IQ Testing and Child Assessments

girl looking studiousWe have all heard pundits, educators, parents, and members of the general public denounce the benefits of IQ testing. And they are right, if they believe allocating a number to describe an individual’s overall intelligence is the purpose of this kind of testing.

An IQ test does not measure emotional intelligence, motivation, work ethic, social skills, creativity or a host of other qualities that contribute to a successful and satisfying life. It does not account for whether the sitter was in top form on the day, or feeling a bit run-down, stressed and distracted about personal issues, slept poorly the night before, all of which may affect performance.

Psychologists trained in this type of assessment would never rely on a single numerical value from one cognitive test to make a definite pronouncement about an individual’s potential cognitive ability.

Assessing Intelligence Holistically

An individual’s IQ profile varies across different types of intelligence –  the kind of intelligences usually associated with those required to function well in mainstream education. For instance, an individual’s ability may be measured as significantly higher in verbal intelligence than in visual–spatial intelligence, or vice versa. Therefore averaging out ability across these two domains is not helpful to arrive at a full understanding of a person’s potential intellectual functioning.

Benefits of IQ Testing

The Full Scale IQ value might have significance in cases where an individual may:

  • qualify for government-funded educational and support services;
  • be eligible for special consideration in school or tertiary institutions;
  • be involved in legal issues;
  • have an intellectual disability;
  • be gifted;
  • have difficulties as the result of ADHD, an autistic spectrum disorder, a brain injury or other syndrome affecting functioning at school, work or life in general.

However, no diagnosis or recommendations for support can be made on the basis of one IQ assessment.

Further Testing

In the case of school and college-aged children, a test of achievement in verbal and numeracy skills is administered as well. In the case of adults, an aptitude test would be used.

The results of both of these assessments yield very useful information about an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, to assist in maximising learning outcomes or guiding career choices. These initial assessments may indicate that more investigation needs to be done to find out how best to achieve this.

Depending on indications from ability achievement or aptitude testing, the psychologist may recommend further testing which might include, but is not limited to, one or more assessments of:

  • memory;
  • executive functioning;
  • social communication skills;
  • or adaptive behaviours;

to further tease out what types of support and advice will be optimal for the client.

Sometimes one or more professionals such as a paediatrician, psychiatrist, neurologist, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, audiologist, or behavioural optometrist need to be involved as well, especially for children with learning difficulties, to ensure appropriate support and special conditions for learning and assessment at school and in further education will be given.

In Queensland schools, Guidance Officers will carry out testing for learning difficulties and disabilities. However, they are under-resourced and need to prioritise high need children. Many independent schools employ school psychologists who can administer the required assessments, but the testing kits are very expensive and schools may not consider the cost justified when students can be referred to other agencies or private practitioners.

Children with milder specific learning difficulties may therefore miss out in having this valuable assessment done for free in the school setting.

Yet such assessment, especially in the early grades, can be invaluable in detecting specific learning difficulties in children who are otherwise in the average to gifted range of ability.

A thorough assessment of an individual’s cognitive abilities and difficulties that might be affecting achievement, carried out by a trained psychologist, can help educators target particular needs and design strategies to individualise learning, so strengths are maximally utilised and weaknesses compensated for.

Maximise Learning & Career Success

One of the benefits of IQ testing for adults long past schooling years, is to realise the struggle they had at school was not because they were “dumb”, but failure on the part of institutions to recognise how they learned best. This may in turn give them the confidence to continue their education or progress in their chosen occupation. By using recommendations made in the assessment report, they can optimise their strengths and make use of technology or assistance from other sources, to handle any issues that might arise from a specific cognitive difficulty impeding success at work.

Unfortunately the process may be quite expensive if there is a complex mix of difficulties, but the value is great if it results in the appropriate support that schools and tertiary institutions are required to give to enhance and fairly recognise a person’s actual achievement.

Undiagnosed and unaddressed specific learning disabilites (SLD) can be the cause of puzzling under-achievement, when it is apparent to families and the students themselves that these children  have developed normally in all areas except certain aspects of schooling, particularly in literacy and numeracy  and sometimes attention and focus. The latter are all too often and erroneously put down to “laziness”. These disabilities or “minimal brain dysfunction” are called specific, because they only affect a microscopic area of the brain’s neuronal pathways and connections, yet they may have significant effects on academic achievement.

Unrecognised SLDs are often the underlying cause of behavior problems and/or mood disorders in young people and adults, and later on of unemployment or unnecessarily limiting occupational choices.

speldThere is an Australian organisation dedicated to getting better recognition and more resources for addressing the problems of SLD in schools. SPELD Qld is the state branch and more information can be found at www.speld.org.au. You can research more on the benefits of cognitive assessment at this site and obtain further advice if you are considering having an assessment done for your child or yourself.

Before making a time for an assessment, have an introductory session with your chosen psychologist trained in this area to ensure you have been fully informed about costs, what tests will be administered and why. You will also want to know if there will be a possibility of further referrals and how this will be determined, what follow-up is available, and how confidentiality is assured. Make sure you have all your questions answered and any concerns addressed before you give your signed, formal consent. You will be asked for copies of any previous assessments carried out, and possibly of school reports and NAPLAN testing results.

Expect a full report on the results and recommendations that may make a significant difference, over time, to you or to your child’s self-confidence, learning and career future.

Susanne Gilmour (1)Author: Susanne Gilmour, BA, Dip Soc. Science, Grad Dip Psychology.

Susanne Gilmour is a Registered Psychologist with 18 years of experience working with children, adolescents and their families, and expertise in providing IQ testing and other psychological assessments.

Bookings and Fees: To make an appointment with Susanne Gilmour, try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.