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Declining IQ Scores

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son (age 12.1, dx'd with Asperger's Syndrome at age 8.6) had WISC and WIAT tests done as a result of research into Autism at a university here in Melbourne, Australia. He had last been officially tested via a WISC when he was diagnosed in 2007, and before that at age 5.1 when his school asked us to get testing organized for him.

His FS WISC scores seem to drop with age: 5.1 = 131, 8.6 = 113, 11.8 = 107. I have wondered at that but was told after the second WISC that "maybe he was off on the days his scores were low" - but can that be correct?

As for his WIAT test - the first time he's had that test - it came out with him scoring in the high 130s, and being in the 96th percentile for Maths Reasoning and 99th percentile for Reading Comprehension. No other score was below 115. The report stated he is clearly 'gifted' in the two areas I have mentioned.

What should I do? Should I query with the researchers of the most recent testing the scoring anomalies? He is a very smart boy, naturally talented in physics and chemistry, as well as history, public speaking, music, languages and the performing arts, and has a greater knowledge in some areas than some of his teachers. Any suggestions?

A: The question is, can IQ scores change? Yes, it can, though not drastically in a short period. Especially during infancy and early childhood, there is a possibility of change in IQ scores frequently. However, IQ scores begin to stabilize in middle childhood. Furthermore, by the age of approximately 7 years, childhood IQ scores are found to be rather good predictors of adult IQ. (Please refer to for more information on decline or increase in IQ scores).

IQ scores can often vary between one test to another, and in particular, achievement test scores (WIAT) should not be confused with intelligence test scores (WISC). However, dramatic change can occur due to any unusual event (for e.g., injury, trauma, etc.) for IQ scores. In your son's case, my suspicion is a possible learning disability that has not been attended to. It is not really possible (with other conditions unchanged) to have such drop in scores due to “off days” (though the drop between ages 8.6 and 11.8 is possible). It is a vicious cycle that when children with disabilities do not receive adequate remediation, their performance drops due to that disability. Some IQ sub-tests measure information in which the child has a disability and that causes the scores to drop. Without intervention, over the years, this gap becomes larger and stabilizes at a low point.

As he is diagnosed with Asperger's and is also in the gifted range based on the WIAT, he could be twice exceptional. The scores provided are FSIQ, so it is hard to tell the subtests that brought his scores down without the breakdown of the scores. The WISC (I assume the fourth version) does rely heavily on language skills for many of the tasks and he must have done well there as he appears to be talented in language (which is also a strength for children with this condition). For individuals with Asperger's Syndrome, there may be overlap with anxiety disorders and with non-verbal learning disabilities. Language skills nearly always exceed visual motor skills in this group of children. Additionally, you may also want to check the GAI scores (as opposed to FSIQ).

I think you may need to check with an educational psychologist with regards to the scores to determine is any learning disability is present, if at all ( I am suspecting non-verbal learning problems). In the meantime, work on his strengths (which he appears to have many!) and help him with the weak areas. Allow some enrichment activities for him. Remember, these are merely tests to gauge a child's IQ or performance, usually used a guide to determine a programme that can help maximise the child's potential. If the child is doing well at school and adjusting fine, try not to make too much sense of the scores and instead give the best in what you believe the child needs. As a parent, you would probably know best what your child needs. Good luck!


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