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Discrepancy Between WMI and PSI scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: If a child has a significantly higher WMI score (100) when compared to a PSI score of (79), what can cause this. I often find that when the processing speed is low the working memory is as well. Please explain the cause and the ramifications of the discrepancy.

A: Based on the scores indicated, the child's scored in the Average range for WMI and Borderline for PSI. Working memory tests the ability to hold information and manipulate it. It measures attention, concentration, memory, ability to encode information, and rehearsal strategies. Higher scores indicate a good short-term memory and the ability to sustain attention, good at spelling, reading, and math calculation skills.

On the other hand, processing speed measures the ability to respond to simple, visual motor tasks quickly, especially when under pressure to maintain focus, attention and concentration. Lower scores here could indicate difficulties with tasks such as copying notes from the board and working under time pressures and poor perceptual discrimination ability.

Processing speed is related to reading performance and development and working memory. This means increased processing speed can decrease the load placed on working memory, while decreased processing speed can impair the effectiveness of working memory. Problems in either one of them is linked are often part of the reason children struggle in school and could sometimes be seen in Twice Exceptional students (gifted children who also have a learning concern).

The scores above do show a discrepancy between both the scores but not an abnormal difference. A breakdown of the scores would be more helpful to see if the difference is significant. By improving on processing speed, it would take some load off working memory as well. Therefore, it would be good to see if the child's processing speed can be improved. The following link provides some reading and suggestions to improve processing speed.

Lower processing speed scores could also be linked to conditions such as ADHD and specific learning disability. It is best to seek further help to rule out the conditions or start intervention. Good luck!


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