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Testing for Twice-Exceptional Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D


Q: How is a child with ADHD and dyslexia tested for being gifted? This is for a nine year old.

A: This is a very valid question. To test for giftedness, usually a combination of methods is used; the main being a cut-off score on a standardised IQ test. I will talk about dyslexia first. Many children with dyslexia are noticed to be of average or above-average intelligence. In relation to testing for giftedness, I would explain the WISC-IV for a dyslexic child. This test often shows particular profiles for dyslexic readers, with a working memory score that is often significantly lower than most other scores, and in some cases a processing speed score that is also significantly lower than verbal comprehension and/or perceptual reasoning scores. However, this may be eliminated using the General Ability Index (GAI) rather than the Full Score IQ (FSIQ), which eliminates working memory and processing speed scores.

Because dyslexia is a processing disorder and NOT a cognitive disorder, once provisions (intervention) are to facilitate a child's somewhat different way of learning, these kids are very capable of performing just as anyone else would which includes doing well on an IQ test. However, it appears that timed tests may be harder due to the delay in cognitive processing.

As an example of scores on the WISC-IV, if the child has a reading disorder, it would be observed that there may be low scores on Vocabulary, Letter-Number Sequencing, Information and Arithmetic. Now, the lower scores on Vocabulary and Information could simply reflect that (in part), the child may have a deficiency in information generally which is commonly acquired through reading (which a dyslexic child may lack). As for low scores in Letter-Number Sequencing, it may indicate problems in working memory.

As for children with ADHD, they appear to have significantly lower scores in Coding (Processing Speed) and Arithmetic (Working Memory) subtests. This is consistent with research evidence indicating that children with ADHD perform less well on Processing Speed and Working Memory measures.

In combination for both ADHD and Dyslexia, a child would typically perform less well on Processing Speed and Working Memory and are found to have a lower FSIQ.

To conclude, after testing for intelligence and interpreting the results, the teacher, psychologist, or anyone else concerned, should keep in mind the areas that may be under-represented because of this disability. A full assessment that takes into account the above factors should be catered for. An IEP has to be prepared for both the strengths and weaknesses (twice-exceptional if determined as gifted). Hope that helps in your understanding.


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