said most parents whose children join Mensa are "ordinary people who are just looking for like-minded company" for them.

The society does not run formal education classes, but it organises excursions to places such as the Science Centre and events like creative writing workshops.

Gifted Academy in Bukit Merah has seen a threefold rise in people taking psychological tests in the last five years - and 80 per cent of them are six and below.

Its co-founder, Ms Polene Lam, said more parents "want to know where their child stands and what potential they have".

"Another reason is that they want to know why their kids may not be doing as well as their peers, perhaps because of learning difficulties," she added.

Gifted and Talented Education Centre, which has branches in Balestier and Bukit Timah and caters to high-ability students, started a programme for pre-schoolers in 2013. It currently has almost 100 who take part in its classes in language, humanities, science and general knowledge.

Co-founder Claudia Yu said parents sign up after discovering their children are "very advanced in areas like numbers or verbal comprehension". "Parents start to ask for help and learning support so that children can be exposed to more things," she said.

She warned that gifted children could become unmotivated and unwilling to learn later on if they do not receive guidance.

Children at the centre learn more than phonics and the alphabet. They are trained in visual and spatial skills through tasks such as producing maths puzzles. They also learn about current affairs.

Mr Tong Peng Geat, 44, whose daughter Renae attends a maths class there, wants to give her an all-rounded experience.

Renae, who turns five in August, was tested at three and found to have an IQ of 140. An average child's IQ is 100.

"We try to strike a balance between academics and other things like sports," said Mr Tong, who runs a human resource firm.

Renae took up ballet and the Japanese martial art of aikido, and has also been going for sessions to learn to handle her emotions and communicate better.

Housewife Tracy Loke, 34, whose daughter Tricia has an IQ of 138, took her for a test last year at the age of three after feedback from a childcare centre.

"A teacher said she fidgeted too much and I needed to hire a shadow teacher, so I pulled her out and got her tested," she said.

Tricia now attends a church kindergarten, where teachers are able to "channel her energy into play". In addition to two weekly classes at Gifted and Talented, Mrs Loke also sends her to another centre for activities like art.

"I want her to know that there are a lot of things to learn... If she grows up thinking she's smart, she'll become lazy and unwilling to learn."


This article was first published on June 18, 2015.
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