The goal for this seminar was to increase parents’ knowledge neuropsychological testing as well as discuss how test results can be helpful in better understanding their children. Many questions were asked about intellectual assessment (IQ testing), achievement testing (academic assessments), as well as other measures of neuropsychological functioning (e.g., executive functioning, visuospatial skills, phonological processing). Below are abbreviated answers to some of the questions answered during the seminar.
What do the four indices of the Wechler Intelligence Scale for Children - Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) measure?
The Verbal Comprehension Index of the WISC-IV measures verbal reasoning abilities and the Perceptual Reasoning Index measures non-verbal and spatial reasoning skills. These two indices are the most important when considering a child’s intellectual ability. Working memory involves holding information in memory, performing some operation on it, and producing a result (e.g., solving arithmetic problems in your head). Tests within the Processing Speed Index require rapid visual scanning and coordination of simple visual information as well as sustained concentration and attention to detail.
What does it mean when a child scores within the gifted range on the Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning Indices and shows much lower scores on the Working Memory and Processing Speed Indices of the WISC-IV?
It is common for gifted children to show significantly lower scores on the Processing Speed and Working Memory Indices of the WISC-IV, when compared to their performance on the Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning Indices. However, very large discrepancies can sometimes be indicative of problems with attention or something else that is getting in the way of a child being able to focus or process and respond to information quickly (i.e., anxiety, depression, visuomotor coordination, perfectionism). When this is the case, a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation would be required to help tease this apart.
What is the General Ability Index (GAI) of the WISC-IV?
The General Ability Index (GAI; WISC-IV Technical Report No. 4, 2005) provides an estimate of general cognitive ability that is less sensitive to the influence of working memory and processing speed. This may be used as a substitute for Full Scale IQ to determine eligibility for placement classification. The GAI is often used instead of the Full Scale when assessing gifted children. Because the processing speed index (PSI) and working memory index (WMI) of the WISC-IV are not the best indicators of intellectual ability, many clinicians don’t administer them when assessing for giftedness and it is not uncommon to only report the GAI .
What does it mean when a child is considered 2E?
The acronym 2E usually stands for twice exceptional. This term often refers to kids that are both gifted and have some other type of learning difference such as a learning disability, autism spectrum disorder, and/or ADHD.
How do IQ scores change over time?
Around age 6, IQ scores become relatively stable and should not change significantly over time (the stability of IQ scores increase as children get older). That being said, an IQ score is not perfectly reliable and is an estimate of your child’s intellectual ability. As with any estimate there is some amount of error variance associated with your child’s IQ score. It is not uncommon for an IQ score to vary as much as 7 points across testing administrations. It is probably more accurate to talk about your child’s IQ being within a range (i.e., 95% confidence interval), rather than a single score.
When should my child’s IQ be re-tested?
In general, I believe that there is no real need to repeat an IQ test unless there are some concerns about the original administration (i.e., child was not at their best or there were problems with the setting, examiner, etc.) or there is reason to believe that something has changed (i.e., there has been a significant change in the child’s academic performance or behavior). It is also not recommended to repeat the same test within any given year due to practice effects that can artificially inflate a child’s score.
Are there extended norms for the WISC-IV that can be used for highly gifted children?
In 2008, PsychCorp, the publisher of the WISC-IV, released the WISC-IV Technical Report #7, which provides normative data that can be used to further differentiate highly gifted children (IQ or GAI above 150) from gifted children (IQ or GAI 130-150). These norms are useful when a child’s score is at the maximum (e.g., obtains a score of 18 or 19 points) on two or more subtests. These norms extend the WISC-IV upper scaled score range to 28 points for subtests and 210 points for composites.
What types of test should be used to evaluate a child for dyslexia?
Children with dyslexia (specific reading disability) have a deficit in phonological processing (ability to recognize sounds and their sequences in words), which affects the ability to learn and automate letter-sound correspondences. This results in slowed progress in reading and spelling. To assess dyslexia, I begin with an intellectual assessment and achievement testing. It is important to include a test of oral reading fluency as well as tests that assess phonological processing. It is also important to assess for any other factors that may be affecting the child’s academic performance such as ADHD and emotional issues.
What testing procedures should be included in an assessment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
In general, and evaluation for ADHD should include a diagnostic interview, an intellectual assessment, tests of academic achievement, and neuropsychological tests that assess executive functioning and attention, as well as parent, teacher, and self-report rating scales that assess the symptoms of ADHD. Many evaluators also conduct a classroom observation of your child. In addition, the professional assessing your child should provide you with a feedback conference (where you go over the results of the testing) as well as a written report with treatment recommendations.
What should I be looking for when choosing a professional to test my gifted child?
Your best bet in getting an accurate assessment is to work with someone who has a lot of testing experience as well as experience working with kids. Ideally, this person would also have experience in working with gifted children. However, it is most important that your child feel comfortable with the tester and the setting.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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