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Asperger's and Testing on the WASI

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My 9 year old daughter has Aspergers (or HFA) and has sat her first WASI test. The results were as follows: Verbal IQ 133, 99th Percentile and Performance IQ 87, 19th percentile. I don't really understand what this means. Is she gifted? What do I concentrate on? I have to admit I'm clueless. Help please!

A: The Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI) is known to be a quick, reliable measure of intelligence. The WASI is nationally standardised, yields the three traditional Verbal, Performance, Full Scale IQ scores, and is linked to the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV (WISC-IV). Results are quite reliable for a brief test as such to gauge the intelligence score of an individual.

Your daughter did score in the superior range on Verbal IQ; however, Performance seems to indicate low average. What is the full scale IQ score? This should have been given with the overall score. On the WISC-IV, a child with Asperger's, would show a distinctive pattern of a higher Verbal Comprehension Index and lower Perceptual Reasoning Index; the Processing Speed will be relatively normal and symbol search subtest will be low. Hence, it is not surprising that the verbal component is superior for your daughter.

One main issue with the validity of the WASI is that this test tends to inflate a subject's Verbal IQ, which could have been the case with your daughter. Therefore, it has been suggested that the WASI used cautiously and a second testing may be possible for detailed scores. The WISC-IV is much more accurate and reliable as a test. I believe that there has been a learning issue which may not have been looked into carefully or even gone unnoticed over the years. Her performance score on the WASI is rather poor with verbal on the extreme other end.

However, there are recent studies that indicate that traditional IQ tests in may be underestimating the capabilities of individuals displaying an autism spectrum disorder. Previously, autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger's syndrome, have generally been associated with uneven intellectual profiles and impairment. New studies have now suggested that for this special group, specialized testing is required. It was found that Asperger's individuals' scores are much higher when they are tested on the Raven's Progressive Matrices, which encompasses reasoning, novel problem-solving abilities, and high-level abstraction. It appears that quite interestingly, Asperger participants' performance on Raven's Matrices was associated with their strongest peaks of performance on the traditional Wechsler. It was concluded that the results suggest that although autistic spectrum intelligence is atypical, it is also genuine, general and underestimated.

As for your question whether your daughter is gifted, it is hard to tell from just the Verbal and Performance IQ. The FSIQ, which usually is the criteria for gifted programmes is missing. Looking at the research, I would say that the WASI alone is not a sufficient indicator to determine giftedness which a child who has a specific condition. I would suggest you see a qualified educational psychologist to suggest tests that is suitable for her given her condition. You may want to try the Raven's. All the best!.


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