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Impact of Dyslexia on the WISC-IV Working Memory Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My 8 years old daughter has been diagnosed with moderate dyslexia. The Psychologist also gave her the WISC-IV IQ Test. The results are IQ Score of 103. However the Psychologist says this score is somewhat misleading as her Working Memory Score was only 6th centile while others ranged from 60th to 90th centile and therefore dragged her overall score down.

Therefore, because of this she suspects my daughter has severe dyslexia due to the vast discrepancy in scores. In your opinion, is this true. I will be getting her reassessed in one year's time in order to continue the support she needs. Thank you for time.

A: There are some details missing here which makes it slightly hard to pinpoint the problem. When was she diagnosed and what was used to diagnose her condition? Upon diagnosis, did your daughter go through any treatment? If treatment is taken for a while now, she should show some improvements. However, being labeled moderately dyslexic and severely dyslexic would impact the scores.

The 6 percentile score on Working Memory is definitely a concern as her other scores differ vastly. Briefly, working memory is our ability to store and manipulate information for a short period. This is measured by dual-tasks, where the individual has to remember an item while simultaneously processing unrelated pieces of information. A widely used working memory task is the reading span task where the individual reads a sentence, verifies it, and then recalls the final word. Individual differences in working memory performance are closely related to a range of academic skills such as reading, spelling, comprehension, and mathematics.

It is possible that the vast discrepancy in scores points out to rather severe dyslexia. However, there are some documented drawbacks with the WISC in assessing working memory. The WISC relies heavily reliance on verbal information. This makes it possible that a student who has particular problems in handling verbal information mentally may perform at low levels on such tests. This is simply because of the format of the material - and not because of working memory problems. Therefore, for these children, even though they have substantial working memory problems, they are probably secondary rather than primary in nature, and they also have working memory strengths that would be undetected by administration of the WISC-IV. Check this possibility with your psychologist.

In any case, a new training program for children with dyslexic that has proven results is the Jungle Memory brain training (you can get further information on this by doing a search on Jungle memory). It is believed to help working memory and increase IQ. I have not had anyone tried this so I am not able to comment further. Do get he assessed further to rule out any other learning problem. All the best!


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