WISC IV - High Processing Speed and Working Memory
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My son is 15 years old. He has always struggled in school in some areas,
such as reading and writing, but not others such as report writing and
presentations. Some math concepts barely need to be explained, others
need to be taught multiple times in different styles before he grasps
it. His WISC 4 tests are quite high, but that is not the reality of the
child in the classroom. He also has a 30 point difference between
sub-scores that no one thinks is worth consideration because of his
overall high scores. he does not have any social concerns, and Nonverbal
LD was ruled out.
I am frustrated that he is being judged on these standardized tests
without consideration of the reality in the classroom, which is such
severe anxiety that he has now missed nearly an entire year of school,
and has been hospitalized briefly, as well.
His only known diagnosis (besides anxiety) is ADD inattentive type,
which is completely in contradiction with his scores, as well. And I
think it is quite ironic that a child who is currently failing school is
being qualified as 'gifted'.
Here are the scores for the WISC 4 :
I have only found research that addresses the opposite issue (PSI and
WMI being significantly lower than the others), and I'm not even sure
the significance of having such an unusually high processing speed. All
I know is- my son is very bright, as they say, but struggles in many
areas that require synthesis and analysis. He presents like a student
with a learning disability, is easily overwhelmed, and usually struggles
with the 'big picture'.
Is this subtest scatter significant, and, if so, is there any known
learning or cognitive impairment that may be indicative of this type of
scatter? I'm just looking for a direction to investigate further, if
need be. Thank you so much.
This is indeed very interesting and a rather rare occurrence for me. The
Full Scale IQ is the WISC-IV for gifted children may be excessively
lowered due to low scores in processing speed and working memory.
Intelligence is viewed as abstract reasoning ability, short-term
auditory memory and processing speed tests should not emphasised too
much. Based on the four indices in the WISC-IV, the verbal comprehension
has been found to be the best indicator of giftedness with perceptual
reasoning being the second. Therefore, the GAI emerged which only
accounted for these two indices for admission into the gifted programme
(a cut off score of 132).
In your case, it is quite the opposite. Based on your son's scores, the
gap is most questionable between perceptual reasoning and processing
speed and usually the GAI is used. However, due to high FSIQ, he is
considered qualified for gifted services and no further testing is
thought of as necessary (admission into the programme is considered the
ultimate - non admission brings in questions in almost all cases!). I
don't think anyone has really looked into the breakdown of his scores
and he just went along with the system, which was probably not the best
for him. The gifted education programme is well suited for gifted
individuals who have scored high on the verbal comprehension and the
perceptual reasoning. But the rule is to admit everyone who meets the
cut off point on a standardised test (or the GAI cut off on the WISC-IV).
The 30-point gap is huge and should be considered, but as you mentioned,
his overall high scores masked any learning problem he may have.
It is also true that processing speed and working memory is less
correlated with giftedness. I would think that he is still gifted, just
that his educational needs are not catered for. Your son has struggled
to learn over time (causing anxiety) and without proper intervention,
would struggle further and this would be detrimental to his health both
mental and physical. The subtest scatter is significant and needs to be
looked into. I am not confident to advise on any learning difficulty
that may be indicative of the said scatter as I think is something that
needs serious combined attention and effort from a few parties (the
school, an educational and clinical psychologist). With the combined
effort, he would probably need a proper individualised programme to help
him with his learning and if diagnosed of any learning impairment, a
good treatment plan would be very helpful.
I hope immediate help is sought out from qualified professionals, and
upon diagnosis, intervention may help improve matters. If there is a
gifted education specialist in your area, try to get some advice there
as well. As I said, this would require combined efforts of a few
professionals. Start with the school for references and recommendations.
Wishing you all the best in your journey.