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GAI score and Giftedness

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son, aged 11, was tested and scored with GAI 128 (verbal understanding 118 and perceptual reasoning 131, full scale 118). Is he a gifted child? If so, do you think this is connected with mood change, stress, restlessness, sensitivity, depression and bedwetting? If so, what can I do to make his life less stressful and prevent psychological problems in the future? Any literature you can recommend? I'm afraid for his mental health and I need advice!

A: 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). 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.
There has been evidence suggesting that low scores on PSI might indicate ADHD. ADHD, with or without hyperactivity, does appear to affect both processing speed and working memory. If the child has ADHD, there is evidence that medication can increase processing speed. Because the processing speed test on the WISC-IV is heavily influenced by fine motor skills, if the child has dysgraphia that may bring down his scores.

In short, the Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI) or the Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI) are also independently appropriate for selection to programs for the gifted, especially for culturally diverse, bilingual, twice-exceptional students or visual-spatial learners. It is important that a good match be made between the strengths of the child and the attributes of the program. Students who have special learning needs should be admitted to gifted programs, provided that there are other indications of giftedness and instructional modifications are made to fit the needs of the students.

In your son's case, his GAI score is high (and especially perceptual reasoning), which is a good indication of higher cognitive ability. However, there are other criteria, which may be considered. In any case, I feel he is very able cognitively and may need further attention. Being gifted may make a child more sensitive than others, especially if not recognized at an early stage. He is 11 already and I am not sure if he has been identified but it appears that you are aware of his cognitive ability.

I believe it may not be a good idea for you to handle this matter on your own and I am not in position to suggest intervention at this point as I think your son may need a professional who can interview and run some tests. At this stage, the best thing to do without delay is to see a child psychologist as he is a little older and it would be better to be diagnosed professionally especially if there is an underlying issue for a long time (which may have worsen now). Please act fast; professional help is needed here as he is manifesting symptoms that may not get better without proper intervention. Wishing you all the best.


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