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Mismatch between Academic Performance and IQ Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son Bradley (5 years old) was having some behavioral problems at the end of the school year, and the school recommended we have him tested. My husband and I thought he might be ADHD because he seems more hyperactive and impulsive than most boys his age, and thought perhaps this was the source of his behavioral problems at school. We also thought he might be getting bored because he just missed the cut off for kindergarten last year, so he was the oldest kid in his class (he'll turn 6 on Sept 27 and will be entering kindergarten this fall). He's a quick learner, and despite his hyperactivity, does not seem to exhibit any learning disability.

From age two, all of his pre-K teachers have said he was very bright. He started reading at 3.5 years and now reads well above the level of the kids in his pre-K class. We actually thought he might be gifted. Anyhow, we just got the results of the test back and they don't make sense to us. The issue we were most concerned with is his hyperactivity as he is slightly above normal, but not clinically significant. Academically, he scored well above average in all disciplines, including math, vocabulary, reading, etc. In fact, he scored in the 99.9 percentile in reading and is assessed at an overall reading level of grade
3.0. Yet his IQ came back at 89, which is below average.

I don't understand the discrepancy between his academic performance and his IQ level. How can a kid with a low IQ be doing so well academically especially in reading? I asked the evaluator about redoing the IQ test, but she claims it is valid with a very small percentage error, and they couldn't get a fair assessment if they gave him the same test again within such a short time frame. She also says he scored low on long term memory skills which doesn't ring true with what we see at home. He can watch a movie and recall passages word for word six months later. He can even tell you the name of the movie and who said what.

Because of his test results, small stature and relative immaturity for his age, the evaluator is recommending we keep him back in Pre-K this year. Personally, I think his would be a HUGE mistake. Not that it means a lot, but I administered an IQ test to him that I found online (for kids age 4-6) and he scored over 130. So, where do we go from here?

I would appreciate any advice you can offer. Thank You.

A: I am very surprised looking at the IQ score, and I would also be very concerned if my kid shows such a mismatch. Something appears terribly wrong here, especially with the description you gave of your son abilities. It is still acceptable to get an average score of about 100 points, but in this case, the scores are below average with does not match your description. Furthermore, with below average scores, he would not be able to perform (that too above average) the tasks that you mentioned. Unfortunately, the evaluator goes by the book and it is true that a time period is required before a retest and the percentage of error is very small (but it is still possible).

I am not sure what test was used and the kind of item tested, but you may want to get him privately tested and get a fair interpretation of the results. Online tests may not be very reliable indicators, but at the same time, the discrepancies cannot be that large. So, it is essential that he gets tested again (preferably using a more standardized test - WISC or SB).

You are right; holding him back would be a big mistake. Especially since he is indeed the oldest boy in his class. For all you know, his hyperactivity may just be a manifestation of him boredom and inability to express that feeling. You would need to speak to his school authorities to allow him to move on based on his school performance and not the IQ scores. I feel that you have a strong case here and they should co-operate.

In the meantime, observe his behavior and try getting him involved in activities he enjoys after school. Children with high levels of intelligence need to keep busy; or else a bright mind in a dull environment may look for other ways to cope with their cognitive advancement, which usually shows in behavioral problems. Hope the advice has been helpful and best of luck.


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