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Mismatched WPPSI-III Scores with Ability

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: I have a six year old son who has presented with many qualities of giftedness from a very early age. Walked/talked/read earlier than the vast majority of his age peers. He is highly intense, spirited, emotional, curious ... and a whole host of other gifted qualities which present on a 'grand' scale. In his first year of school last year, we asked his teacher if she could send home readers as he complained of being bored. She mentioned he didn't present with any of the gifts we spoke of and, as a result of the disparity, he was tested by the school Guidance Officer. The WPPSI-III test was conducted when he was 5.2 years old. I was actually surprised by the results as he is and always has been substantially beyond his peers academically and is very different. He was ranked in the 91st percentile for Verbal, Performance and Full though his processing speed stood at 37%. I'm not surprised by this as the amount of information on the page would have served as hyper-stimulus.

In a nutshell - he's reading age is 9, his comprehension, humor and numeracy skills are even more advanced, he has a photographic memory and he's very physically adept. Not to mention the fact that he's obsessed by religion and politics and the beginning of the universe and humankind. I/we truly believe he's gifted ... not off the scale, but gifted nonetheless.

Now in grade 1, his teacher is reticent to extend him too much as she's concerned it will 'encroach' on his next year of learning. Without the piece of paper to prove he's gifted we're stuck. Was this the correct test to give him? Is it possible that a number of variables affected the last test? Would it be worth retesting and is the WISC-IV more accurate in determining giftedness?

If you got this far ... thanks so much for taking the time to read it. We're pulling our hair out as no one seems to understand that we're not conceited - we're just trying to advocate for our very bright and currently very bored son.

A: From your description, he certainly demonstrates qualities of a gifted child. The good thing here is that you believe you son is gifted and as parents, you are the best judge of his abilities. However, school are quite stringent in the criteria for a special program. It is indeed true that many gifted children may not make it into the school's gifted program due to scores that do not meet the cut-off requirement. But, this should not be always viewed negatively since some of these programs are designed more for those who are highly motivated and the high achievers rather than the gifted. So if a child is gifted but not achieving, s/he may not get admission into such programs. Some of these programs may not even offer much stimulation for the gifted since there is a lot more work, but not more challenging all the time.

At his age when he took the test, the WPPSI-III was indeed a suitable test to gauge his abilities. A retest may yield a slightly different score but really not that different if all other factors are conducive for testing. A different test may also reveal different scores since different tests focus on different skills and even the scores may not be equivalent. And especially for children, there are many factors that may influence their test scores, e.g., anxiety level, health, mood, etc. But if the child retests or takes a different test, the highest score should be regarded as the child’s score. Bear in mind that on a good day, one may not get very high scores, but on a bad day the effect is more prominent for low scores.

If you feel that the school has a good program that would be beneficial, and the only way is to show certified numbers, it may be worth trying the WISC-IV. In fact, if he has a learning disability that is masking his gifts at school, the test may be able to determine that as well. However, you would need a good tester to test him and interpret the results in detail. For the WISC, look at both the Full Scale IQ scores and the General Ability Index as well. If there is a substantial discrepancy in the subtest scores, you may be able to determine if there is a concern that needs attention. And of course, early intervention would be the best if there is a concern. Do read older issues in this newsletter for more tips on how to nurture a gifted child at home. If the school has limited resources for your son, you would need to put in a lot of effort at home in ensuring that he needs are being met. At the same time, have a close relationship with his school to help the teachers understand your concerns and for you to understand his behavior at school. Best wishes to you!


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