Last year I wrote an article about getting your child’s IQ assessed by a psychologist, addressing some of the questions and concerns you as a parent might have about the testing process.
As a follow-up I’d like to launch a three-part series explaining how to understand the results of an educational assessment and how the assessment process and report might help your child to succeed.
A comprehensive educational assessment will usually do some testing of cognitive abilities (IQ) and academic achievement in different areas in order to formulate a profile of your child’s current level of functioning.
This article is about a student’s IQ score and I will explore the academic achievement component next time.
Cognitive Testing: How can an IQ score help my child succeed?
In a comprehensive educational assessment, cognitive tests provide an overall IQ score as well as results in a range of areas of ability.
While the testing can give you a sense of your child’s overall IQ, the importance of these results is in how they relate to your child’s day-to-day functioning at school and at home, and how any areas of strength or limitation may impact their achievement and behaviour.
Let’s look at the typical areas of ability tested by an IQ test, one by one.
Ability: Verbal reasoning
Verbal reasoning involves a child’s knowledge of words, and ability to reason or solve problems using this knowledge. This relates to tasks requiring a child to understand verbal information, to think using words and to express his/her thoughts verbally.
These skills would be most obviously linked with school subjects such as English and History, which are language-rich and require a good grasp of language, but all academic achievement relies on students’ ability to understand and use verbal language.
If your child has difficulties in this area they may:
- not be able to express his/her understanding of a topic by talking or writing about it, such as writing essays or speeches
- find it difficult to grasp how to complete a task from simply listening to somebody list the steps or describe the process
- prefer to show you something rather than explain it using words
- be unable to use more abstract verbal concepts such as categories and relationships in order to make generalisations about his/her learning, to use learned knowledge to apply it to other situations
Ability: Perceptual reasoning
Nonverbal or perceptual reasoning involves a child’s visual-motor problem-solving abilities and perceptual organisation skills.
This includes tasks involving hand-eye coordination, non-verbal problem solving, visual information processing and abstract reasoning.
These skills assist with understanding patterns and abstract concepts. They are strongly related to learning in Mathematics.
If your child has deficits in this area they may:
- find it difficult to use visual information to solve problems, such as puzzles or building and constructing tasks
- not have flexible thinking to think ‘laterally’ to find solutions to problems
- struggle to recognise patterns and create mental pictures, important skills in subjects like Mathematics
Ability: Working memory
Working memory involves attention, concentration and the ability to actively maintain information in conscious awareness while manipulating the information to achieve a result.
It is the ability to pay attention to something and hold it in your mind long enough to do something with it, such as mentally adding two multi-digit numbers.
If your child has working memory difficulties they will face a range of challenges and may:
- struggle to follow a set of lengthy spoken instructions
- show poor comprehension of lengthy written texts
- find it difficult to complete complex mathematical calculations with multiple steps
- appear to have ‘selective hearing’ as they can manage to do some parts of a task but not the whole thing
Ability: Processing speed
Processing speed refers to the speed of a child’s mental and motor processing.
This includes tasks involving hand-eye co-ordination, working under pressure, visual scanning and visual discrimination. It is a measure of the child’s cognitive efficiency and automaticity.
If your child has poor processing speed they may:
- have difficulties with processing spoken instructions
- take a long time for things to ‘click’
- exhibit a slow and laborious reading style
- may be able to come to the correct answer but take much longer than his/her peers
Who needs to understand these reports?
I believe that you, as the parent, need to have a good understanding of these reports so you can appreciate the journey ahead for your child.
This is why we argue the most important value from an educational assessment is not the test but rather the interpretation of that test.
I will talk with you and your family to help you grasp what the tests reveal and answer your questions.
The next most important aspect is making sure my report is written in a way that schools and tutors can understand it within an educational framework and derive tangible insights for your child’s learning pathway.
In my next article, I will explore the academic measures covered in the assessment.
Image: IQ Test by Caitlin Regan via Flickr.02
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