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WISC IV - Verbal and Nonverbal Discrepancies

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: What is the significance of the following verbal/non-verbal discrepancies for learning. WISC IV. Child 8 years old. Composite scores:

Verbal Comprehension 128
Perceptual Reasoning 100
Working Memory 91
Processing Speed 94

A: The child appears to have Superior score range on Verbal Comprehension (VC). All other scores (PR, WM, PS) are in the Average range. Verbal comprehension comprises of Similarities, Comprehension, and Vocabulary subtests. They require verbal conceptualization, stored knowledge access and oral expression. The child would have been able to answer well orally based on questions that assess common-sense reasoning, reasoning out or retrieving word associations, and the ability to describe the nature or meaning of words. This would require verbal expression and it appears that the child has superior verbal comprehension ability.

The discrepancy with Perceptual Reasoning (PR) is large. I am assuming that for the overall score, the General Ability Index (GAI) was used since there are various discrepancies between the scores especially the VCI and WMI (the significance has to be considered). It is obvious that the child's verbal reasoning skills are superior, which is a good measure of overall cognition. Working memory is weakest in comparison. It is like short-term memory – child with weaker WM may forget what they were thinking mid-way and causes a lot of frustration. A weaker WM in itself is not a learning disability, but it may make reading, writing, math, and organization difficult, possibly leading to a learning disability in one of the areas. It can also appear like inattention.

In school, WM and PS impact alertness, learning, expression, social adjustment, academic identity, emotional comfort, etc. At home, WM and PS impact homework, chores, relationships, recreation (sports and games), self-concept, etc. That shows the importance of working memory and processing speed.

With superior verbal skills in comparison to nonverbal skills (analytical), this category of children may typically have difficulty with math, writing, and/or reading nonverbal cues. The subtests scores may shed a lot more light on why the child is having difficulties in the nonverbal area; I am assuming you have the detail score, if not please do get them for a better idea on further testing. There may also be a possibility of NVLD (nonverbal language disability) if the child has very strong verbal skills, however appears to struggle with math, organization, and comprehension skills.

The next step is to see the administrator of the test or speak to someone who is able to interpret the breakdown of scores in school. What is crucial at this point is to get more information about the child's learning profile and to determine further testing to see if a learning concern is apparent. Do this as soon as you can to start early intervention if there is a problem. The child is just 8 years old, so early intervention would be very beneficial. All the best!


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