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WISC-IV Test: Improving Perceptual Reasoning Skills

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: We just received our daughters scores from the WISC-IV. She did very well in verbal comprehension (97th percentile) but scored very poorly in perceptual reasoning (39th percentile). Her other scores were in average to high average range.

She seemed to have most of her problems with picture concepts and block design. While I understand that this will always be her weakness, I know that strategies can be taught to help with these skills. Can you recommend manipulative, books or workbooks, or skill programs that we can use to help teach her strategies?

She is 11 years old, has been attending a Montessori School but will make the transition to public intermediate school next year. We would like to begin now preparing her for teaching style that may not address her strengths. Thank you.

A: The Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI) which is a nonverbal ability is made up of Block Design, Matrix Reasoning, Picture Concept and Picture Completion. It is designed to measure nonverbal concept formation, visual perception and organisation, simultaneous processing, visual-motor coordination, learning, and the ability to separate figure and ground in visual stimuli.

IQ tests are meant to measure how a person's brain is wired to think; in which case, we will find individuals who have areas of strength and weakness, sometimes one that outweigh the other with a rather huge margin. As in your daughter's case, I am wondering if she has nonverbal learning disability (NLD) as her scores are rather low in comparison. You may want to check that out.

In general, to increase PRI, general teaching methods that consist of making visual-motor tasks easier for the child should be used. For e.g., use of large print, large copy work, minimising distracting influences, guides for visual-motor work, gross-motor exercises, and others can be used. For finer coordination, activities can be gradually introduced when the child progresses (e.g., physical education or gymnastics).

These children also benefit from auditory teaching methods. If the child is young, activities that involve identifying and recognising letters is essential (e.g., matching letters or whole words). The child will also benefit from finding and outlining forms, pictures, and even letters that are hidden in a large picture. Puzzles (with various designs, letters, pictures, words, etc) are also very helpful. Make sure that left-to-right orientation should be reinforced by aiming at a target moving from left to right. Structured art and free drawing such as tracing, copying, finger painting, colouring, and other similar activities are beneficial as well. You can also use similar stimuli used in the WISC IV on PR to enhance this area.

Additionally, spot the difference games and memory games are also evidenced to help perceptual skills. Spot the difference games are available online and in print in a variety of stores. These activities require that the child look at the finer details of pictures rather than the picture as a whole. Apart from that, memory games with pictures indirectly forces the child to use visual memory, which will ultimately improve it in the long term. These may be helpful for your daughter.

Unfortunately, I am not familiar with any books on this per say. You may want to read this article - though it is meant for children with superior perceptual reasoning skills. Perhaps, similar activities with easier levels could be formed as an activity - so use your creativity to plan out the activities.

Hope that helps. Good luck!


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