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ADHD and WISC-IV Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 15 and he has just completed the WISC-IV. I am somewhat confused on what to do now with his schooling. He was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7. He is having serious issues in school, so I had him tested. Here are his scores:


He has always had problems with writing. I had him in physical therapy for 2 years with minimal results. Now they are telling me he has Asperger's. He does have an IEP with the school and he wants to become an engineer. I am not understanding how these scores can be so far off from each other?

A: In general, his scores are in the average range; as a rule of thumb, FSIQ at 123 onwards would place the child in the gifted range. His scores are being referenced to other people within his own age group and at 15, this is the last age group to be able to do the WISV IV. A year later and he will have to do the adult version. The average IQ is 100; so deviations from the average are assigned a number which corresponds to a percentile rank.

Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning tasks are heavily loaded on abstract reasoning ability and are better indicators of giftedness as compared to Working Memory and Processing Speed (Learn the technical terms of WISC-IV here). In this case, his VCI is very high. The subsets for VCI represent key clinical indicators of the cognitive strengths and weakness considered important to the assessment of learning disabilities, executive functions, attentional disorders, traumatic brain injuries, mental retardation, lead poisoning, giftedness, and various other medical and neurological concerns. On the other hand, the PRI emphasizes on fluid reasoning abilities as measured by the Matrix Reasoning subtest and Picture Concepts subtest - in which his scores are also rather high.

The Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning Composites are both very good indicators of giftedness; they assess verbal abstract reasoning and provide useful tests of visual reasoning with less timing emphasis. High PRI scores (as in the case of your son) indicate high visual perception and organization, and reasoning with visually presented nonverbal material to solve the types of problems which are usually not taught in schools. Block design also requires visual-motor coordination and the ability to apply all skills in a quick, efficient manner. High scores reflect both accurate and very quick responses.

His scores are low for both WMI & PSI - which is natural for individuals with ADHD. Briefly, Working Memory Index (WMI) is a measure of working memory (core subsets include digit span and letter number sequencing). Children are assessed based on their ability to memorize new information, hold it in short-term memory, concentrate, and manipulate that information to produce some result or reasoning processes. Results can tap on a child's level of concentration, planning ability, cognitive flexibility, and sequencing skill. Processing Speed Index (PSI) is a measure of processing speed (core subsets include coding and symbol search). Children are assessed based on their ability to focus attention and quickly scan, discriminate between, and sequentially order visual information. Persistence and planning ability is required here and is related to reading performance and development.

In his case, you should also check his GAI. The GAI (General Ability index) which is based only on two subsets of the WISC, which is the Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) and the Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI), hence not taking into account the Working Memory Index (WMI) and the Processing Speed Index (PSI) - which lowered his scores. Children with learning disabilities, attention problems, or other neuropsychological issues may result in working memory and processing speed deficiencies which in turn lower the FSIQ (Full Scale IQ). Therefore, the GAI may provide a comparable approximation of overall intellectual ability as represented by the FSIQ for this group of children. So, when the processing speed is included, the overall intelligence quotient would be lowered.

I hope the above helped in your understanding of his extreme scores. You need to see a reputed educational psychologist to determine how to make the best of his strengths and help him with his weak areas. He is special and needs specialized education which he is getting but may need more help due to his attentional disorder. Good luck!.


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