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Superior PRI Scores; Average VCI Scores on WAIS IV Test

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son has just been assessed for ADHD and he is waiting for an assessment for ASD. Part of the ADHD assessment included the VCI and PRI sections of the WAIS IV. He scored 99 on the VCI and 141 on the PRI. This was remarked on in his report but no detail was given.

I live in England and receive medical treatment from the NHS. If I am to request any further investigation into this huge discrepancy I would have to be able to explain my concerns. It would be so helpful if you could give me some idea as to whether there is anything this discrepancy could indicate.

Some background information:

DS is 13, he has been diagnosed with ADHD, he in massively underachieving at school, he is bored, he sometimes refuses to go, his PRI skills are apparent to me but at school they are unrecognised as yet. He is emotionally very young for his age. He is lovely, he has friends but he irritated a lot of his peers. He is probably Aspergers. Awesome at puzzles, beautiful piano player, can composer beautiful pieces of improvisation, totally disorganised, loses everything, terrible handwriting, can't focus in class, works out complicated maths in his head but can't explain what he did, get hardly anything written down in his books..... I could go on.

Any advice or pointers would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning tasks are heavily loaded on abstract reasoning ability. In this case, there are extremes in both the scores, VCI being average and PRI being very high. The subsets for VCI represent key clinical indicators of the cognitive strengths and weakness considered important to the assessment of learning disabilities, executive functions, attentional disorders, traumatic brain injuries, mental retardation, lead poisoning, giftedness, and various other medical and neurological concerns. On the other hand, the PRI emphasizes on fluid reasoning abilities as measured by the Matrix Reasoning subtest and Picture Concepts subtest - which your son scored very highly.

The Verbal Comprehension and Perceptual Reasoning Composites in WAIS IV test are both very good indicators of giftedness; they assess verbal abstract reasoning and provide useful tests of visual reasoning with less timing emphasis. The VCI describes verbal conceptualization, stored knowledge access and oral expression. The child is required to answer orally presented questions that assess common-sense reasoning, reasoning out or retrieving word associations and the ability to describe the nature or meaning of words. Verbal expression is required here. Low scores here may indicate a possible difficulty with language, weak fluid reasoning skills in verbal domain, or even possible hearing concerns. You mentioned that he could have Asperger's - this could be indicative.

As for the high PRI scores, they indicate high visual perception and organization, and reasoning with visually presented, nonverbal material to solve the types of problems, which are usually not taught in schools. Block design also requires visual-motor coordination and the ability to apply all skills in a quick, efficient manner. High scores reflect both accurate and very quick responses.

In your case, due to the significant difference between the VCI and PRI, there could be a concern here. I am suspecting that he could be twice exceptional. His VCI is in the Average range, whereas his PRI in the Superior range. Further testing may be required. For now, the huge gap between the two scores should warrant some intervention. The huge discrepancy is not normal. I believe he may need intervention for both his strengths and weaknesses with an individualised educational plan (not only for his weaknesses).

He seems like a very talented child who needs some help with learning due to his pervasive developmental disorder and possibly some other learning disorder. Scores alone should raise some red flags. WAIS is not a diagnostic but such a huge discrepancy in the scores is just not normal and warrants further investigation.

Hope that helps and do see if you could get a reference from someone who is able to interpret the scores as a whole, looking into his other diagnoses. Both strengths and weaknesses should have equal focus for enrichment and intervention. Good luck!


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