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From Gifted to Below Average?

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: In second grade at 7.7 years old my son was evaluated in school and was given the WASI test. He scored a verbal IQ of 141 (99.7 percentile) and Performance of 93 (32nd percentile). He is now 13 and hasn't tested well on standardized testing.

I took him to a therapist specializing in learning disabilities. He retested him with the WISC-IV and said the first tests were probably not accurate and that he has him down as below average intelligence and ADD.

None of his teachers see the ADD, nor do we. The teachers also see him as above average intelligence who is not living up to his potential.

I don't feel comfortable with the new results, not that he is not gifted, I don't care about that, but going from gifted and intelligent to below average and ADD? Could testing results be that much different? I thought when he was growing up that he had a learning disability because of the schism in the tests (a difference of close to 50 points), and his struggles with testing, but the new testing shows quite a difference. Instead of a learning disability they came back with a diagnosis of ADD when the teacher questionnaires did not show this as a problem? Medication was suggested, but I don't think this is an issue.

A: This is quite strange and perhaps there is something wrong somewhere. The Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) is known to be a quick, reliable measure of intelligence. The WASI is nationally standardised, yields the three traditional Verbal, Performance, Full Scale IQ scores, and is linked to the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV (WISC-IV). Result are quite reliable for a brief test as such to gauge the intelligence score of an individual.

One main issue with the validity of the WASI is that this test tends to inflate a subject's Verbal IQ, which could have been the case with your son. Therefore, it has been suggested that the WASI used cautiously and a second testing may be possible for detailed scores. The WISC-IV is much more accurate and reliable as a test. I believe that there has been a learning issue which may not have been looked into carefully or even gone unnoticed over the years. His performance score on the WASI is rather poor with verbal on the extreme other end.

Perhaps, after over five years, due to lack of intervention of a possible learning or developmental problem, he may have not tested well on tests. I really think there is something not right here and you would need a second opinion or even third opinion. I do not think that he is given a fair test to capture his strengths. On the ADD diagnosis, unless the detailed results are seen, it is hard to make out. I do feel that he may have a learning problem rather than a developmental disorder. The below average score needs further interpretation and possibly a retest with a test that may be more suitable in diagnosing his problem. Please seek a professional for further testing and a proper diagnosis to enable intervention as soon as possible. All the best.


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