“IQ” testing can be quite informative when trying to understand a child…

Why, then, does the term “IQ” sometimes give me the chills..?

Because using a score on a scale to define someone’s way of thinking is simply too reductionist!!

Most importantly, keep in mind that interpreting an IQ test and/or speculating about one’s IQ often wrongly assumes that all other functions are relatively well functioning….

Does the child has hearing difficulties, where he can’t hear properly, or auditory integration difficulties, where he can’t distinguish well the words of the teacher through the sounds of the class, or non-verbal difficulties, where he doesn’t understand jokes, mixed messages or prosody of language – not referring to Asperger’s syndrome here, or some specific memory difficulties slowing his ability to recall the meaning of the words of a text.

Then, is he able to pay attention in class? Is he too smart and bored? Is he too anxious to pay attention – fearing, with or without reason that he might miss the bus? Is he very preoccupied by recent peer rejection? Is he confused by the constant change of routine? Has he eaten this morning? Could he be a visual learner/thinker who would benefit a different type of learning?

Let’s say he has attention difficulties, what do you mean? Sustained attention? Divided attention? Selective attention? How would you qualify his attention when he is reading, compared to listening? Have you noticed a difference? Can he read regular words? Irregular words? Non words? Manipulate syllables? How is his grammar? Is he making attention mistakes while writing? Is he writing sloppy? Is it because of fine motor difficulties? Or maybe he thinks faster than he writes? Can he plan the writing sequence appropriately? Did he ever “memorized” the sound of each letter? Is he perceiving and integrating the letters well?

Etc. etc.

Once we have figured how the entry levels are functioning (i.e. verify that the vision, hearing, perceptual and attentional functions are well preserved) then we can venture in drawing conclusions about “higher level” cognitive skills, like reasoning and speculate about intelligenceS.

But that is another can of worm. 🙂

To be continued…

Dr Genevieve Gagnon, PhD, CPsych


Dr Gagnon is a Neuropsychologist

She teaches PSYC 310 Intelligence (3 credits) at McGill University


Assessment in Neuropsychology … so much more than IQ testing

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